On September 16, 2013, civilian contractor Aaron Alexis entered a building at the Washington Navy Yard, where he walked to the fourth floor bathroom and loaded a shotgun. Within six minutes of the first shots fired, Alexis had murdered 10 people; and before police killed him more than an hour later, the death toll would rise to 12. It was the second deadliest shooting on a U.S. military base in American history; occurring only four years after Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist turned radicalized Muslim terrorist, killed 13 service men and women in Ft. Hood, Texas.
When the news broke last week of another mass shooting at two “Gun Free” military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the story was all-too-familiar. “Gun Free Zones” make absolutely no sense to begin with; but mandating them at locations we know to a virtual certainty are terrorist targets, including U.S. military sites, borders on criminally negligent.
The failure of two presidents and several congresses to reverse the Clinton-era ban on firearms on military bases, in spite of the horrific attacks over the last few years, only heightens the outrage all Americans should feel; but especially our military personnel.
Yet not a single high-ranking officer in any branch of the armed forces, has dared express doubt about the policy. In fact, a major roadblock to this latest response to yet another attack against a military target is the military itself. Top brass in the military’s current leadership have simply fallen in lock-step with the Obama Administration’s politically correct world-view that firearms are too “scary” and “dangerous” to be trusted in the hands even of combat-trained military personnel.
Common sense steps such as removing the prohibition on military personnel carrying personal or military-issued firearms, or installing bulletproof glass at recruitment centers, are rebuffed by military leaders like Army recruiting spokesman Brian Lepley. In the immediate aftermath of last week’s shooting, Lepley defended the military’s “Gun Free” policy and blabbered about needing “to maintain a connection to the American people.” To these timid Obama bureaucrats, military recruitment centers should have the feel of a processing center for the Peace Corps, rather than displaying any signs of being actual military facilities.
This domestic pacification policy has not just prevented us from taking any meaningful action following recent terror attacks; it has stunted our ability to learn anything from them. For example, not a single page in the Ft. Hood post-mortem analysis contained any relevant or substantive policy recommendations to “protect the force” against future attacks. Instead, the 80-page report signed by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates contained page after page of politically-correct gobbledygook designed to appease the Administration and not ruffle any feathers.
The net effect of all this is that in the five-and-a-half years since the worst mass shooting at a U.S. military instillation in American history — during which time two other major attacks and several smaller ones have been occurred — government officials are still reacting to these tragedies as if each one is the first ever. This head-in-the-sand mentality, punctuated by statements like those from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who apparently still believes such attacks are “unfathomable,” has to end if we are to have any hope of keeping our military men and women safe.
Fortunately, some state governors are not waiting around for another vacuous Department of Defense “report,” and are actually leading the charge to protect at least some members of the military from the threat of domestic terror attacks. Governors in Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas have ordered personnel at National Guard facilities, which are controlled by the states, to arm themselves. As Texas Governor Greg Abbott explained, “it has become clear that our military personnel must have the ability to defend themselves against these type of attacks on our own soil.” This is precisely the point that Congress, the Department of Defense, and presidential administrations of both parties have yet to grasp.
In justifying its power to surreptitiously surveil American citizens on U.S. soil, the federal government routinely emphasizes that the fight against terrorism must be waged both domestically and abroad. Why, then, do we strip members of the U.S. military of their ability to defend themselves against terrorists, simply because they are on U.S. soil rather than in a warzone in the Middle East — especially when these are becoming the preferred targets of terrorists?
That is the question Republicans must be forced to answer now that they are in control of both the House and Senate. The time for excuses and inaction is long past. With the 2016 election cycle in full swing, Republicans have an excellent opportunity to prove to members of the military that their right to defend themselves does not start at the water’s edge.
It’s time to defund and repeal military Gun Free Zones!