Senator John Cornyn of Texas introduced into Congress the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015, a bill that will enable law enforcement and local officials to better identify and treat potentially dangerous mentally ill individuals. The bill includes several areas which focus on Veteran mental illness and also help to protect the 2nd Amendment Rights of Veterans with mental illness.
Peer to peer services or programs
Peer to peer services or programs would be established for the purpose of providing support and mentorship to assist qualified Veterans in obtaining treatment, recovery, stabilization, or rehabilitation. In this case, a qualified Veteran is one who served on active duty in any branch of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard or Reserves; and was discharged or released from such service under conditions other than dishonorable.
Veterans treatment court programs
Veterans treatment court programs would be established involving collaboration among criminal justice, veterans, and mental health and substance abuse agencies that provides qualified veterans intensive judicial supervision and case management, which may include random and frequent drug testing where appropriate. It would also provide a full continuum of treatment services, including mental health services, substance abuse services, medical services, and services to address trauma. Alternatives to incarceration and other appropriate services, including housing, transportation, mentoring, employment, job training, education, and assistance in applying for and obtaining available benefits would be a part of the program.
Protecting the 2nd Amendment Rights of Veterans
The Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015 will help to protect the 2nd Amendment Rights of Veterans with existing records by allowing those Veterans who had previously been adjudicated mentally incompetent or committed to a psychiatric hospital as a result of having been found by the Department to be mentally incompetent, to have their cases reviewed at the request of the Veteran to regain and or retain the ability to own a firearm. The Veterans affected would receive a written notice of the opportunity for administrative review of their case no later than 90 days after the enactment of the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015. Those affected Veterans would have no more than 30 days from when they receive the notice to request a review by a board or by a court of competent jurisdiction to assess whether the person is a danger to himself or herself or to others. In such assessment, the board may consider the person’s honorable discharge or decorations.
Arguments against protecting the 2nd Amendment Rights of Veterans
Some, such as the Center for American Progress (CAP), are arguing that The Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) would make it easier, not harder, for individuals with serious mental illness to purchase guns.
According to CAP:
“Senator Cornyn’s bill would also make it easier for veterans with severe mental illness to purchase guns, despite evidence of the growing epidemic of veteran suicide.
- Between 2005 and 2011, approximately 49,000 U.S. veterans committed suicide, which is nine times greater than the number of soldiers killed in combat during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
- Access to firearms increases the risk that a suicide attempt will result in a fatality: 85 percent of suicide attempts with a firearm are fatal, while only 5 percent of suicide attempts using other methods are fatal.
- Senator Cornyn’s bill would lower the threshold for when a severely mentally ill veteran would become prohibited from possessing a gun, and establish an inadequate review process through the Department of Veterans Affairs that would not appropriately balance veterans’ Second Amendment rights with ensuring that mentally ill veterans who pose a danger to themselves or to others do not have access to firearms.“