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The Second Amendment – you can defend it, but you cannot practice it

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Regarding the murders at Ft. Hood last Wednesday – as might be expected, the media is still going strong with their “It was probably PTSD!” theme, because, you know, if he's in the military and had mental issues, he must have had PTSD . This immediate diagnosis by news agencies and social media pundits, which contradicts what the murderer's fellow soldiers and chain of command have indicated thus far, has predictable and unfortunate effects on all veterans, particularly those from OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom). One big problem is, understandably, the reinforcement of a tendency to keep their problems to themselves. Did murderer Ivan Lopez have mental issues? Obviously. He murdered people. Did he have PTSD? At this point it almost doesn't matter (though it seems doubtful) – the trope of the troubled modern war veteran is firmly entrenched in the public consciousness. It's a stereotype gleefully embraced at every opportunity.

The events of last Wednesday lead us directly to a second, equally troubling point: uniformed military personnel living and working on base are expected to defend the Second Amendment, but they are not allowed to practice it. Many people are unaware that Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines are forbidden by regulations to carry concealed. Typically the only armed personnel on base are MPs, Security Forces, DoD Police and the like. There are very strict regulations regarding the private ownership of weapons on base, whether you're “permanent party” or visiting, but you are absolutely not allowed to be in your duty station, walk to the PX and then drive back to base housing with a concealed weapon on your person.

In short, they'll trust you to hump a ruck, an M4, mags and frags, maybe even a Javelin around Afghanistan and Iraq (frequently with ROEs that are at times sadly unrealistic and/or more restrictive than those constraining LEOs here at home) but they will not trust you with a Glock 19 IWB while you're walking your dog on base after duty hours. No Second Amendment for the Military 2

Crime rates on military installations are low (for a number of reasons) but there is crime. An active murderer on base isn't anything new either – very few people remember Dean Mellberg and the people he killed at Fairchild AFB 2 decades ago, though a few of us recall SrA Andrew Brown (92ND SPS) and the 70 yard shots that prevented further death. Low crime rate does not equate to no crime rate; on many installations response time by armed personnel is roughly analogous to civilian LEOs responding to a call for service in a mid-sized urban area, which begs the question – why must a veteran at his duty station in Texas, Oklahoma, Washington (etc., ad nauseum) rely on responding MPs to defend him when his civilian counterpart at Wal-Mart does not?

The regulations forbidding the private carry of non-issued DoD weapons on base is decades old. Many people have happily pointed fingers at the Clinton Administration, though DoD Directive 5210.56 actually predates his Presidency (and there are many arguments the proscription goes back much further than that). I cannot tell you when it started without first spending days and days wading through a morass of bewildering military bureaucratese. Honestly, I don't much care. The simple fact is, American citizens have been wounded and killed on American soil after being denied the capability to defend themselves by the very organization that is pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States by force of arms.

It would be ghoulishly ironic if it wasn't so tragic.

I'd like to set aside any finger-pointing. Does not matter which former President was in office when it went into effect (if indeed the original regulation was a POTUS idea vs. the brain-child of someone with stars on his uniform). What matters is what we do next. Let's talk about fixing the problem, however difficult that might be, and keeping in context the fact that any employer will want some say in whether weapons are carried to work. That's going to be true whether it's the Marine Corps or a fast food joint; the difference is McDonald's employees don't live on the premises with their families.

The condescending treatment of Joes and Janes and the perpetuation of a risk-averse military is endemic to elements of the military hierarchy, becoming more common the higher you climb the ladder toward General Officer. The perspective of the military's civilian masters is often just as bad. The totality of the United States Department of Defense is the single largest entrenched bureaucracy in the world. It has unmatched institutional inertia but it can change; the problem is making it change for the better. III Corps is even now instituting reactionary, feel-good inspection measures and vehicle searches that will do nothing to prevent this kind of thing in the future. Let's have a conversation about redirecting that energy constructively.

We'll be running some opinion-editorial articles about these 2 topics in the coming days. Please let us know in the comments below what you'd like to see addressed or just what you think in general.

Go to 13:43 of the press conference and ask yourself honestly why he might feel that way – is he being candid, with good cause? Is he repeating the official Big Army line because he is duty-bound to do so as a General?

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