Multiple blogs are reporting that the Department of Veterans Affairs is sending letters to vets informing them they may be subject to imprisonment if they purchase a firearm. This article includes a copy of one such letter and it does indeed contain language indicating the veteran in receipt of this letter may be denied their second amendment rights under the Brady Act. I am slightly skeptical because the VA does not technically, have the power to restrict anyone from owning a firearm.
That said, and based on my read of the letter, it seems that the VA is informing veterans that due to their disability or claim status they may be found mentally incompetent. If such a finding is made, according to the VA letter, then the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, 18 USC 924(a)(2) would make the veteran subject to prison time and fines if they purchased a firearm. I looked up that provision of United States Code here and I don’t see how it is relevant to a VA disability finding. It basically says you cannot lie when you purchase a firearm.
I suspect this may be hype with a small element of truth. My fear is that this would prevent veterans from seeking treatment for PTSD. I myself am a vet and have some experience dealing with the VA. Most of their letters contain pages of meaningless caveats and references to every potentiality that I can see how this section would be included whether it was applicable or not. I can also see how in our current state of partisan discord many would rightly fear a backdoor attempt by President Obama to find a way to limit firearms purchases.
President Obama has made it clear he opposes gun rights and will seek every available method for curtailing gun ownership. He has further indicated that he will act unilaterally through executive orders of he cannot get stricter gun control through Congress. It therefore seems natural that second amendment advocates would see this letter as an example of the administration looking for excuses to restrict guns through the regulatory process. This may in fact be the administration looking at PTSD as a potential indicator of people who should be prevented from purchasing a firearm do to mental instability. Then again it may not, we just don’t know enough to make an informed judgement.
However, this doesn’t appear to be a wholesale attempt to stop vets from purchasing guns. Far too little is known about these letters and how long the VA has been sending them out. The VA has yet to respond to the controversy so no official statement is available. I would also point out there has yet to be any clear new regulatory guidance regarding mental health status and firearms ownership. I would say there is not yet cause for panic and this should not stop veterans who require treatment for PTSD from seeking out mental health services.Is the Administration disarming vets as some fear?