VA Rule Targets Mentally Incompetent Vets
A long battle on Capitol Hill over the gun rights of some veterans appears to be far from over. The Senate recently rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to change a controversial Veterans Affairs rule that requires veterans deemed mentally incompetent to handle their finances be placed on the national criminal background check list before getting a firearm. Houston Veterans Affairs Director Buddy Grantham is among those who disagree with the rule. "Veterans don't want to be lumped in with those who've committed a criminal act," he tells KTRH.
Under Coburn's amendment, the VA would not be able to place veterans on the background check list unless a judge deemed them a danger to the public. Grantham thinks that's better because it shifts the burden of proof from the veteran to the VA. "Although there is a process to appeal the decision when the VA puts you on the list, and some have gone through that process, it's a bit onerous," he says. Coburn's amendment matches a bill proposed in recent years by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) that has drawn 21 co-sponsors. Still, proponents of the current rule argue it is reasonable to conclude that if someone can't manage their own finances, they should require extra scrutiny before getting a gun.
Retired Marine Sgt. Bryan Escobedo with the Lonestar Veterans Association thinks the rule is completely unfair to veterans. "Whether or not they can handle their finances is a completely separate issue from them having access to buy guns," he tells KTRH. "Obviously the military has a strong gun culture, but what we're even bigger on besides gun culture is gun safety." Escobedo also disagrees with treating mental disorders differently from other disabilities veterans have to deal with. "What about wounded warriors who are severely disabled? They're still able to fire a weapon...should they not have it?" Although Coburn's amendment failed this time, he plans to continue attaching it to other bills that come to the Senate floor.