Department of Defense report on Washington Navy Yard Shooting completely ignores problems with gun-free zones

19 Mar , 2014  

The Department of Defense report on the September 16th, 2013 Navy Yard shooting focuses on Aaron Alexis’ mental health issues not being discovered before the attack:

At various points during Alexis’ military service and subsequent employment as a cleared contractor — from the background investigation in 2007 to the disturbing behaviors he exhibited in the weeks leading up to the shooting — the review revealed missed opportunities for intervention that, had they been pursued, may have prevented the tragic result at the Washington Navy Yard. When examining events in Aaron Alexis’ history individually, they yield little in the way of warning. Combined, however, they demonstrate a pattern of misconduct and disturbing behavior that would have prompted investigators, for a position of trust in the Federal workforce, if they had been aware of his history in aggregate. . . .

• Alexis’ Navy command did not report in the security system of record multiple incidents of adverse information during Alexis’ active duty service.
• Alexis’ employer, The Experts, Inc., had no insight into Alexis’ chronic personal conduct issues during his Navy service when they hired him and placed him in a position that required access to classified information.
• Alexis’ employer did not report behaviors indicating psychological instability and did not seek assistance from a mental health professional or guidance from the Defense Security Service. . . .

The problem is no one really expects all such problematic employees to be discovered in advance. It is always so much easier to realize that people had mental health issues after the fact. So what do if the screening for mental illness fails? One option is to allow soldiers and officers on the based to possess weapons. John Lott wrote this for Fox News shortly after the Fort Hood shooting in 2009:

the army forbids military personnel from carrying their own personal firearms and mandates that “a credible and specific threat against [Department of the Army] personnel [exist] in that region” before military personnel “may be authorized to carry firearms for personal protection.” Indeed, most military bases have relatively few military police as they are in heavy demand to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unarmed soldiers could do little more than cower as Major Nidal Malik Hasan stood on a desk and shot down into the cubicles in which his victims were trapped. Some behaved heroically, such as private first class Marquest Smith who repeatedly risked his life removing five soldiers and a civilian from the carnage. But, being unarmed, these soldiers were unable to stop Hasan’s attack.

The wife of one of the soldiers shot at Ft. Hood understood this all too well. Mandy Foster’s husband had been shot but was fortunate enough not to be seriously injured. In an interview on CNN on Monday night, Mrs. Foster was asked by anchor John Roberts how she felt about her husband “still scheduled for deployment in January” to Afghanistan. Ms. Foster responded: “At least he’s safe there and he can fire back, right?” — It is hard to believe that we don’t trust soldiers with guns on an army base when we trust these very same men in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . .

Unfortunately, the Department of Defense report completely ignores this point about gun-free zones and doesn’t even discuss the issue. Posting obviously identifiable guards at entrances makes them initial targets.

As I have noted elsewhere:

Even in anti-gun Europe, the thinking is starting to sway toward letting people, not just off-duty police, defend themselves. The head of Interpol (basically Europe’s version of the FBI) Ron Noble stated in November that there are two ways to protect people:

“One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”

He pointed to the real problem:

“How do you protect soft (civilian) targets? That’s really the challenge.

“You can’t have armed police forces everywhere. … It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?'”

Noble’s comments came right after the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where 68 people were killed. As for Kenya, both open and concealed carrying of firearms by civilians is banned. Obviously, those bans didn’t stop the terrorists. . . .

Obama had called for more gun control regulations after the Navy Yard shooting, but besides the fact that the shooting occurred in the heavily regulated District of Columbia, the attack occurred on an army base within DC which was itself a gun-free zone. The shooter only had obtained a shotgun before the attack started, so any of the pushes for assault weapon bans wouldn’t have been relevant. Background check changes wouldn’t have prevented the shooter from obtaining his shotgun, after all the killer obtained a government security clearance.

UPDATE: Obama’s talk at the April 9th memorial at Fort Hood again emphasized only mental illness.

In our open society, in advanced bases like this, we can never eliminate every risk, but as a nation, we can do more to help counsel those with mental health issues, to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are having such deep difficulties. As a military, we must continue to do everything in our power to secure our facilities and spare others this pain. . . .

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