Trump should restore gun rights to veterans nationwide
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President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE has been publicly vocal in his support for the Second Amendment and equally as supportive of reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Veterans Affairs has placed gun restrictions on thousands of veterans without due process by reporting names of those enrolled in VA's fiduciary benefit program to the Department of Justice).

The VA, in making the determination that a veteran requires a fiduciary to help them manage their money, is additionally making the decision that the veteran therefore cannot handle a firearm.

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The VA is not presently conducting evaluations to determine whether a veteran is a threat to themselves or others, requiring a medical determination verifying the veteran is displaying signs of violence, nor is the VA notifying the veteran their Second Amendment rights are being revoked. The agency simply reports the veteran to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system and makes a unilateral, default judgment of "mentally defective.”

President-elect Trump, after his inauguration in late January, may use executive power to restore gun rights for thousands of veterans, who essentially had their Constitutional rights arbitrarily taken away by unaccountable government bureaucrats in what I call "The VA's backdoor gun ban."

An executive order could be drafted to require a medical determination and judicial opinion that mandates it must be verified that a veteran is a threat to society or themselves (the same standard as the Brady Law) before rights are restricted.

Currently, the VA does not provide due process, and no clear standard exists as the agency basically declares a veteran guilty until proven innocent of a condition that has not been verified by appropriate entities (doctor and judge). 

Basically, if you are appointed a fiduciary to help you with your money, a VA bureaucrat takes your gun rights away through cross-departmental notification to DOJ, and the burden of proof is on the veteran to get his or her right to possess a firearm back. 

Aside from the questionable legality, several groups are concerned this will create reluctance among veterans to seek help for legitimate health concerns for fear of reprisal.

Nearly a decade after the failed assassination attempt on President Reagan, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to try and prevent mentally ill people from committing acts of gun violence.

One government policy born from this landmark law directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to identify people who present a danger to themselves or others, and to label these individuals "mentally defective." 

The ATF can now use this power to make determinations that certain people are mentally defective and thus prohibit individuals in this category from owning or purchasing firearms or ammunition. Several federal agencies, most notably the DOJ, are responsible for tracking and administering federal laws in order to protect the public from gun violence. The intent of these laws is to create a safe public environment and is for the good of society.

However, in practice this policy gets it wrong twice.

First, it arbitrarily takes a veterans gun rights away without due process. Secondly, it has created a massive logjam of names at the DOJ of veterans that make it extremely difficult to honestly examine the list to determine who truly should be restricted in possessing firearms.

Under the Obama policy either a veteran continues to keep their firearms, or they simply cannot purchase more ammunition in the future, and therefore the policy actually doesn't practically work as intended. 

In the second example, a veteran simply sits on a gun ban list for seeking the precise help our nation has urged them to seek in perpetual bureaucratic limbo.

I am aware of legislation in both the House and Senate that would require a judicial determination verifying a veteran poses a threat to society or himself before gun rights are eliminated by the VA. However, an executive action could make legislation moot by upending this unconstitutional policy much more quickly.

It is not likely this issue will be resolved this year, as Congress has limited time to finish its work before the nation prepares for its newly elected Republican government to get to work.

That being said, as this Congress closes and a new Congress is sworn in this January, the issue of veterans' gun rights must be resolved in order to make certain that the men and women who defend our freedom do not have their Second Amendment rights stripped away by government employees without fair and transparent due process. 

President-elect Trump has the opportunity to step in and restore veterans’ gun rights through executive action and remove the barricade currently in place which is blocking veterans from enjoying the very freedom they defended.

Neiweem is an Iraq War veteran, defense and military policy analyst, and executive director of the Neiweem Group, a government affairs firm. He has served as an expert witness in Congress before both House and Senate Committees and regularly appears on radio and television, covering issues that impact the military and veterans population. He has been at the forefront of some of the biggest national legislative negotiations involving veterans benefits.


 

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