Gun News of the Week: Veterans Administration Can Deny Vets Their Constitutional Rights
TOP STORY Durbin: VA can deny veterans’ their Constitutional rights Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) apparently sees no problem with using...
Durbin: VA can deny veterans’ their Constitutional rights
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) apparently sees no problem with using the Veterans Administration to deny veterans the Constitutional rights they volunteered to defend.
Durbin blocked an amendment proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to prevent the VA from using funds to report veterans to the National Instant Background Check System unless a court has determined that they are a danger to themselves or others.
Grassley attempted to attach the amendment to a merged Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, military construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill which was ultimately approved 89-8 on May 19. The legislation includes more than $190 billion for military construction and veterans, and more than $114 billion for transportation and housing programs.
“There appears to be a troubling trend within the VA,” Grassley told the Associated Press on May 17. “The VA does not even determine whether veterans are a danger to themselves or others before reporting the names to that gun ban list.”
Grassley’s amendment was backed by Republican Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Jerry Moran (Kansas) and Pat Roberts (Kansas).
Durbin, however, objected to Grassley’s amendment, saying it would only create “a bigger problem.”
“I do not dispute what the senator from Iowa suggested, that some of these veterans may be suffering from a mental illness not serious enough to disqualify them … but certainly many of them do,” he added.
Veterans say it is arbitrarily unfair and unconstitutional for the VA to report veterans to the NICS as “mentally defective” if they use a fiduciary to manage their VA benefits.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation earlier this year that would require a court to declare someone “mentally incompetent” before an agency can report him or her.
Grassley and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald earlier this year, calling the NICS “effectively a national gun ban list and placement on the list precludes the ownership and possession of firearms.”
According to The Hill, earlier this year, the VA said it is legally required to report veterans who are “mentally incompetent,” but the department does not decide whether to prohibit them from owning guns.
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Physicians should ‘counsel’ patients about guns, report ‘concerns’ to police
If you own a firearm, you should be “counseled” by your doctor. If you’re a doctor, you should ask patients if they own guns and, if you don’t like their answers, report them to law enforcement.
These are among suggestions forwarded by Dr. Garen J. Wintemute of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento in a review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on May 16.
Wintemute and his colleagues say some physicians don’t ask patients about access to guns because they think such questions are illegal. Untrue, they say. “No federal or state statute prohibits physicians from asking about firearms when such information is relevant to the health of the patient or others,” Dr. Wintemute writes.
The American Bar Association maintains the Second Amendment does not prohibit physicians from asking such questions.
Florida’s ‘Docs v. Glocks’ statue says physicians “should refrain” from asking about firearms, and “may not intentionally” record the information in medical records, but it makes an exception if a physician “in good faith” believes this information is relevant to the patient’s safety.
The law was overturned in U.S. District Court on First Amendment grounds. That ruling is being challenged in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Montana, Missouri, and Minnesota have prohibited any requirement that physicians collect information about firearms, but they have not prohibited physicians from asking. Minnesota also prohibits its state health commission and insurance exchange from collecting firearm information. Similar bills have been introduced in North Carolina and Ohio.
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California Senate passes 11 new restrictions on gunowners
The California Senate on May 19 approved 11 sweeping gun-control measures, including legislation to regulate homemade firearms, require background checks for ammunition purchases, ban ‘bullet buttons’ and magazines holding more than 10 rounds, a mandate to report lost or stolen guns, a ban on loaning firearms to friends and funding for a gun-violence research center.
Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) told the Associated Press that he believes there is enough momentum to carry the bills through the Assembly and to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk as soon as next week.
Brown’s position on the proposals — several of which he has vetoed before — remains unclear. In 2013, he vetoed the Legislature’s attempt to ban ‘bullet buttons.’ A high-capacity magazine ban failed in the state Assembly that year.
The bills passed by the Senate are similar to provisions in a November ballot measure that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is championing as a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign.
De León said because Newsom’s measure could fail, the Legislature is the best place to craft tighter rules for gun owners — not the ballot box.
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IN THE COURTS
Judge shows ‘good reason,’ strikes down D.C.’s unconstitutional concealed-carry gun law
U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon on May 17 ruled that a key provision of Washington D.C.’s restrictive gun laws is probably unconstitutional, ordering that D.C. police immediately stop requiring individuals to show “good reason” to obtain a permit to carry a firearm.
According to the Associated Press, Leon found that the law violates the “core right of self-defense” granted in the Second Amendment, dismissing babble from D.C. officials that the regulation is needed to protect the public.
“The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table,” Leon wrote in a 46-page opinion, quoting the 5-to-4 Supreme Court 2008 Heller decision, which confirmed the constitutional right to keep firearms inside one’s home.
Leon said the right applies both inside and outside the home.
“The District’s understandable, but overzealous, desire to restrict the right to carry in public a firearm for self-defense to the smallest possible number of law-abiding, responsible citizens is exactly the type of policy choice the Justices had in mind,” he wrote.
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