Cochran and Wicker Support Measure Protecting Veterans' Rights to Purchase Firearms

October 20, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American veterans would gain an extra measure of protection for their Second Amendment rights through legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act (S.1707) would ensure that veterans and other Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiaries are not automatically restricted from purchasing a firearm simply because the VA appoints a fiduciary to handle their federal benefits.  The bill would require a judge, magistrate or other judicial authority to determine that veterans or VA beneficiaries pose a danger to themselves or others for the purpose of purchasing a firearm.

“This legislation would simply clarify that veterans who do not pose a danger to themselves or others should be able to enjoy their Second Amendment rights even if they require assistance with their federal benefits,” Cochran said. 

“Men and women who served this nation should not be unfairly prohibited from purchasing a firearm simply because they are working through the VA process,” said Wicker.  “This is another example of the federal government overstepping its bounds.”

The VA appoints fiduciaries to some veterans to handle disability compensation, pensions, survivor compensation and other VA payments which are due to a veteran, surviving spouse and dependents.  Veterans assigned a fiduciary representative are deemed by the VA as  “mentally defective” and reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which prevents them from being able to purchase a firearm in the United States.

S.1707 would clarify that a VA determination of mental incompetency does not constitute adjudication as a “mental defective” for purposes of purchasing a firearm.  It would affirm that the process for assigning a fiduciary is limited to a person’s financial responsibility and not whether a person is a danger to themselves or others—a factor that is important in determining whether someone should be prohibited from purchasing a firearm.

An estimated 114,000 people currently receiving VA benefits have been reported to NICS and denied their constitutional Second Amendment rights simply because the VA appointed a fiduciary to act on their behalf.

S.1707 has been referred to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  The measure was introduced by Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).  It has 14 cosponsors, including Cochran and Wicker who are original cosponsors on the measure.