Last week President Obama delivered a seemingly disingenuous tear filled performance announcing his new executive orders on gun control. Law abiding gun owners are left wondering how they will be affected when the dust settles. There will no doubt be more runs on guns and ammo. Of all the new guidelines he proposed, the ones that stood out the most were those affecting Veterans.
Some Veterans have already lost their second amendment rights due to the Department of Veteran Affairs declaring them mentally defective or incompetent to the ATF and FBI from a legacy policy of the Brady Act. On June 26, 2008, the Veterans’ Medical Personnel Recruitment and Retention Act of 2008 was amended with language that should have afforded due process. (Duff, 2013) A more recent memo of understanding dated February of 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs is now responsible for sending a quarterly report to the FBI of those veterans deemed mentally unfit. (Howley, 2015) Veterans are still reporting gun confiscation without the due process of a court ruling. (Howley, 2015) It is unclear exactly how many Veterans have already lost their second amendment rights. According to the same VA and FBI memo there were 129,440 VA beneficiaries in the program as of July 12, 2012. (Howley, 2015) The new 2016 executive orders may allow the ATF and FBI to reach even deeper within Veterans private medical files.
The new executive orders encourage the States and government agencies to report those individuals with mental health issues to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). (Office of the Press Secretary, 2016) What will this mean for all of the thousands of Veterans that have sought out treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) following their deployments?
Out of the 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans in 2014, there are approximately 540,000 Veterans who have returned with PTSD and only 270,000 that have sought out treatment. (health care providers estimate the number to be much larger due to varied onset of symptoms).(Veterans and PTSD, 2015) It is unclear how Obama’s executive orders will force or “encourage” the States to report those suffering mental health issues to the ATF and FBI. Veterans treated by civilian and state facilities will fall within this category of mandatory reporting. This could add a significant number of Veterans to those that are already being tracked by the VA, ATF, and FBI. Will this result in untold numbers of Veterans guns being confiscated unconstitutionally without due process?
Those Veterans suffering from PTSD may inadvertently avoid the treatment that they need in order to avoid any new paper trail. The inevitable result may be an increase in suicides among those already suffering from PTSD. In an effort to effectively reduce suicide rates among service members, all of the military branches for years have pushed to remove the stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment. Yet, Obama’s new executive orders on gun control may negate the military effort to remove the stigma. Losing 22 a day is already too many.
Duff, G. (2013, February 25). The Stories Out There are Lies, but the Truth? Retrieved January 10, 2016, from Veterans Today: http://www.veteranstoday.com/2013/02/25/veterans-gun-seizure-hoax-debunked-somewhat/
Howley, P. (2015, April 21). US VA Sends Veterans’ Medical Info To FBI To Get Their Guns Taken Away. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from The Daily Caller: http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/21/va-sends-veterans-medical-info-to-fbi-to-get-their-guns-taken-away/
Secretary, O. o. (2016, January 4). FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer. Retrieved January 10, 2016, from The White House-President Barak Obama: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/04/fact-sheet-new-executive-actions-reduce-gun-violence-and-make-our
Veterans and PTSD. (2015, September 20). Veterans statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, Suicide. Retrieved January 10, 2016 , from Veterans and PTSD: http://www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html