Dozens of people, including the local sheriff, gathered outside a Navy veteran’s home in Idaho this week because of their worries a federal gun grab program may have authorities confiscating his guns – in what may be the first public protest to a strategy on which WND has been reporting for two years.
That strategy simply is for federal bureaucrats to find someone receiving federal benefits, such as a veteran, send a letter that she or she is incompetent and a manager is being appointed to handle those benefits.
And then note, because of the designation, that person no longer is allowed to buy or have a gun.
The wire service reported the northern Idaho residents “lined up outside a U.S. Navy veteran’s house … to protest claims that federal officials are planning on confiscating the man’s weapons.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs had notified John Arnold of Priest River that he cannot have or buy any firearms, and state Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard organized a protest that drew about 100 people, AP reported.
“Among them were Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, who promised to stand guard against any federal attempts to remove Arnold’s guns, and Republican Washington state Rep. Matthew Shea of Spokane Valley, who described the event as a ‘defiance against tyranny,'” the report said.
“I took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and uphold the laws of Idaho,” Wheeler told the AP. “This seemed appropriate to show my support. I was going to make sure Mr. Arnold’s rights weren’t going to be breached.”
Veteran Affairs spokesman Bret Bowers told AP the agency doesn’t have the authority to confiscate weapons, but as WND has reported, it can notify federal law enforcement agencies when such letters are issued that a particular person needs to be added to the national gun ban list.
WND has reported the effort was ramped up several years ago with letters from the Veterans Administration informing returning veterans they were being declared incompetent and someone would be appointed to handle their financial affairs.
Then a similar plan was being considered for recipients of Social Security, the Los Angeles Times said recently.
The paper said the Obama administration is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they “lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs.”
Michael Connelly of the United States Justice Foundation has been working on the VA case since several veterans contacted him several years ago to say they had been determined incompetent without so much as a hearing and wanted to fight back.
According to the Social Security plan, the federal benefit recipients would be told they are incompetent and can no longer have weapons. Then their names would be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, which is used by governments to try to keep weapons out of the hands of felons, drug addicts, illegal aliens and others.
Targeted would be Social Security beneficiaries who have “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”
An estimated 4.2 million adults get Social Security payments that are managed by “representative payees.”
The Times said the move is part of a concerted effort by the Obama administration after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, to strengthen gun control.
After Congress shot down virtually every legislative change Obama wanted, the president began to makes changes through rewriting rules and definitions.
The reaction to the announcement about Social Security has been negative on a number of fronts.
“Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist, told the Times. “They are very different determinations.”
Steven Overman told the newspaper he was declared 100 percent disabled and also incompetent after a bomb hit his Humvee in Iraq in 2007. So he gave his guns to his mother and has been working with a lawyer to get them back.
Connelly told WND that if the government is successful in its attack on Social Security recipients, there will be other targets soon.
“They could go after student loan recipients. What about people getting food stamps? Medicaid? Potentially anybody working for any government contractor,” he warned.
He said he’s been warning on on his blog since earlier this year the Social Security move was coming.
He said the government was using veterans “as guinea pigs to develop methods that can be used to steal their constitutional rights.”
“Veterans get the letter from the VA telling them that because of physical or mental disabilities they are going to be declared incompetent to handle their own financial affairs, and the VA will appoint a fiduciary for them. The veterans are given 60 days to prove they are competent, which is a direct violation of the due process clause of the Constitution that requires the burden of proof be on the government,” he wrote.
“In none of the cases that we know of has there been an adjudication process with a hearing before a judge or an administrative judge. Nor have the veterans in most cases been examined by a psychiatrist, psychologist or even an MD,” he continued. “[Then Attorney General]-Eric Holder decided that anyone who works for the VA can declare veterans incompetent for any reason including having their bills paid automatically out of their bank accounts.”
Lately, he reported, some veterans “have never gotten any letter or official notification from the VA. They find out they are on the NICS list when they try to purchase a firearm. Often they can’t even find out why they are on the list.”
He said his fight so far includes the VA, the FBI, the DoD and the DHS.
Most of those agencies have been sued under the federal Freedom of Information Act because they have refused to turn over basic information that would document their actions, he said.
He told WND that a fifth agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, recently appeared in the arguments.
“The agency said that the FBI sent seven pages of documents to the BATF to determine if they should be turned over to us. The BATF informed us that we could not see any of the documents,” Connelly said.
WND had broken the story that the Obama administration insisted it was routine for officials to send out letters informing veterans that an unidentified “report” indicated they may be declared incompetent and consequently stripped of their Second Amendment rights.
It’s the same administration that in 2009 warned that “returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists.”
The 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security was called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” It also said Obama’s governmental managers were “concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”
So when hundreds, perhaps thousands, of veterans began receiving letters like the one dispatched from the Portland, Oregon, office of the Department of Veterans Affairs, alarm bells went off.
The door to the dispute opened when USJF received a copy of a letter to a veteran from the Portland VA Medical Center.
The letter warned the vet that “evidence indicates that you are not able to handle your VA benefit payments because of a physical or mental condition.”
“We propose to rate you incompetent for VA purposes. This means we must decide if you are able to handle your VA benefit payments. We will base our decision on all the evidence we already have including any other evidence you sent to us.”
The VA also warned: “A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition. If you knowingly violate any of these prohibitions, you may be fined, imprisoned, or both.”
The letter was signed by K. Kalama, Veterans Service Center manager in the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. But it didn’t present the “evidence,” the source of the evidence or why the veteran’s competency even was questioned.
At the time, WND contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs, and spokesman Randy Noller responded with a statement that the letters were no more than routine. But questions about why the letters are being sent, what evidence is used to determine a veteran is incapable of managing his or her affairs, who provides that information and why it is provided remain unanswered.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs’ policy to inform veterans of their rights regarding the Brady Act has not changed,” the statement said. “As has been policy for multiple administrations, VA acts in accordance with federal law and works with the Department of Justice to properly maintain the NCIS database. VA notifies any veteran who may be deemed by VA to be mentally incapable of managing his or her own funds of the opportunity to contest this determination and also to seek relief from the reporting requirements under the Brady Act, as required by law.”
Also unanswered was who makes the decision to put in motion the department’s decision to “deem” veterans “mentally incapable.”
Connelly noted the letter “provides no specifics on the reasons for the proposed finding of incompetency; just that is based on a determination by someone in the VA.”
“In every state in the United States no one can be declared incompetent to administer their own affairs without due process of law and that usually requires a judicial hearing with evidence being offered to prove to a judge that the person is indeed incompetent,” he explained.
“This is a requirement of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states that no person shall ‘be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
Read the letter that got the investigation started: