Over this past year, we have alerted you to the dangers of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (or NDAA for short).
The NDAA could impact all Americans, including gun owners, by allowing them to be indefinitely detained without trial, based on simple membership in certain pro-gun groups or because of particular firearm-related activities.
But in addition to its problems with indefinite detention without trial, this year’s NDAA also contains, in the House version, a provision that would allow military psychiatrists and commanders to question large numbers of servicemen about the firearms they own.
This could open the door for the psychiatrists to send the names of active servicemen to the NICS system in West Virginia. If this were to happen, tens of thousands of soldiers could permanently lose their Second Amendment rights.
The issue first came before Congress during last year’s defense authorization bill, which prohibited military commanders from asking servicemen about their private firearms.
This provision was a justifiable response to efforts by the military to register and, in some cases, ban firearms privately owned by servicemen, both on- and off-base.
Now, a suicide-prevention group has argued that, by trimming last year’s law to allow military commanders and psychiatrists to inventory the firearms ownership of persons they “reasonably” suspect could present a problem, this will somehow be the “silver bullet” to suicide prevention.
So legislators have tacked such language onto the House-passed version of the DOD bill. The problem is that this “reasonable” standard is a very low threshold.
Here’s what we fear: Under legislation enacted into law in 2008, the military psychiatrist’s opinion, in and of itself, would be enough to send the serviceman’s name to the NICS system and thereby take away his Second Amendment rights. It is possible that, if the information is in a federal database, it could be trolled by the ATF and placed in the NICS system.
Already, more than 150,000 veterans have had their gun rights removed under exactly the same process.
Is it fanciful to assume this would happen with active duty servicemen? Already, it is standard army practice to take away a soldier’s service rifle when a commander suspects he may be a problem.
So, if the conference adopts the new anti-gun language without simultaneously adopting an amendment — offered by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) — to require a court order before banning a soldier from owning guns, we are convinced that the bill could create horrible Second Amendment problems.
Obviously, the federal government should not be involved in gun control at all. The Second Amendment has clearly stated that our firearm rights “shall not be infringed.”
But Senator Burr has offered his language as a way to protect Americans who served their country honorably. Hence, the Burr amendment would require a court, rather than a “shrink,” to make a determination of suicide danger, before a soldier’s name could be sent to NICS and his Second Amendment rights could be permanently taken away.
The Burr amendment was unanimously passed out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee as a free-standing bill, and should not be particularly controversial. So, if commanders and psychiatrists are going to probe into servicemen’s gun ownership, why would we not want to add this protection to the mix?
The bottom line: Before a serviceman, who has served this country honorably, loses his Second Amendment rights for the rest of his life, he should, at least, have a modicum of due process. He should have his “day in court,” rather than being “adjudicated” solely by a psychiatrist.
And before groups with a record of failure begin scapegoating guns, it’s important to insure that these psychiatric inquiries don’t become a conveyer belt for taking away servicemen’s Second Amendment rights by routinely placing their names on the NICS list.
Veterans and active duty servicemen have served our country honorably and courageously. They deserve from us, at least, an element of due process. They deserve their day in court, rather than being stripped of their constitutional rights in nothing but a “trial by shrink.”
ACTION: Your Senator is on the NDAA conference committee. Click here to them the pre-written message. Tell them to either:
* Delete the House language which would allow commanders or military psychiatrists to question servicemen about gun ownership; or
* Adopt the Burr language which would prohibit them from sending the names of these servicemen to the NICS system and permanently taking away their Second Amendment rights.