Fort Hood attack: My son, our soldiers, are defenseless, sitting ducks

The Obama administration hasn’t learned anything from the massacres at Fort Hood in 2009 or the Washington Navy Yard last year.

For all my research on how to stop or prevent mass public shootings and all the victims at these attacks that I have talked to over the years, the attack this week at Fort Hood was different.

My son Ryan, who is stationed at Fort Hood and recently back from a tour in Afghanistan, was just two blocks from the attack and could hear the shots.


However, as was true in the 2009 attack at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, soldiers, like my son, are banned from having weapons on base unless they have “a credible and specific threat against [military] personnel [exists] in that region.”

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Yes, there are military police and they guard the entrances, but, like police generally, they can’t be everywhere all the time.

Thus during the Navy Yard or Fort Hood shootings, the unarmed JAG officers, marines, and soldiers could do nothing but cower as the shooter fired round after round.

Apparently, it took 15 minutes for the military police to arrive on the scene, and no one blames them. But 15 minutes is simply too long.

Ironically, my son is a concealed handgun permit holder. He can carry a concealed handgun whenever he is off the Fort Hood base so that he can protect himself and others. But on the base he and his fellow soldiers are defenseless.

Good soldiers obey the rules against carrying guns. But instead of making places safer, disarming them leaves them sitting ducks while those who want to do harm seek out venues where they don’t have to worry about victims defending themselves. With just two exceptions, every public mass shooting in the USA since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens are banned from carrying guns.

And there is a long track record of armed Americans saving lives with weapons.  From shootings at schools that were stopped before police arrived in such places as Pearl, Miss., and Edinboro, Pa., and at colleges like the Appalachian Law School in Virginia. Or attacks in busy downtowns such as Memphis; churches such as the New Life Church in Colorado Springs; at a malls in Portland and Salt Lake City; or at an apartment building in Oklahoma.

More than 11 million Americans can legally carry concealed handguns. They are next to us in restaurants, movie theaters and stores. Permit holders are law abiding, committing even the most trivial firearms violations at a rate of hundredths of 1%.

American police understand this.  Last year, PoliceOne, the largest organization of police officers in the U.S. with 450,000 members, asked its members: “What would help most in preventing large scale shootings in public?” Their most frequent answer, with 30 percent support, was “more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians.”

If civilians can be trusted with guns, surely military personnel can be trusted.

Yet the government doesn’t seem to see the problem with the current setup. On March 18th the Department of Defense released its report on last fall’s Washington Navy Yard shooting, but the report focused solely on how mental illness of the assailant went unreported.

Clearly there were mistakes.  The Navy did not properly report multiple troublesome incidents during Alexis’ active duty service.  The government did not tell his employer about any of these problems.  When the private contractor noticed a couple instances of psychological instability, they thought that they were aberrations, not part of a pattern and didn’t report these back to the government.

However, it would be foolish to believe that all potential mass shooters will be identified in advance. Even with better reporting practices, many will slip through the cracks.

Besides, it is always much easier in hindsight to realize that people had mental health issues.  In addition, mentally ill employees are not the only threat to military bases. Determined terrorists pose a serious threat, too.

What should be done if the screening for mental illness fails?  Or when there is a terrorist plot?

Armed soldiers would provide the best last line of defense.

Additionally, the bans on them carrying show that the concerns of gun control advocates have nothing to do with people not being trained. These people are trained, but gun control advocates still want areas to be “gun-free.”

We trust these people in combat situations, but somehow we can’t trust them at other times?

With a son being near this attack, it convinces me more than ever that we need to trust soldiers to carry weapons on bases. That would provide another line of defense against any attacks and not leave our soldiers as sitting ducks.