Spree shooters at military installations prey on Americans serving America, disarmed by America—but, not in the heavily armed neighborhoods of Washington
Lesson of Navy Yard shooting echoes lessons of Camp Liberty, Fort Hood
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Monday’s shooting spree at Washington’s Navy Yard reminds us that disarmed military personnel are made-to-order victims for spree shooters.
When Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire Nov. 5, 2009, on soldiers preparing to deploy overseas, I was at Camp Basra, Iraq, a combat historian mobilized with the Army Reserve.
To the soldiers in my circle, it was similar to the May 5, 2009 shooting spree at Camp Liberty, Iraq, when a joe burst into that camp’s combat stress center (!) and fatally shot five other soldiers.
Understand: All military personnel in Iraq were armed, with either a rifle or a handgun, and sometimes both. Living in a universally armed society created an unspoken atmosphere of respect and caution in personal relationships. It also meant any spree shooter inside-the-wire was instantly surrounded by equally armed personnel.
Unless you went to a combat stress center, where the soldiers turned in their “pole” for their visit. There were other places one left their weapon at the door, such as the gym or chapel. But at the combat stress center, there was also a good chance that the guns belonging to the clients had their firing pins removed—a precaution that allowed the a soldier to go about his day as if he could be trusted with his weapon, as he sought help.
The Fort Hood victims were absolutely unarmed. This is normal for garrison life, even for soldiers deploying, who may have a weapon, but no rounds. It was also a certainty for Hasan, who would have known that Clinton-era rules severely restricted military personal carrying firearms on duty.
The lesson of the Camp Liberty and Fort Hood shootings was that disarmed soldiers are just as vulnerable as anyone else to a spree shooter exploiting the fish-in-a-barrel opportunity of a “gun free zone.”
More details will emerge from the Navy Yard shooting, but we already know everything we need to know. The criminal justice system had the shooter in its control, but for whatever liberal impulses were at play that day, this dangerous man was released.
Maybe, like with many criminals, officials were waiting for him to do more serious harm to people and property before they looked up from their doughnuts and coffee and made an effort to keep us safe.
We also know that in addition to the Navy Yard being full of disarmed military personnel, it sits in a city with one of the tightest regimes of gun control in America.
That does not mean that Washington streets are immune from gun violence. It only means that the government of the District of Columbia has allied itself with the criminal elements to ensure victims cannot defend themselves.
More to the point, sailors stationed at the Navy Yard hear more gunfire in the South East neighborhood of our nation’s capital than they would ever hear stationed anywhere else.
Put another way, if the shooter, instead of rampaging inside walls and gates of the Navy Yard, went berserk up 8th Street SE towards Eastern Market or even more brazenly across the Anacostia River to that ward that takes its name from the river, he would have soon found himself surrounded by equally armed Americans—and put down.
On their last morning on earth, the Navy Yard dead went to work comforted in the lie that disarmed Americans are safer than armed Americans—and that all the security gates and armed guards would protect their lives.
If we truly respect their sacrifice and their families’ suffering, we will all have the courage to call out this lie and change the laws and regulations that consign Americans serving America to victimhood-in-waiting.