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Military Looks to Track Privately Owned Weapons
“Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” –Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, 1801
A friend send me a recent New York Times article that details the Pentagon’s desire to take away privately owned weapons (POW) from troops under certain circumstances.
Up until about last year, military commanders used to demand that their Soldiers reveal the types and numbers of POWs they owned, regardless of whether they lived in military housing or not. This information was reported up to higher commands. However, the issue of suicide wasn’t nearly as bad then as it is now so military leaders are trying to use suicide as the excuse for once again documenting weapons in the hands of troops.
I’m completely opposed to this practice for many reasons. For one, I don’t fully believe that the real reason is to “prevent suicide.” If you take away the guns of a Soldier thought to be suicidal, he will just go get another one, either by purchasing it or borrowing it. And, there are other ways that suicidal troops will carry out their demise if they have no access to guns. It’s a hollow argument to use in order to violate one’s individual rights to self defense, even when their worst enemy is themselves.
However, I think there is a much more sinister reason behind wanting to track POWs in the hands of troops. In 2009, The Department of Homeland Defense released a controversial report that identified combat veterans as potential terrorists.
The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.
It’s no surprise that shortly after this report was revealed that commanders began asking troops about their privately owned firearms.
Thankfully, the NRA and gun rights advocates successfully had an amendment to the much-reviled National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the specifically prohibited commanders from collecting information on privately owned weapons stored outside of military installations.
The gun control crowd, under the guise of wanting to “prevent suicides,” has successfully reversed that law with an amendment into the 2013 NDAA. This amendment has already been passed by the House of Representatives, but not the Senate. Even more disconcerting is that the NRA actually supports the new amendment, something that baffles my mind since weapons are already tracked through NICS.
The new amendment, part of the defense authorization bill for 2013 that has been passed by the House of Representatives but not by the Senate, would allow mental health professionals and commanders to ask service members about their personal firearms if they have “reasonable grounds” to believe the person is at “high risk” of committing suicide or harming others.
“We’re O.K. with the commanding officer being able to inquire,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the N.R.A., “but they can’t confiscate.”
What isn’t so clear is what constitutes “reasonable grounds” or “high risk.” According to the military, because I ride a motorcycle, I’m in the same “high risk” category as a 19-year old kid buying his first bike. I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was eight years old. Some commanders believe that troops are “high risk” just by virtue of even owning a weapon.
The problem with such broad terms is that it leaves interpretation up to commanders and leaders. What if the commander is an ardent gun control supporter? What if the commander just doesn’t like a Soldier? Believe me, there are examples of both types of leaders in the military.
Getting back to my sinister conspiracy theory, what if the military is ordered to violate its oath and mission by being tasked with domestic law enforcement or actions that violate the Posse Comitatus Act? In such incidents, the military is required by oath to defend the Constitution and ignore illegal orders. It isn’t too far from reality to think that there won’t come a day (thankfully nowhere in the foreseeable future) when troops are going to have to make a difficult decision between their oath to support and defend the Constitution and their orders to seize a small American town. Government is not immune from being corrupt and sometimes only the influence of an armed corps of veterans can correct it, as we saw in the 40s in Tennessee during the Battle for Athens.
Again, I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate here. I don’t suggest or even assume this is a possible reality. My purpose in bringing that up is merely to point out the pitfalls of forcing troops to reveal their personal defense measures. There are ways of minimizing suicides that have nothing to do with violating the privacy and civil rights of troops.
We need leaders to engage in dialogue with their subordinates. We need leaders that truly look at the suicide epidemic in the military as a real threat to readiness and care enough to do more than just the required annual or quarterly training. Honestly, I only see that in a rare few officers.
The past suicide prevention stand down day highlighted this. Many leaders didn’t use the time to honestly and emotionally connect with their troops. I know that sounds hokey, but we have to remember that our troops have sustained the longest period of armed conflict in our entire history. The approaches to dealing with the issues that have arisen from fighting an invisible enemy and nearly impossible ROE requirements has done great damage physically and mentally.
I urge you to take the time to contact your Senators and make your opinion known. You can contact them through this link if you don’t have it readily available. I’m not telling you to support this legislation or not, I’m just telling you to get engaged in it regardless of your thoughts on the matter.