Enough NRA Bashing!
By Evan F. Nappen, Attorney at Law
Introduction by the Board of Directors, September 30, 2007: While the policy of Pro-Gun New Hampshire is to focus on state legislation, we have received enough inquiries about a controversial federal bill, HR 2640, to warrant a response. Attorney Evan Nappen, the Executive Vice President of Pro-Gun New Hampshire, has studied this federal bill and researched it at length. His analysis, which follows, is the official position of Pro-Gun New Hampshire.
Misguided NRA bashers are doing a better job of helping the anti-gun movement than the anti-gunners could do themselves. You may have heard or read things like "NRA pushing gun control" or "NRA supporting bill to disarm veterans" or "NRA in bed with Schumer and Kennedy," etc. A number of gun rights organizations have generated a wave of criticism over HR 2640 and its supposedly terrible effect on gun ownership. They make the NRA sound so bad that Sarah Brady might even become a Life Member. The misinformed pro-gunners who spew this venom are shooting our gun rights in the foot and potentially stopping thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens from regaining their gun rights.
NRA deserves PRAISE for HR 2640. In the aftermath of the atrocity at Virginia Tech, the NRA was able to turn a renewed anti-gun hysteria into a pro-gun gain. HR 2640 is a shrewdly devised bill that creates no new prohibited persons, limits records, helps veterans, and mandates a system of relief so that disqualified persons can legally own guns again. But hey, don't just take my word for it. This is why Josh Sugarmann, founder and executive director of the rabidly anti-gun Violence Policy Center (VPC), OPPOSES HR 2640. He states in his blog (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-sugarmann/mental-health-gun-bill-ha_b_57950.html ) the following:
LaPierre's palpable frustration is understandable, because a closer look at the NRA-added sections raises strong concerns. So strong, that yesterday three national gun violence prevention organizations -- the Violence Policy Center (which I head), the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Legal Community Against Violence -- issued a press release voicing them. In the release, the three groups state that while they "strongly support the bill's goal of improving the mechanism by which mental health and other records are added to the NICS, they are concerned that components of the bill would create new loopholes for potentially dangerous individuals to possess firearms." In the release, the groups cite three key changes made to the original McCarthy bill:
The compromise bill creates a bifurcated system for submitting mental health records to the background check system-depending on whether the disability finding is made by the federal government or a state agency. As a result of these changes, fewer records would be eligible for inclusion in the system and many currently in the system would be removed.
The compromise bill revives a program that allows those prohibited from owning guns to apply to the federal government to once again possess firearms. In 1993, Congress de-funded the four-million-dollar-a-year, taxpayer-funded federal "relief from disability" program, which allowed those prohibited from possessing firearms to apply for "relief" from the "disability" of not being able to possess a gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program was shut down, and remains de-funded, after studies done by my organization revealed that among the tens of thousands it had re-armed were drug dealers, gun criminals, sex offenders, and at least one terrorist. Some of those granted "relief" went on to commit new crimes. The bill would re-establish a federal "relief" mechanism for persons prohibited from possessing guns because of a mental health disability and would also require states to establish similar state-based "relief from disability" systems in order to be eligible for the grants the bill makes available to improve mental health records.
The compromise bill would make veterans currently prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons eligible to once again possess guns. Under current law, an estimated 80,000 veterans are prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons. This change to the original bill comes in the wake of recent government and private studies revealing that the number of veterans dealing with mental illness is at an all-time high, with many receiving inadequate care. A recent Department of Defense task force study found that the military mental health system lacks providers and is "woefully inadequate" to deal with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, a new study reports that male U.S. veterans are not only twice as likely to commit suicide as men with no military service, but are also 58 percent more likely to kill themselves with a gun than others who commit suicide. A 2000 analysis by the New York Times of 100 "rampage killers" found that the majority (52 percent) had a military background and 47 percent of the killers had a history of mental health problems.
Now, to address a specific objection: Much of "the sky is falling" alarmist warnings have been over the definition of the term "adjudicated as a mental defective"; they claim that with the bill allowing "adjudication" by not only a court, but by a "board, commission, or other lawful authority," a person could be prohibited from possessing guns by the declaration of a "board" of, say, any two anti-gun psychiatrists. What HR 2640 actually says is as follows (go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and look up bill number HR 2640):
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.(2) MENTAL HEALTH TERMS- The terms `adjudicated as a mental defective', `committed to a mental institution', and related terms have the meanings given those terms in regulations implementing section 922(g)(4) of title 18, United States Code, as in effect on the date of the enactment of this Act.
That's right: HR 2640 merely adopts the well settled federal regulation that has ALREADY defined the term for years. Here is what that regulation, 27CFR478.11, ALREADY says under the Code of Federal Regulations (See: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?YEAR=current&TITLE=27&PART=478&SECTION=11&SUBPART=&TYPE=TEXT ):
Adjudicated as a mental defective. (a) A determination by a court,
board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result
of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency,
condition, or disease:
(1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or
(2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.
(b) The term shall include--
(1) A finding of insanity by a court in a criminal case; and
(2) Those persons found incompetent to stand trial or found not
guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility pursuant to article
50a and 72b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 850a, 876b.
If this regulation is so rotten, horrible and treacherous to gun rights in America, then where were all the NRA bashers' voices when this regulation was proposed? Even if HR 2640 is defeated, this regulation is not going away. HOWEVER, if HR 2640 is passed, then for the first time, folks who have lost their gun rights due to being "adjudicated as a mental defective" may get RELIEF, regardless of how the "adjudicated" term is defined! (See HR 2640 sections 105 - state relief - and 101(b)(c)(2) - federal relief.) That's one BIG reason why the Violence Policy Center, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Legal Community Against Violence oppose HR 2640.
Unlike the so-called "pro-gun" hit pieces put out against HR 2640, this article includes the relevant citations and web links so you can see HR 2640 and the Federal Regulations for yourself. The choice is yours: continue bashing the NRA and aiding the Violence Policy Center, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Legal Community Against Violence, or support the NRA and the protection of your gun rights!
For more details on the issue, here are two NRA documents further explaining HR 2640:
Clearing the Air on the Instant Check Bill (H.R. 2640)
H.R. 2640, the "NICS Improvement Amendments Act"
UPDATE: Senator Coburn of Oklahoma is attempting to BLOCK THE PROGRESS of this pro-gun measure.
Please contact your U.S. Senators and ask them to make this bill law without delay so that thousands of folks denied their gun rights can get their rights restored, including 80,000 veterans disarmed by former President Clinton.
CALL your Senators and Representatives in Washington, DC TOLL FREE at 800-828-0498.
Direct mail and phone numbers are:
Senator Judd Gregg
393 Russell Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Senator John Sununu
111 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510