Veterans' gun rights sticky issue in defense bill

WASHINGTON (AP) - Should veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their own financial affairs be prevented from buying a gun?

The issue threatened to become the biggest sticking point in a $631 billion defense bill last week. The fight was put off until another day, but the issue isn't going away.

The Veterans Affairs Department currently appoints fiduciaries- often family members - to manage the pensions and disability benefits of veterans declared incompetent. When it does, it also enters the veteran's name into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which prohibits them from buying firearms.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma says judges should be making that decision, not VA workers. Veterans groups and gun rights advocates like the National Rifle Association agree. Supporters of gun control prefer the current system.

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