I favor concealed firearm carry. Well, actually, I favor open carry. I am a military veteran (USAF) and I favor both on our military installations, in harmony with state laws when relevant. The DoD policy of rendering our military bases gun-free zones is not a good one, in my opinion. In the Navy Yard shooting and the previous Ft. Hood massacre, that policy may have gotten people killed. It needs a re-think. In the 2009 case, open carry may have resulted in no shooting at all. Hasan would have had to choose a softer target, or no target, or some other means of attack than opening deadly fire on people he could be certain would be unarmed.
But in the wake of the Wednesday Ft. Hood shooting — a shooting which may ironically better fit the definition of “workplace violence” than the 2009 terrorist on the same base — many are arguing that allowing soldiers to carry on bases could have prevented Wednesday’s tragedy.
It’s difficult to see how.
We know very little yet about what set the tragic events in motion. But reports have consistently stated that the killer fired about 20 rounds from a privately-bought .45 caliber semiautomatic Smith & Wesson pistol.
It takes almost no time at all to put 20 rounds through a semi-automatic pistol. Even someone who is not all that competent with a gun can put 20 rounds through a semiauto firearm in around 15 seconds or less.
Supposing that the killer drew and fired on his victims rapidly and without warning, and that he was in close proximity to them, he could have shot them all before any of them had any time to react. Even if they had been carrying a concealed weapon, they would have had very little time to react. Probably, they would have had no time to react.
The killer had reportedly bought the gun legally and recently. He was carrying it on the base illegally, because he had not registered it with the base. That obviously did not stop him, just as gun control laws don’t stop criminals anywhere else. It’s possible that there is a hole in the National Instant Background Checks System that could have caught him and stopped him from buying that gun. But we don’t know that. Not everyone who is undergoing treatment for depression and other mental disorders deserves to be disqualified from buying a gun. There is no evidence so far that he had any record of violence prior to Wednesday. He did not serve in combat, and had not been wounded in the line of duty that we know of. For all we know at this point, whatever mental condition he had may have had nothing to do with his military service. It may have been an issue that he had prior to joining, or developed while he served, but still had nothing to do with his actual service.
He bought the gun at the same shop at which Nidal Hasan bought the gun he used in the 2009 massacre. But that tells us only that the gun shop is close to the base. That same gun shop stopped a potential jihadist attack on the base in 2011. There is no evidence yet that this week’s killer has any jihadist connections or motivations. Obviously if it turns out that he did, then that changes things quite a bit.
Again, I favor open carry on and off military posts. The Second Amendment is a civil right. But I don’t think this latest tragedy is the case to hang our pro-carry hats on.