A provision in a Senate bill quietly adopted in 2008 yet to reach a vote would allow veterans in the FBI's criminal background system listed as "mentally incapacitated" to purchase firearms.
The provision is coming under fire in the wake of a mass shooting at Ft. Hood Army base earlier this month which killed 13. The new law would allow vets on the FBI list to buy weapons if they haven't been ruled ineligible by a judicial body.
A press release issued by Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr explained his reasoning for the measure in 2008 after it was adopted by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The measure is also supported by a key Democratic senator -- Jim Webb of Virginia.
"Currently, when the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) appoints a fiduciary to assist a veteran with managing their financial affairs, VA also deems the veteran mentally incompetent and reports him or her to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)," Burr's release wrote. "The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act would require a judicial body to deem a veteran, surviving spouse, or child as a danger to himself or others before being listed in NICS, which would prohibit the veteran from being able to purchase certain firearms. The legislation is supported by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
"I am very pleased the committee endorsed this legislation protecting our veterans' second amendment rights," Burr said in the statement. "My bill would ensure America's brave men and women enjoy the rights they fought so hard to protect. This legislation was included in a larger piece of legislation that will improve the care provided to our veterans. I hope the Senate can quickly consider this bill and I urge my colleagues to support it."
Mother Jones noted opposition to the provision in a story Monday.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, they noted, believes the proposal is "dangerous" and asserts that it could enable "over 100,000 mentally incapacitated or incompetent persons" to buy firearms who are currently prevented from doing so by the US Veterans' Administration.
Despite the Ft. Hood shootings -- attributed to Army psychiatrist Maj. Nadal Hasan -- Burr defends his proposal. In a recent interview with Fox News, the conservative Carolina senator said the Brady Campaign was using the incident to "exploit the senseless murder of American soldiers in the quest to secure personal triumph."
"Responding to Burr Thursday in an open letter, Helmke wrote, 'it is hardly 'exploitative' to have an honest debate' about the proposal, which would cancel out key provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and override standards used by the VA for nearly four decades," Mother Jones' Corbin Hiar notes.
"Contrary to your reported assertion that our opposition to your bill is a matter of my 'personal agenda,' or to secure some 'personal triumph,' the issue is the safety of our veterans, their families, and the nation they have so valiantly served," Paul Helmke added in the letter to Burr. "In the wake of a mass shooting committed by a serviceman on a heavily-fortified Army base, it is hardly 'exploitive' to have an honest debate about your proposal to allow guns in the hands of thousands of individuals already determined to present sufficient risk that they should be denied firearms."
"Your bill," he continued, "would allow veterans determined to be 'mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness' to possess firearms by removing their names from the Brady Law’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)."