This month’s tragic — and probably preventable — mass shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas, certainly raises questions about why a lone shooter was able to unload not one but several magazines of ammunition over a several minute period – shooting and wounding more than 30 soldiers and killing 13, at a heavily restricted US Army base. Just as legitimate questions were raised following the mass killings on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, both military personnel and civilian citizens alike ought now to be asking of themselves and our elected and appointed leaders, not only whether the perpetrators of such carnage could reasonably and appropriately have been identified in advance and prevented from carrying out their obviously well-planned mass murders; but also, whether it makes sense to disarm a captive group of citizens (at Virginia Tech, the student body; at Ft. Hood, the military personnel assigned to the base).
In the case of Ft. Hood, it is important to bear in mind that since 1993, thanks to a policy ordered by then-President Bill Clinton, it has been essentially unlawful for individuals on military bases to carry firearms unless they are military police, or are training in firearms at a firing range. Many of those who support this gun-free military base policy have reacted to calls to review it, by simply echoing the standard refrain of gun-control advocates that, “we don’t want everyone on a military base running around with a gun on their hip.” (Of course, had this been the case at Ft. Hood, it is doubtful Maj. Hasan could have squeezed off more than a couple of rounds before being himself felled by an armed soldier.) It is a false dichotomy that we either allow no one (except MPs) or everyone on military bases to possess firearms. Rather, the debate should center on why is it made virtually impossible for any soldier on a military base to carry arms, even if they have in fact been properly vetted and trained in their use?
Why, after all, should a citizen be forced to surrender his or her right to keep and bear arms, simply because they have entered military service; service expressly supposed to teach the proper and safe use of firearms?
In the case of the students at Virginia Tech two years ago, it was Virginia legislators who decided to disarm them and make them sitting ducks for a single crazed gunman, Seung-Hui Cho. For the military victims at Ft. Hood this Fall, it was three commanders-in-chief (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama), and a series of politically-correct base commanders, who rendered those who serve under them vulnerable to an apparent religious zealot bent on killing as many of his fellow service men and women as he could. Continuing to stick our heads in the sand and refuse to even reconsider amending such policies as those that apply to campuses in Virginia (and other states across the country) and at Ft. Hood (and virtually every other military post across the country), vastly improves the chances that our students and our military personnel will be victims of other deranged individuals in the future.