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Foushee, Nickel among Democrats opposing change for veterans


North Carolina congressional members Valerie Foushee and Wiley Nickel are among 138 Democrats asking the VA secretary to take three actions they say will help veterans.

Denis McDonough, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, was the recipient of a letter citing the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act.

An appropriations bill was included in the minibus for six of the 12 government funding bills last week. The Senate, where Democrats have a majority, on Oct. 25 passed the amendment of Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., that prohibits the secretary of the VA “from transmitting a veteran’s personal information through the VA fiduciary program” to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System “unless a relevant judicial authority rules that the beneficiary is a danger to himself or others.”

Democrats are in a minority in the House. Their letter reads, in part, “At a time when veteran suicide remains a terrible crisis, we should not be making it easier for veterans who are a danger to themselves or others to access firearms.”

McDonough was asked to create “an automatic process to seek a judicial order for veterans the department has found to be mentally incompetent for the purposes of appropriately adding them to the NICS background check system.” He also was asked to complete a study on vets “determined to be ‘mentally incompetent,’ and those who die by suicide or are involved in incidents of fun violence.

And, citing a shooting in Lewiston, Maine, the letter writers asked the VA to “make full use of state extreme risk protection order laws to flag concerning behaviors from veterans.”

Foushee, writing on social media, said she joined the effort “to keep our communities safe.”

Primary authors of the letter were California U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson and Mark Takano. Thompson is chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force; Takano ranking member of the Veterans Affairs’ Committee in the House. Task force vice chairmen Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Lucy McBath, D-Ga., were also on the letter.

Thompson, in a release, said, “For decades, veterans who are a danger to themselves or others have had their information submitted to the background checks system to help keep them and our communities safe. The Kennedy Amendment ends this practice and would place troubled veterans and our communities at risk. Also, even if these veterans do not commit suicide or kill someone, they would be a felon for possessing a firearm. VA must work to address the problems created by the Kennedy Amendment to help keep our veterans safe.”

Kennedy, in a release last week, said, “Current law requires the VA to send a veteran’s name to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System whenever a fiduciary is appointed to help that veteran manage his or her VA benefits. Placement on NICS blocks veterans from purchasing or owning firearms.

“Because unelected bureaucrats at the VA ultimately decide – without a court ruling – whether veterans receive help from a fiduciary and therefore end up in NICS, current law denies veterans due process and infringes on veterans’ right to bear arms.”