The Veterans Administration is offering free gun locks to former military members -- but wants some key personal information in exchange.
Veterans have received forms recently from the VA with an enticing offer of up to four gun locks. The only catch… they need to return a completed form listing their name, address and the number of guns in the home, according to the Washington Times.
"The VA initiative raises concerns because veterans are not offered any written assurances that the information they provide the government regarding their firearms will not be kept on file and used for other purposes."
- Jennifer Baker, National Rifle Association
“Dear Veteran, a letter sent from the VA’s Philadelphia office reads, “As your partner in health care, we are committed to keeping you and your family safe…If you own a gun, we hope you will request and use a gun lock. As a Veteran, you already know about the importance of firearm safety.”
The Washington Times spoke with one veteran who received the letter and called it “a gun registry in disguise.”
“Young soldiers are already notoriously reluctant to admit any problems with post-traumatic stress disorder,” the veteran, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the paper. “Imagine the effect if the average 23-year-old private … back from Iraq, already reluctant to ask for help … is now hearing rumors that if he seeks help from the VA for sleeplessness, PTSD, nightmares, etc., Big Brother is going take his guns away? Now young veterans will really avoid asking for help.”
According to reports, officials for the VA hospital in Philadelphia have been instructed by the administration not to keep on file any information about veterans who own guns.
“They have been instructed to offer these gun locks to veterans and family members and to keep no gun registries or other information related to the gun lock distribution,” a spokesperson told The Blaze.
It’s not clear if the directive is a part of any written policy at the VA.
"The NRA is opposed to any and all forms of a gun registry,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told FoxNews.com. “The VA initiative raises concerns because veterans are not offered any written assurances that the information they provide the government regarding their firearms will not be kept on file and used for other purposes."
The gun locks are distributed under a program started under the Bush Administration in 2008 that was modeled after a similar program called Project ChildSafe. The VA has been distributing the gun locks for the past seven years, but it was not immediately clear if the forms are a recent change in protocol.
According to a 2013 report, it is estimated that 22 veterans take their own lives with a gun every day. The program was started with the hopes of lowering that high suicide rate.
The VA has been distributing the locks in a program with local police departments and a firearms trade group.