I've discussed Representative Carolyn McCarthy's (N.Y.) so-called NICS "Improvement" Act before (most recently here), and expressed why I believe that the only thing that would be improved if this passed into law is the government's ability to collect more personal information about us, and use that information to deny rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Gun Owners of America provides a good description the Orwellian dangers of the bill here.
Today, the part I intend to focus on is the close government scrutiny of mental health records this bill would provide for, particularly in regard to military veterans returning from honorable service overseas.
This could have a significant impact on American servicemen, especially those returning from combat situations and who seek some type of psychiatric care. Often, veterans who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder have been deemed as mentally "incompetent" and are prohibited from owning guns under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4). Records of those instances certainly exist, and, in 1999, the Department of Veterans Administration turned over 90,000 names of veterans to the FBI for inclusion into the NICS background check system.The last time I talked about H.R. 297, I deplored the egregious injustice of, as "thanks" for their courageous defense of American interests abroad, denying these brave men and women the right to bear arms in defense of themselves here at home.
My opinion of the outrageous inequity of that has not changed--what has changed is my realization of the potential scope of the issue. In a survey of more than 100,000 veterans returning from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan nearly a third were found to have some kind of mental health issues--such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.
The vast majority of these men and women pose no threat to society, and yet could, under the provisions of the NICS "Improvement" Act, be denied the right to buy and own firearms, in the same way that rapists and murderers released from prison are. A "Thank you for your service--keep your hands where I can see them" kind of welcome home.
Oddly enough, the NRA actually supports H.R. 297. In this, I submit that they are on the wrong side.
NICS doesn't need to be improved--it needs to be scrapped. If we absolutely must have a "prohibited purchaser" list (I'm not convinced that we do--if someone is too dangerous to be trusted to buy a firearm legally, he is too dangerous to be trusted not to obtain one illegally, or to not simply commit carnage without a firearm--but that's another debate), BIDS would be a real improvement.