Another Senseless Debate

Apr 4, 2014
In the past five years, 30 people have died on military bases in the United States. Not in training accidents, in murders. They've been murdered in the course of going through their daily duties by whacked-out shooters.

Twice, Fort Hood, Texas has experienced that horror. And soldiers -and frustration- of being inside the equivalent of a fair-sized city, full of trained -and unarmed -warriors when an angry nut job has decided to ignore the prohibition against weapons on the base and switch into the relentless killer more.

The first time, the administration wrung its collective hands, expressed its "deepest regret at the losses" and ignored the fact that Maj. Nidal Hassan wasn't a crazed shooter. Instead, he fancied himself an Islamic warrior, waging jihad against the same army to which he'd pledged his allegiance before discovering his "inner jihadist".

This time, no one's certain what pulled the pin for Ivan Lopez.

There a fixation with the postmortem following one of these events. But does that really matter? To me, there's very little "sense" that can be applied to the "senseless".

If you think I'm being overly-simplistic, one of the initial sessions an incoming President has with the White House Secret Service detail focuses on a truth that applies to all of us, including the POTUS: a single person intent on killing you who is willing to die in the process is the hardest threat to stop. The Secret Service tells their new boss, point-blank, they can handle plots, sniff out conspiracies and coups, but the lone crazy can't be countered until after he or she is encountered.

Crazy always gets the first move.

What seems ridiculous is that they are allowed more than that first move in any gun-free zone. They have time on their side. And that time in an unarmed situation makes you- even if you're a trained warrior- a potential victim. Being crazy only helps maximize the simple fact that an armed person, surrounded by unarmed people isn't in immediate danger. Instead, they're in a "target rich environment."

Words can't disguise my disgust at the gyrations of logic it must require for officials to require soldiers be armed 24/7 when they're "deployed" -but leave them unarmed at the place where their families are the front line. To me, that seems like acquiescence, not interdiction.

Willfully ignoring that harsh reality may be fine for politicians, but it has put all military members serving inside the United States in the worst form of harm's way. You can't plan for crazy, remember?

Unfortunately, dedicated anti-gun pols like Senator Dianne Feinstein or Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi aren't faced with the same option. If they were, I don't believe they'd be so adamant that shootings prove the need to disarm average citizens.

In 1982, I agreed with the residents of Kennesaw, Georgia when they passed a law requiring the head of every household to own and maintain a firearm. OK, it was never enforced, but Kennesaw's never led any Georgia crime statistic.

Since 1982, we've seen a lot change when it comes to guns. The "Assault Weapon Ban" came and went, and in 1993 the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act brought us the NICS system. Unfortunately, there have still been horrible acts committed against the defenseless by the crazy. Fortunately, average people have begun to realize that disarming themselves isn't the answer. Despite intense pressure to the contrary, the American public has managed to make the point that more gun regulations are not only unnecessary, they're unwanted by the majority.

The only people still dead-set on eliminating private ownership of firearms seem to be those traveling with security details.

So we have a divided house (and Senate).

On one side, Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, who wants to arm the military on military bases. His logic? "If they are trained in warfare and can carry weapons there, it seems to me there is some logic to allowing them to carry weapons on a military base so they can defend themselves."

On the opposite side, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. "I doubt there's going to be much support in Congress to allow military personnel to carry weapons on base," he says.

But this isn't a North/South issue. It was another Texas, then-president George H. W. Bush - who instituted the blanket prohibition. Prior to 1993, it was a base commander's call. Today, soldiers are supposed to register their private arms with their base commanders.

Good soldiers, it seems have complied. And they've paid the price.

So why disarm soldiers? It's not because soldiers aren't trained to use weapons. That argument was used by anti-gun groups to counter the NRA's assertion that "the only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" after the school massacre in Newton, Connecticut in 2012.

That soap, however, won't wash on our military bases.

Two of the very thin arguments for disarmament focus on "accidental discharges" and escalation of fights between personnel into "serious violence".

Two quick responses, there are no such things as "accidental discharges" if you're trained - they're either "negligent" or "willful".

And I've known some violent types, but not even the most violent was inclined to intentionally escalate violence when they knew the other party wasn't just armed, but capable of using their weapon.

The old saw that "an armed society is a civil society" isn't wrong, just time-work.

Is there another reason? I'd offer "willful ignorance" - like elected officials who say "there's no evidence that putting more guns into a community or a workplace leads to less violence. All the evidence tells us that the more guns you put into a location, the more likely there is to be gun violence."

That's playing fast and loose with language and facts.

If you define "gun violence" as a store owner applying the "hammer drill" he learned in a personal defense course to a thug attempting to rob him at gun point, you might be able to define that as "gun violence" - but you're rigging the game.

There might be a stronger case - if considered fairly - that the "fact of the matter" was that given the ability to defend themselves, would-be prey when forced, frequently turned the tables on the predators. And it discounts entirely the fact that many criminals won't consider taking on someone potentially capable of self-defense.

Will the military be given the ability to defend themselves and their families at home the same way we expect them to defend our families when they're overseas?

Anti-gun politicians say the prospects are "dim". The descriptor "dim" might be applied -accurately - to another noun in that same sentence.

--Jim Shepherd