CONGRESS PASSES COMPROMISE GUN BILL THAT OFFERS VETERANS, AND OTHERS, SPECIAL PROTECTIONS
By LAURIE KELLMAN
VA would have to notify a person flagged as mentally ill and disqualified from buying or possessing a gun, and would require notification when someone has been cleared of that restriction.Both Houses of Congress have passed new gun legislation.This is a compromise of H.R. 2640. More on H.R. 2640 here…
This new legislation appears to have ironed-out many of the complaints of gun owners, especially veterans.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday passed a long-stalled bill, inspired by the Virginia Tech shootings, that would more easily flag prospective gun buyers who have documented mental health problems and help defray the cost to the states.
The voice vote was the result of months of negotiations between the sponsors and the lone senator, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn, who had objected and delayed passage…
The bill now goes back to the House, which passed similar legislation this year.
The measure would clarify what mental health records should be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which help gun dealers determine whether to sell a firearm to a prospective buyer, and give states financial incentives for compliance. The attorney general could penalize states if they fail to meet compliance targets.
The bill was supported by political foes on both sides of the gun control debate. Yet Coburn held it up for months because he worried that millions of dollars in new spending would not be paid for by cuts in other programs.
His chief concern, he said, was that it did not pay for successful appeals by veterans or other people who say they are wrongly barred from buying a gun.
Just before midnight Tuesday, Coburn and the Democratic sponsors of the bill struck a deal: The government would pay for the cost of appeals by gun owners and prospective buyers who argue successfully in court that they were wrongly deemed unqualified for mental health reasons.
The compromise would require that incorrect records — such as expunged mental health rulings that once disqualified a prospective gun buyer but no longer do — be removed from system within 30 days.
The original bill would require any agency, such as the Veterans Administration or the Defense Department, to notify a person flagged as mentally ill and disqualified from buying or possessing a gun. The new version now also would require the notification when someone has been cleared of that restriction.
The bill would authorize up to $250 million a year over five years for the states and as much as $125 million a year over the same period for state courts to help defray the cost of enacting the policy.
The House sponsor, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., called for an immediate vote.
Propelling the long-sought legislation were the April 16 killings at Virginia Tech. Student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and himself using two guns he had bought despite his documented history of mental illness.
Cho had been ruled a danger to himself during a court commitment hearing in 2005. He had been ordered to have outpatient mental health treatment and should have been barred from buying the two guns he used. But Virginia never forwarded the information to the national background check system.