Idaho Incident Raises Concerns Over Government Gun Confiscation
By Jerry A. Kane
When the Department of Veterans Affairs determines a veteran unable to take care of his financial affairs, it reports the assessment to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Once NICS gets the report, it labels the veteran “incapacitated,” which means that he along with his family members who live in the same household are barred by law from buying or owning firearms.
On July 30, 2015, Navy Veteran John Arnold of Priest River, Idaho, received a letter from the VA informing him that he is no longer allowed to purchase or own guns, and that “an inspector from an Idaho office of Veteran’s Affairs would be coming to his home in Priest River on August 6th to confiscate his firearms.” VA spokesman Bret Bowers said the agency’s benefits office in Salt Lake City had sent out the letter.
Last September the 70 year-old Arnold suffered a stroke and went to the VA for medical attention. After undergoing treatment, Arnold quickly recovered from the stroke, but an assessment conducted by the VA determined he could no longer handle his own finances. Arnold said that he has always taken care of his own finances and has continued to do so after recovering from the stroke.
When word got out that an inspector was coming to confiscate Arnold’s guns, Idaho Republican state Representative Heather Scott of Blanchard and about 100 area residents gathered outside the veteran’s home to prevent the inspector from taking them.
Scott spearheaded the effort, which attracted Washington state Representative Matthew Shea of Spokane Valley and County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler. Shea called the gathering a “defiance against tyranny” and Wheeler vowed that he’d stand guard “to make sure Mr. Arnold’s rights weren’t going to be breached.”
“I took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and uphold the laws of Idaho. This seemed appropriate to show my support,” Wheeler said.
Arnold said he was “thankful and amazed” by the number of people who showed up to stand with him and support his Second Amendment rights.
“It’s absolutely amazing and it gives you a new found hope that there are still people out there,” said Maria Bosworth, Arnold supporter.
The VA does have the authority to declare veterans incompetent to handle their financial affairs, which bars them from buying or owing firearms; but Bowers said his agency doesn’t have the authority to confiscate them.
The VA’s authority to bar veterans from buying and owning guns is being challenged by Second Amendment advocates. Recently U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) proposed a bill that would require court action before the VA can bar veterans who have been declared incompetent from buying guns.
Priest River, population 1,700, has been described as a community of strong Tea Party and Second Amendment supporters.