Thank you for contacting me to express your opinion on Section 595 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023. Hearing from West Virginians is very important to me, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
As you may know, Section 595 is a pilot program in which the Secretary of Defense will provide servicemembers on certain military installations safes for their personal firearms. The pilot program is completely voluntary and servicemembers are in no way required to participate. The purpose of this amendment is to provide voluntary assistance to those struggling with mental health issues. Research has shown that simple barriers to suicidal thoughts, like having to open a gun safe, reduce attempts. This section does not impact or undermine any existing safe storage policies. At the end of the pilot program, the Secretary of Defense will submit a report to Congress outlining its effect, particularly on suicide prevention.
In our deliberation on the Senate Armed Services Committee, both Republicans and Democrats reached uniramous agreement that this provision both protected our servicemembers’ second amendment rights while also offering them another option for safe storage of their firearms at no cost to themselves. I voted to advance the Senate NDAA out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 18, 2022. It was negotiated and voted on by the House of Representatives before returning to the Senate, where it passed with a bipartisan vote of 83-11. It will be signed into law by the President in the coming weeks.
I have worked for years to protect our servicemembers’ and Veterans’ right to bear arms. Specifically, I have introduced bills to fix outdated laws that prohibit Veterans from buying guns in their home state or their duty station. I have filed bills like the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act to make it easier for Veterans to remove themselves from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in cases where they have been placed in NICS due to having a fiduciary. I will continue to work to defend our servicemembers and Veterans and their second amendment rights.
Once again, thank you for reaching out to add your voice to this important discussion. If I may be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
With warmest regards,
Joe Manchin III
United States Senator