After Tester Push, Provision to Protect Veterans’ Second Amendment Rights from Federal Overreach is Included in Must-Pass Government Funding Bill

Tester called on Senate leadership last week to keep bipartisan amendment language that protects veterans’ access to legal firearms in government funding legislation

A critical bipartisan amendment U.S. Senator Jon Tester championed to protect veterans’ access to legal firearms has been included in the government funding legislation, following his call to Senate leadership to include the provision. 

“It’s flat wrong that a DC bureaucrat could take away a veteran’s legal right to firearms simply because they need assistance managing their finances,” Tester said. “We need to ensure the government does not infringe on veterans’ Second Amendment rights, and I’m glad we were able to fix this unfair policy in the government funding legislation. This is a win for Second Amendment rights and for veterans who have made it clear that VA’s current practice is pushing some folks away from accessing the mental health care they need out of fear their firearms will be seized.”

This move follows efforts from Tester last week urging his Senate leadership to retain the amendment language as-passed in October in conference to protect veterans’ Second Amendment Rights. In a letter to the heads of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee tasked with funding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Tester underscored how veterans have testified that VA’s current bureaucratic practice drives them away from accessing the mental health care and services they need at the Department.

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have previously testified that veterans often refuse to seek mental health care at VA out of fear their firearms will be unjustly taken away,” Tester wrote in his letter. “The fact is – as VFW testified – this practice is adding to the stigma around veterans receiving mental health care, and creates a barrier to care for many and it has to change.”

This provision would prohibit federal funds from being used to report a veteran’s information to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) without an order from a judge finding that the individual is a danger to themselves or others. Reporting a veteran’s information to the DOJ for use by NICS would prohibit them from passing a background check to purchase a firearm. It was first successfully included as an amendment to the Senate Military Construction, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill passed in October.

The amendment is supported by Veterans Service Organizations and Montana veterans’ mental health professionals.

“The VA’s long-standing policy to threaten veterans Constitutional rights who ask for help managing their affairs has been a barrier to veterans receiving help for years,” said National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Montana Director Matt Kuntz. “It’s time to end it, so veterans can reach out for the financial help they need without having to worry about unintended consequences.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) testified at a hearing in 2022: “A negative consequence of VA’s current practice is that veterans tell the VFW that they refuse to seek mental health care at VA because they fear their firearms will be taken away. This has created a significant stigma surrounding mental health and has created a barrier to care for many. This perception is difficult to change.”

“On behalf of the 1.6 million members of The American Legion, I am pleased to express support for amendment #1201 to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act,” said The American Legion National Commander Daniel J. Seehafer. “Each veteran, regardless of disability, should maintain the right to possess a firearm unless deemed unfit to possess weapons by a judicial authority with the full benefit of due process. Any constitutional right should be protected with this same expectation of careful scrutiny, to ensure that no right is removed without due process.”

“For too long, veterans have been denied their constitutional right to gun ownership when they’ve been appointed a fiduciary by the VA, being added to the NICS database without any due process,” said Mission Roll Call’s Executive Director Cole Lyle. “Mission Roll Call thanks the members of Congress who have finally corrected this injustice – particularly the leadership of both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. Veterans and their families are now assured that only a proper judicial authority will be able to determine who is referred to the NICS database. Our veterans swore to protect and defend the Constitution and they deserve equal treatment under the law.”


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