Hawaii Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard likes to tout her record on gun control but in March 2017 she voted with the House GOP to allow mentally ill veterans to buy firearms. She was one of only 12 Democrats to do so.
The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act (H.R. 1181) says the following:
“[I]n any case arising out of the administration by the Secretary of laws and benefits under this title, a person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness shall not be considered adjudicated as a mental defective under subsection (d)(4) or (g)(4) of section 922 of title 18 without the order or finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.”
In plain English, this means that someone like mass shooter and U.S. Air Force veteran Devin Kelley would have the legal right to buy a gun while he was in a mental health facility (Kelly did order guns from the mental health facility he was placed in) because a judge had not declared him to be a danger to himself or others and he was not convicted of a felony. (He was later convicted of beating his wife and infant child after briefly escaping the mental health facility and therefore lost the legal right to buy a gun; unfortunately, the Air Force never filed the relevant paperwork reflecting this so his name was not in a government database of people barred from buying firearms.)
Requiring a judge or magistrate to certify that a veteran is “a mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness” and therefore “mental defective” in the eyes of the law adds an extra layer of complexity to America’s broken mental health, veterans health, and gun control systems. The notion that veterans in mental health facilities should not have the right to buy guns is as common sense as it gets and it is unclear under the legislation that Gabbard and the House GOP passed who exactly would be responsible for bringing cases like Kelley’s before a judge: doctors, institutions, family members, unit commanders? But perhaps that is the point — make it as difficult as possible to stop mentally ill veterans from buying guns so you can tout your Second Amendment credentials and worry about the lethal consequences later after people have been killed in yet another mass shooting.
Far from having “ a consistent record of advocating for sensible gun control” as Gabbard’s website brags, her record on the issue of gun control is unpredictable and her approach to the issue is seemingly arbitrary. There are at least 10 common sense gun control bills that Gabbard failed to support. On some bills, she votes the right way and on some bills, she votes with the oh-so-progressive House GOP, the National Rifle Association, and the mentally ill gun-nut lobby.