Vulnerable Senate Democrats vote to protect veterans with problems from losing gun rights

Several senators seen as vulnerable in next year’s elections voted Wednesday for a controversial amendment to defend the gun rights of veterans who are in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs fiduciary program.

Sens. Joe Mancin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) all backed the amendment. The four all face tough re-election races next year.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), was adopted by a vote of 53 to 45 to the minibus appropriations bill funding military construction and the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

It would prevent veterans from losing their right to purchase or own firearms when they receive help to manage their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

Under current law, the Veterans Affairs Department is required to send a beneficiary’s name to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System whenever a fiduciary is appointed to manage his or her benefits.

“Veterans who sacrificed to defend our Constitution shouldn’t see their own rights rest on the judgment of unelected bureaucrats—but right now, they do,” Kennedy said. “My amendment would prevent government workers from unduly stripping veterans of their right to bear arms.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a leading voice on addressing gun violence, slammed the amendment on the floor as bad policy.

“We are not talking about people who just can’t balance their checkbook. We’re not talking about people who just need some assistance with their financial affairs. The standard that the V.A. uses is the standard of mental competence,” Murphy said before the vote.

“Let me put a finer point on it. One third of the veterans we’re talking about in this category are diagnosed schizophrenics. This amendment allows for every single one of them to have their gun rights restored,” he said.

Every Senate Republican who voted on the amendment Wednesday voted in favor of it. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) missed the vote.

Some Democrats facing tough races next year, including Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Bob Casey (Pa.), voted against the amendment.

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