Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, MD, Everytown, Moms Demand Action Respond to Congressional Vote on Gun Lobby-Backed Legislation That Would Put More Veterans with Severe Mental Illness in Danger

With a Veteran Suicide Rate 20 Percent Higher Than Civilians, Legislation Would Remove Nearly 170,000 Records of Veterans with Severe Mental Illness Who Are Prohibited from Purchasing Firearms from the Background Check System, Allowing Them to Buy Guns

H.R. 1181 is Latest Gun Lobby Attempt to Rollback Existing Gun Laws; Last Month President Trump Signed Repeal of Rule Requiring Submission of Records into Background Check System for Social Security Recipients Prohibited from Buying Guns Because of Severe Mental Illness

WASHINGTON – In response to the U.S. House’s passage of House Resolution 1181, legislation that – in the midst of a suicide epidemic amongst U.S. veterans – would put more vets in danger by removing from the background check system nearly 170,000 records of veterans with severe mental illness who are prohibited from purchasing guns, Everytown for Gun Safety released the following statements from Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, MD, Everytown President John Feinblatt and Lindsey Donovan, a veteran volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety.

As the country experiences a veteran suicide rate that is more than 20 percent higher than civilian Americans, H.R. 1181 would effectively repeal the law that blocks Veterans Affairs beneficiaries from possessing or purchasing firearms if, after they have received due process and a formal hearing, they have been found mentally incompetent. According to the VA, there are nearly 170,000 prohibiting records for these beneficiaries already in the background check system and under this legislation, those records would be removed entirely and no longer lead to a failed background check.

This is the second attempt to rollback existing gun laws in the new Congress. Last month, President Donald Trump signed into law a repeal of the Social Security Administration rule on record submission to the background check system for recipients prohibited from possessing guns due to significant mental illness.

STATEMENT FROM BRIGADIER GENERAL (RET.) STEPHEN N. XENAKIS, MD, A FORMER ARMY MEDICAL CORPS OFFICER WITH 28 YEARS OF ACTIVE MILITARY SERVICE, CERTIFIED BY THE AMERICAN BOARD OF PSYCHIATRY AND NEUROLOGY IN GENERAL PSYCHIATRY AND CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY:

“The high suicide rate among veterans is devastating – but we can help mitigate this problem with smart policies and practices. We should take a page out of the military training manuals where they train us to think ‘safety first’ and avoid unnecessary harm and injury. I urge our elected leaders to reject H.R. 1181, a misguided approach to the wellbeing of our nation’s veterans.”

STATEMENT FROM JOHN FEINBLATT, PRESIDENT OF EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY:

“Politicians abandoned our veterans with their vote for H.R. 1181 today. Voting to allow veterans with severe mental illness to buy guns – in the midst of a gun suicide crisis among our vets – shows the gun lobby’s allies at their most irresponsible. Every veteran and military family deserves better, given that 20 veterans take their lives every day, two-thirds of them with guns.”

STATEMENT FROM LINDSEY DONOVAN, UNITED STATES VETERAN, WIFE OF ACTIVE DUTY SOLDIER WHO IS A FOUR TIME WAR VETERAN AND VOLUNTEER CHAPTER LEADER FOR THE GEORGIA CHAPTER OF MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA, PART OF EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY:

“My husband and I have dedicated our lives to protecting our country. Yet our elected leaders in Congress today failed to do the same for our fellow service members by passing a bill that puts veterans with severe mental illness in danger, especially as our country experiences a veteran suicide epidemic. As a veteran and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, I know this reckless vote by politicians who put gun lobby interests ahead of veteran safety will not go unnoticed.”