The US House of Representatives [official website] approved [materials] a bill [text] on Thursday making it easier for certain veterans to obtain firearms. The bill adds a requirement that declaring a veteran mentally defective for purposes of restricting their ability to purchase or own a firearm must be done with an “order or finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.” 18 USC § 922 [text] makes it illegal to sell a firearm to an individual who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution, and it is unlawful for the same individual to receive a firearm that was shipped or transported in interstate commerce. Currently, Veterans Affairs can add names of veterans it determines [NPR report] are unfit to own a deadly weapon to the federal background check system, preventing them from obtaining a weapon. The new bill would require that a court hearing is held before Veterans Affairs can add names to the system. Critics of the bill say that this will increase the suicide rate of veterans. Proponents of the bill argue that the bill helps remove the stigma of being labeled mentally ill.
Gun control and legislation has been a controversial topic in the US for many years. In February the House of Representatives voted [JURIST report] to repeal a gun regulation that required mental health information to be shared with the national gun background check system. That bill was signed [Law information] into law on February 28. In December Ohio Governor John Kasich [official website] signed Senate Bill 199 [JURIST report], making it legal to carry concealed weapons at daycare facilities and onto college campuses. In September the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] restored [JURIST report] gun ownership rights of individuals convicted of minor crimes. Earlier that month the New Jersey Second Amendment Society [official website] filed [JURIST report] a lawsuit against the state’s Attorney General in New Jersey’s district court alleging the state’s stun gun ban is unconstitutional.