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Losing right to arms

With hunting season in full swing and certain members of Congress up in arms regarding attempts by the United Nations to reduce the number of untraceable weapons transfers in volatile portions of the world, it appears appropriate to have a discussion about the 2nd Amendment.

Most are aware of the wording: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Of course, as with most of the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, infringement can and does take place. It is not permissible, for example, for you or I to possess a nuclear weapon. The handgun that's perfectly legal for you to conceal upon your person cannot be taken into certain buildings. As a member of NATO, military personnel are prohibited from using hollow-point ammunition.

The Supreme Court long has upheld the constitutionality of laws reasonably infringing upon the 2nd Amendment. One such federal law, the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act, set up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System which has several categories of people that are prohibited from receiving firearms. Renounce your citizenship? Then you can't purchase a gun. The same restriction applies if you're an illegal alien, if you receive a dishonorable discharge from the military, spend more than a year in prison, use illegal drugs, are found mentally incompetent, and so on.

Most of the nine categories are reasonable. But we, for one, don't grasp why somebody who didn't pay out-of-state parking tickets and was issued an arrest warrant shouldn't be able to go pheasant hunting. Or why somebody who smokes marijuana for medicinal purposes isn't allowed to protect their own home.

Certain members of Congress regularly attempt to have one of the categories amended so that military veterans classified as too mentally incompetent to handle their own affairs could still own a gun.

As recently as last week, the annual defense bill was being held up by a handful of lawmakers determined to get the exemption approved. The elected leaders would prefer scheduling a court hearing to determine if the veteran is dangerous before stripping away any gun rights.

The provision likely will be dropped from the defense bill, but just as likely will get attached to other legislation soon. Particularly since it has the support of the National Rifle Association.

"We consider it an abject tragedy that so many of our veterans return home, after risking life and limb to defend our freedom, only to be stripped of their Second Amendment rights because they need help managing their compensation," Chris Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist, wrote last year in an opinion piece.

Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said there are many veterans with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder who are not a danger to others.

We are all in favor of treating veterans fairly -- even going out of our way to help them simply for volunteering to serve our country. But if somebody sustains an injury that affects their brain so severely they can't handle their own financial affairs, it doesn't make sense to risk seeing if they can handle a gun responsibly.

These individuals are not being singled out because they're veterans. They're being flagged because of mental incompetence. We have no argument against keeping this category of Americans from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights. Neither should Congress.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net