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What Trump’s New Gun Bill Really Means for Veterans

Michelle Ricciardi, Editor in Chief

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The House of Representatives approved the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act last month, which would prohibit any person under the administration or benefits of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) who “is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness” from being blocked of the right to own or carry firearms without a court hearing.

According to the VA website, The VA conducts competency evaluations and adds the names of veterans deemed “unfit” to carry a deadly weapon to federal background check system.

However, Pace veteran student Mario Garcia says that the standards that the VA uses to deem veterans mentally incompetent or “defective” is unreasonable.

“When you make a diagnoses of someone’s mental state it has to be more than a generalization: Bipolar disorder, PTSD,” said Garcia. “Even then you have to be proven a danger to society or to yourself.”

Professor of Psychology and Assistant Director of Veteran and Transfer Credit Services, Robert Rahni, says that there is no disorder titled “mentally incompetent” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5).

“The whole name [mentally incompetent] is arbitrary and leaves a level of doubt and skepticism,” says Rahni. “It is taking a group [of veterans] that mainstream society already has this stigma against when in reality the rates of PTSD are much lower than what is perceived. Through this law, all people see are the headlines, ‘Gun law overturned so that veterans who are unstable can now have guns.’”

Garcia says that servicemen receive a disability rating from the VA on a scale from 0-100% for “service connected disabilities” upon their end of service, which includes lifelong physical injury. He also says that it has become common for the VA to deem veterans mentally incompetent if they rely on a fiduciary.

“[The VA] doesn’t give veterans their fair due process,” said Garcia. “I want to see [others] go to war and not have trouble sleeping at night. Some veterans just have a little bit of trouble readjusting but that doesn’t make them dangerous. This bill is restoring veteran rights that we fought to protect in the first place.”

Rahni says that the bill will “instill a sense of inclusion” and reduce the sense of alienation that veterans feel when trying to transition into civilian life.

“The emphasis has always traditionally been on veterans having to readjust to society,” says Rahni. “The question has now become why doesn’t society readjust to the veteran.”

However, an article in The Washington Times reports:

“The Veterans Coalition for Common Sense — a group created by former Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona — claims the bill will put veterans and civilians in danger while denying the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) vital information.”

Retired Army General David Petraeus and other retired generals are backing the nonprofit organization’s efforts to fight against the bill as well according to the article.

“I see both sides rationally,” said Rahni. “On the one hand the veteran suicide rate is 20 a day on average. On the other hand it reinforces the false narrative that all veterans are broken or damaged.”

 

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