Army vet advocating restricting firearm ownership for veterans without due process

Lindsey Donovan, of Mom's Demand Action, speaks with other women at Savannah's "A Day Without A Woman" event in Johnson Square. (Photo Credit: Matthew Weinstein/SmugMug)

A US Army veteran and gun control advocate is speaking out against the repeal of gun control measures that targeted individuals -including veterans- without clear due process, simultaneously missing the point and proving that you can’t make everyone happy all the time.

In an op-ed published by USA Today, Army veteran/military spouse and member of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Lindsey Donovan, spoke out against the House of Representatives passage of the “Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act” (H.R. 1181), which prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs from hindering the firearms ownership rights of veterans without going through the proper judicial channels of due process, regardless of whether or not that individual receives treatment of compensation for a psychological injury or mental illness.

Throwing in repeated basic-training “hurrahs” (such as the Warrior Ethos and basic training stories) to incite emotion and authority, Donovan (who served two years as a supply specialist from 1999 to 2001) argues that -in light of a veteran suicide crisis and the rising number of veterans who are either diagnosed with a mental injury/disorder or no longer placed in charge of their own financial affairs- such a bill is not only foolhardy but a “disgrace” that is “far from patriotic.”

In short, the eroding system that Donovan supports is on derived of the mindset that one must be protected from one’s self, even if liberties must go to the wayside.

“As a gun owner, a veteran and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, I know this is not a Second Amendment issue,” she said. “This is an issue about common sense. This is an issue about moral courage and fortitude to stand up and fight to keep our most vulnerable veterans safe from gun violence.”

However, in a Constitutional system of checks and balances, nothing could be more unpatriotic- or further from the truth.

Donovan is half-right about one thing: it isn’t so much an issue of the Second Amendment as it is an issue of the Fifth. In the constitutionally limited representative democratic republic known as the United States of America, all citizens are protected by the right of due process, covered under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution- a sacred document that serves as the written law of the land, one that is supposed to be protected (under oath, no less), by every US service member serving today. I’ll get back to this in a moment.

In the eyes of Donovan (and her organization backed by anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg- the same guy who turned New York City into a large soda-banning police state), veterans -and possibly all American citizens- need to be protected from themselves and placed under the benevolent, watchful care of government entities- whether they like it or not. Citing her personal stories of her husband (who honorably went on several deployments) and his transition difficulties, as well as the difficulties of others she has encountered, she essentially insinuates that people seeking help for mental injury or who are assigned a caretaker to handle their finances should not be left to make the decisions on whether or not to bear arms.

Due process aside, Donovan overlooks an argument flaw that I saw (and continue to see) far too often in my military and post-military life: many people -especially veterans- are fearful of seeking help for fear of losing their right to bear arms- and it has cost many of them their lives.

For years since I was medically retired, the boogeyman of having a PTSD diagnosis has hung a heavy weight over many a comrade, particularly during the short-lived anti-gun legislation spurts that took place between 2012 and 2015. Veterans who needed help or wanted treatment for injuries such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were often hesitant to seek help, going to their fellow comrades for solutions. Even I -a firearms trainer, gun writer, and former member of the defense and protection industry- treated mental health evaluations and visits like interrogations, often fearful to speak about my problems in anything short of trusted company.

Having spent my military career both as an infantryman in combat and a wounded warrior in a Warrior Transition Unit, I understand the stressors of this quandary as well as the risks involved with having such a slippery slope in regard to gun ownership restrictions. Many a soldier sent in for mental injury left relatively untreated due to their hesitance to work out their issues, especially when they were stripped of private weapon ownership by a faceless command. Like most forms of prohibition, it was rarely enforceable, widely unpopular, often disobeyed, did more harm than good and occasionally had tragic results.

Now free of military constraints, our nation’s finest individuals must contend with the spectre of their otherwise unconstitutional treatment in the military (though such rights are limited while in service) by the very organization which is designed to treat them with the dignity and care they deserve. These veterans now fear getting the help they need (at a most crucial time) due to the risk of a faceless bureaucrat arbitrarily stripping such fine men and women of rights that many of them fought for- an action based on a limited criteria, with little to no due process or appeals actions in place to counter it.

This is not only abhorrently counterproductive, it is Constitutionally unacceptable.

In fact, when talk of repealing the Obama-era restrictions on individuals who did not handle their own financial assets arose, it was not only the “gun lobby” (as Donovan described them) who supported the action, but the  American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for Mental Health, the American Association of People with Disabilities who came up to bat against stripping such rights without due process. Verily, even the National Council on Disability -a federal advisory group- supported the repeal.

Leading authorities both in the mental health fields and gun violence research camps noted that the rules were not only “stigmatizing,” but irrational and not based on evidence.

“There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s social security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence,” the ACLU argued in their support of the repeal, citing that such individuals pose little threat to anyone.

Duke University gun violence and mental health researcher Jeffrey Swanson agreed with this sentiment.

“It’s a real step backwards in the messaging that I’ve been trying to do for years to say, ‘The vast majority of people with mental illnesses are never going to be violent, and to make that assumption is harmful,’” he said earlier in the year.

While Donovan’s passionate plea for restriction echoes the tired tactics anti-gun movement in America, her execution under the guise of patriotism is laughable at best, harmful to her own comrades and contrary to the oath she took.

Donovan attempts to justify her argument by citing her military service and  personal gun ownership (despite her affiliation with an anti-gun organization that has a documented history of manipulating the truth for their own agenda). While this is intriguing, it is trivial- just because a person has a stove or can throw a slab of meat into a hot pan doesn’t make them a gourmet chef any more than military service or owning a gun makes them an authority -or even educated resource- on barring constitutional rights regarding gun ownership. I own a truck and went to evasive driving school- you don’t see me blowing red lights because I think I can best dictate who should and shouldn’t yield to me.

When we raised our right hands for the first time, we swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” not just the parts we liked or agreed with. Even when I don’t agree with something someone is protesting or what choices they make, I check the criteria of its Constitutionality. If it checks out, I am obligated to defend their right to do so- though I may call them out on it. Such is the case in this instance. While she has every right to think the way she does, it still doesn’t cover up the fact that she has abandoned her oath to willingly strip her own of rights without proper due process. That I cannot -and will not- abide.

I took an oath, after all.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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