The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to explain why a Department of Justice gun ban list has a “mental defective” category consisting almost entirely of names belonging to military veterans and their dependents.
“It’s disturbing to think that the men and women who dedicated themselves to defending our freedom and values face undue threats to their fundamental Second Amendment rights from the very agency established to serve them,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said in a statement Wednesday. “A veteran or dependent shouldn’t lose their constitutional rights because they need help with bookkeeping.”
Mr. Grassley outlined his concerns about the list to Mr. Holder in a letter dated this week. It included various failures by the Department of Justice — including the inconsistent application of standards and weak due process protections — that have led to the Department of Veterans Affairs adding “a disproportionate number of names” to the federal gun ban list.
All federal agencies are required to report names of individuals who are dangers to themselves or others to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s “mental defective” category — a status that prevents them from owning or possessing guns.
That means that veterans “are particularly singled out,” Mr. Grassley said. Those veterans should not be required by the Department of Veterans Affairs “to prove that they have the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” he said.
“According to the Congressional Research Service, as of June 1, 2012, 99.3% of all names reported to the NICS list’s ‘mental defective’ category were provided by the Veterans Administration (VA) even though reporting requirements apply to all federal agencies,” Mr. Grassley’s letter said.
The senator said he wanted Mr. Holder to explain what review process the Justice Department has in place to ensure that names are properly on the NICS list, among other things.
Mr. Grassley also noted that the VA’s listings are too loose for the federal background-check law’s standard — whether a person poses a threat to himself or others.
“Instead VA reports individuals to the gun ban list if an individual merely needs financial assistance managing VA benefits. Although the VA process is not designed to regulate firearm ownership, it results in veterans and their loved ones being barred from exercising their fundamental, Constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights,” he wrote.
The letter shows that Mr. Grassley expects a response from Mr. Holder regarding his concerns about the list by April 30.