A deal made by congressional leaders to avert a partial shutdown of the U.S. government includes an attempt to ease some veterans’ access to gun ownership, even when they are deemed “mentally incompetent” to handle their own finances.

The $436 billion funding package agreed on by congressional lawmakers Wednesday extended the deadline for the expiration of funding for government agencies—including the military and Department of Veteran Affairs—from March 1 to March 8. It was the fourth extension painstakingly agreed on by a divided Congress during this fiscal year, but it spelled optimism that a deal for the long-term budget plan could be reached later this year.

Among the victories touted by Republicans in this deal is a bill that would eliminate the decades-old ban on gun ownership for veterans deemed unfit to possess a firearm—a measure gun-rights advocates have long protested.

Gun ownership
A customer handles an AR-15 at Jimmy’s Sport Shop in Mineola, New York, on September 25, 2020. A deal by congressional leaders to avoid a partial government shutdown includes an attempt to repeal the gun…

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Gun Owners of America, a nonprofit lobbying organization that promotes gun rights, wrote about the elimination of the ban on X, formerly Twitter.

“Congressional deal cuts funding to the ATF,” the organization said, referring to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “and eliminates a 20+ year old gun ban for veterans. It also temporarily reauthorizes the archaic Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988.”

By law, the Department of Veterans Affairs can report the names of veterans deemed mentally incompetent to handle their VA funds to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System—which is used for criminal background checks during the purchase of firearms—without a judge’s order.

According to this database, a veteran found mentally incompetent under VA regulations and assigned a fiduciary to take care of their finances can be banned from buying a gun, as the veteran is considered a danger to themselves or others.

Gun Owners of America has long campaigned to overturn the existing legislation, describing the ban as “abusive” and accusing the VA of stripping veterans of their constitutional rights when they may be “struggling with their health” or “might just need someone to manage their finances.”

The group encouraged supporters to demand their representatives in Congress include the ban in last week’s funding deal.

The VA had previously opposed changes to the ban, expressing concern that it could thwart efforts to prevent suicide among veterans.

Newsweek contacted Gun Owners of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs for comment by email Monday.

The latest data from the VA shows the rate of suicides among veterans is increasing. In 2021, the department reported, suicide was the 13th-leading cause of death for veterans overall and the second-leading cause of death for veterans under age 45. The department also reported a total of 6,392 veteran suicide deaths in that year, 114 more than in 2020.

The congressional leaders’ funding package, and the six budget bills included in it, has yet to pass through the House, where the Freedom Caucus is expected to oppose it—as it has for previous compromises between Republican and Democratic leaders.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text “988” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.