Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley, Manchin Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Restore Veterans’ Second Amendment Rights

May 06, 2019

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, introduced bipartisan legislation to restore veterans’ Second Amendment rights.

Under current practice, once the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assigns a fiduciary to help a veteran manage benefit payments, the VA will report that veteran’s name to the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS), commonly known as the national gun ban list. Once on the gun ban list, a veteran is outlawed from owning or possessing firearms, resulting in some veterans who are perfectly safe to own firearms being denied their constitutional rights.

In order for veterans to get their names removed from the list, they must prove that they are not dangerous. That is a higher standard than the government must live by in order to place names on the list in the first place. If veterans have to prove they are not dangerous in order to get their firearms back, then the government ought to prove they are dangerous in order to take them away.

“This improper application of existing regulations to service men and women is not only unfair, but arguably unconstitutional,” Grassley said. “Our veterans shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to be granted their constitutional rights, especially since the government isn’t subject to the same standards.”

The Veterans’ Second Amendment Rights Restoration Act of 2019 would restore veterans’ constitutional rights by shifting the burden of proof from the veteran back to the government, requiring that before the VA reports a veteran’s name to the DOJ for placement on the NICS, the VA must first find that a veteran is a danger to self or others. The finding must also be done either through an administrative process managed by a board of three former judicial officers or administrative law judges or through a judicial process. The legislation puts the veteran in control of choosing the forum. 

Veterans already on the NICS list would be afforded the same legal avenues of redress to challenge their classification and undertake the same administrative or judicial route to remove their names from the NICS.

Importantly, this bipartisan legislation does not impede the VA’s ability to report truly dangerous individuals to the NICS and would not automatically remove all veterans from the NICS. In addition, all existing federal firearm prohibitions laws would still be in effect.

By ensuring that veterans have due process before their constitutional right to own firearms is stripped while still providing a means to report truly dangerous individuals to the NICS, this legislation both protects veterans’ Second Amendment rights and public safety.

This bill was first introduced last year.

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