by Tom Buglio

The country is divided –on so many issues, guns being a perfect example. As someone who advocates for gun violence reduction, it has been a real struggle to find any common ground with gun rights advocates. I was hoping that keeping guns out of the hands of those with mental problems could be one of those areas; especially after the tragic and highly publicized shootings such as Aurora, Newtown and Tucson. All three are examples of someone with a mental illness using a firearm with tragic consequences. Surely, we can all agree that people who are mentally unstable, unbalanced, or with a full blown diagnosis of mental illness should not have access to a gun?

US Reps Costello and Meehan apparently do not think so.

President Bush signed a bill after the Virginia Tech tragedy where 32 people were gunned down by a mentally disturbed student in 2007, that required all federal agencies, including the VA, to submit names of people in their care to the National Instant Background Check (NICS) prohibited list when deemed too dangerous to own a gun.

This week’s successful vote on HR1181 – Vet’s 2nd Amendment Protection Act, will effectively cancel this law, and demonstrates once again that our Republican Congress does the bidding of the NRA, to the detriment of the safety of the Veterans and their families. This bill will restore gun rights to 170,000 Vets who may pose a serious danger to themselves and others. Let’s look at the facts:

*20 Vets commit suicide every day
*15,000 Vets who have severe PTSD will get their gun rights restored (DLN 3/23/17)
*19,000 Vets who have schizophrenia will get their gun rights restored (DLN 3/23/17)
*Vets have up to a 61% higher risk of suicide than the general public
*14 retired admirals and generals, including David Petraeus, sent a letter to Congress urging them against this bill

Supporters of the bill state that no ‘government bureaucrat’ should take a constitutional right away from vets, and have a provision for petitioning a judge to determine if a vet should loose their gun rights.

The ‘bureaucrats’ are actually medical professionals, psychologists and psychiatrists, who are in the best position to make the call on whether a Vet is a danger to himself.

I am disappointed in US Rep. Costello and Meehan, who talk a good game caring about vets and their well- being.

In a 2015 speech, Rep. Costello called for more awareness about suicide risk and PTSD among veterans. But a speech is just words, and as we can see in his vote, actions speak louder. It is really unfortunate that our Republican US Reps find it easier to support the gun rights agenda than the safety and care that our veterans so desperately need, and richly deserve.

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