Published November 10, 2009
Author's note: It appears that the Department of Defense Directive forbidding military personnel from carrying firearms on military bases actually dates back to the last year of the George H.W. Bush administration.
Shouldn't an army base be the last place where a terrorist should be able to shoot at people uninterrupted for 10 minutes? After all, an army base is filled with soldiers who carry guns, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Beginning in March 1993, under the Clinton administration, 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, most of CNN's listeners probably didn't understand the rules that Ms. Foster was referring to.
The law-abiding, not the criminals, are the ones who obey the ban on guns. Instead of making areas safe for victims, the bans make it safe for the criminal. Hasan not only violated the army's ban on carrying a gun, he also apparently violated the rules that require soldiers to register privately owned guns at the post.
Research shows that allowing individuals to defend themselves dramatically reduces the rates of multiple victim public shootings. Even if attacks still occur, having civilians with permitted concealed handguns limits the damage. A major factor in determining how many people are harmed by these killers is the amount of time that elapses between when the attack starts and someone is able to arrive on the scene with a gun. Ten minutes must have seemed like an eternity to those trapped in the attack at Ft. Hood. All the multiple victim public shootings in the U.S. -- in which more than three people have been killed -- have all occurred in places where concealed handguns have been banned.
For several days now, some in the media and various gun control groups have focused on a so-called "cop killer" gun that Hasan used. The five-seven is a conventional semi-automatic pistol. In fact, the bullets that it fires are relatively small, only being in the .22 caliber class. Unlike rifles, even higher caliber handguns don't fire publicly available ammunition at sufficient velocity to penetrate a police officer's vest. There is a special type of handgun ammunition that can penetrate some types of body armor, but under federal law it is not legal to manufacture or import that ammunition for sale to the public.
For the safety of our soldiers and citizens, we hope that this simple fact about the Ft. Hood attack and the role that gun-free zones played in allowing yet another multiple victim public shooting becomes part of the news coverage itself. The political debate about guns would be quite different if even once in a while a news story clearly explained that there has been another multiple victim public shooting in a gun-free zone.