From Gun Owners of America, January 2008:
As most Americans were preparing for the Christmas holidays last month, the U.S. Congress pulled another fast one when only few people were watching.Read the whole thing here.
It was December 19. Most Congressmen had left town and were either at the airport or in the air returning home. They weren't in Washington, DC, because their party leadership had told them that all the major votes were over... that the only legislative business left related to non-controversial issues, such as when Congress would return from Christmas break, etc.
But it was then, with most of the Congress gone, that the House and Senate passed the Veterans Disarmament Act without a recorded vote. It was a huge deja vu, as this was the method that a previous Democratic Congress used -- together with compliant Republicans -- to pass the original Brady Law in 1993.
But there were a few key Republicans who helped cosponsor the legislation: Representatives Michael Castle (DE), Christopher Shays (CT) and Lamar Smith (TX). And dishonorable mention goes to Tom Price of Georgia who was physically present on the House floor on December 19. It was Rep. Price who asked for the Unanimous Consent agreement to pass the Veterans Disarmament Act without a vote.
On the other hand, GOA was able to secure a few modest concessions which should provide some protection to gun owners -- though NOT NEARLY ENOUGH PROTECTION TO JUSTIFY SUPPORT of this bill.
So having said that, what are the implications of this legislation for Americans with psychiatric diagnoses?
Although we succeeded in forcing the deletion of the ratification of the BATF regulations, per se, section 101 (c) (1) (C) contains new language which could make you a "prohibited person" (unable to own a gun) based solely on a medical finding (by a psychiatrist or psychologist), provided:
* That you had "an opportunity for a hearing by a court, board, commission or other lawful authority"; and
* In the future, that you had notice that you would be made a "prohibited person" as a result of the agency action (section 101 (c) (3)). [NOTE: This was added pursuant to negotiations over GOA's objections to the bill.]
However, even these modest gains have severe limitations. Up to 140,000 veterans had their gun rights taken away as a result of a diagnosis of a mental disorder such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But this new law does not require two important things for those 140,000 people:
1. The new law does not require that a veteran needed to have any knowledge of the ramifications of the "diagnosis" in the past -- and the fact that this diagnosis could disarm him or her for life. How many veterans suffering from PTSD simply went to Veterans Affairs, hoping to get treatment, but now face a lifetime gun ban because of the new law?
2. Also, the act does not require that the disarmed vets even knew they had a right to appeal their diagnosis. Many of the 140,000 Americans who have now lost their Second Amendment rights first received a letter from Veterans Affairs telling them that, due to their diagnosis, a "guardian" was being appointed for them to handle their affairs. As stated above, how many vets realized that this action would deem them as "mental defective" under the 1968 Gun Control Act and strip them of their gun rights?
Moreover, how many vets realized they could challenge this action by appealing the diagnosis? If they didn't realize the significance of this VA letter, most likely, the vets did nothing, as they were more concerned with getting the monetary benefits that such a diagnosis would bring. But, whether they knew these things or not, this new law would still validate the removal of their Second Amendment rights.