CRS Gun Control Legislation
Click the pic for the report.
Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and
ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control. The tragic
shootings in Tucson, AZ, on January 8, 2011, in which six people were killed and 13 wounded,
including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, could prompt the 112th Congress to examine issues
related to the shooter’s mental illness and drug use (see S. 436) and his use of large capacity
ammunition feeding devices (LCAFDs) (see H.R. 308 and S. 32), as well as a proposal to ban
firearms within the proximity of certain high-level federal officials (see H.R. 367 and H.R. 496).
Other emerging issues include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’s (ATF)
proposal to require multiple rifle sales reports from Southwest border state gun dealers and its
conduct of Operation Fast and Furious. More recently, gun-related amendments to bills
reauthorizing USA PATRIOT Act provisions were considered (H.R. 1800, S. 1038, and S. 990),
but were not included in the enacted legislation (P.L. 112-14). To set these and other emerging
issues in context, this report provides basic firearms-related statistics, an overview of federal
firearms law, and a summary of legislative action in the 111th Congress.
During the 111th Congress, the gun control debate was colored by two key Supreme Court
findings. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court found that the District of Columbia (DC)
handgun ban, among other regulations, violated an individual’s right under the Second
Amendment to lawfully possess a firearm in his home for self-defense. In McDonald v. City of
Chicago, the Court found that the Second Amendment also applied to the states. Congress
considered amendments to DC voting rights bills that would have further overturned DC gun laws
(S. 160 and H.R. 157), effectively scuttling the House bill. In addition, some Members passed
several other gun-related provisions included in enacted legislation that address
• carrying firearms on public lands (P.L. 111-24),
• transporting firearms in passenger luggage on Amtrak (P.L. 111-117),
• widening law enforcement off-duty concealed carry privileges (P.L. 111-272),
• prohibiting higher health care premiums for gun owners (P.L. 111-148).
The 111th Congress reconsidered or newly considered several other provisions that were not
enacted. These issues could re-emerge in the 112th Congress. These provisions address
• gun rights restoration for veterans previously deemed to be mentally incompetent
(S. 669 and H.R. 6132),
• firearms possession in public housing (H.R. 3045 and H.R. 4868),
• interstate reciprocity of concealed carry privileges (S. 1390 and S. 845), and
• the treatment of firearms under bankruptcy proceedings (H.R. 5827/S. 3654).
The report concludes with discussion of other salient and recurring gun control issues that have
generated past congressional interest. Those issues include (1) screening firearms background
check applicants against terrorist watch lists; (2) reforming the regulation of federally licensed
gun dealers; (3) requiring background checks for private firearms transfers at gun shows; (4)
more-strictly regulating certain firearms previously defined in statute as “semiautomatic assault
weapons”; and (5) banning or requiring the registration of certain long-range .50 caliber rifles,
which are commonly referred to as “sniper” rifles.
Re: CRS Gun Control Legislation
Hmmm, another reason I don't like the NRA.
Their actions show that they want to disarm vets, good job NRA.
The NRA comes up in several locations in this report and all I have to say is that you will know them by their deeds.
Mental Defective Adjudications
Under 27 C.F.R. § 478.11, the term “adjudicated as a mental defective” includes a determination
by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked
subnormal intelligence or a mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease, (1) is a danger to
himself or others, or (2) lacks the mental capacity to manage his own affairs. The term also
includes (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 articles 50a and 72b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. §§ 850a, 876(b).
This definition of “mental defective” was promulgated by the ATF in a final rule published on
June 27, 1997.164 In the final rule, the ATF noted that the VA had commented on the “proposed
rulemaking” and had correctly interpreted that “adjudicated as a mental defective” includes a
person who is found to be “mentally incompetent” by the Veterans’ Benefit Administration
(VBA). Under veterans law, an individual is considered “mentally incompetent” if he or she lacks
the mental capacity to contract or manage his or her own affairs for reasons related to injury or
disease (under 38 CFR § 3.353).165 In a proposed rulemaking, the ATF opined that the inclusion
of “mentally incompetent” in the definition of “mental defective” was wholly consistent with the
legislative history of the 1968 Gun Control Act.166 Reportedly, the VA could have been the only
federal agency that had promulgated a definition like “mentally incompetent” that overlapped
with the term “mental defective.”167
VA Referrals to the FBI
In November 1998, the VBA provided the FBI with disqualifying records on 88,898 VA
beneficiaries, whom VA rating specialists had determined to be “mentally incompetent” based on medical evidence that they were incapable of managing their own affairs.168 Thus, a fiduciary (or
designated payee) was appointed for them. During the determination process, beneficiaries were
notified that the VA was proposing to rate them “mentally incompetent,” and they were able to
submit evidence to the contrary if they wished.169 This determination process is still followed
today at the VA.170
The Veterans’ Medical Administration has not submitted any disqualifying records on VA
beneficiaries to the FBI for inclusion in NICS for any medical/psychiatric reason (like PTSD),
unless those veterans had been involuntarily committed under a state court order to a VA medical
facility because they posed a danger to themselves or others. In those cases, the state in which the
court resides would submit the disqualifying record to the FBI, if such a submission would be
appropriate and permissible under state law.171
Nevertheless, the decision by the VA to submit VBA records on “mentally incompetent” veterans
to the FBI for inclusion in the NICS mental defective file generated some degree of controversy
in 1999 and 2000.172 Critics of this policy underscored that veterans routinely consented to
“mentally incompetent” determinations so that a fiduciary (designated payee) could be appointed
for them. Those critics contended that to take away a veteran’s Second Amendment rights without
his foreknowledge was improper. They also pointed out that no other federal agencies were
providing similar disqualifying records to the FBI. This controversy subsided, but it re-emerged
when Congress considered the NICS improvement amendments (described above). Also, as of
April 30, 2008, VA records made up about one-fifth (or 21.0%) of the 552,800 federal and state
records in the NICS mental defective file.
Re: CRS Gun Control Legislation
Marlin: You do understand that to be adjudicated "mentally defective" by the VA, one has to practically need round the clock care, right? I mean, you don't really want a guy that drools on himself and has to wear a helmet to keep from licking the boogers off the city bus windows going out and buying a gun. Trust me, if this law affected less than truly mentally defective individuals, I would know, and I would be against it. I have a high rating from the VA for a service connected mental illness. I have never had my 2A rights stepped on. Not once. To the contrary; my transactions are always immediately approved.
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