The Pentagon appears ready to take on gun rights advocates this year in order to give commanders the ability to restrict troops at high risk of suicide from keeping their personal firearms easily available in their homes.
Some Army leaders had previously encouraged troops to use gun locks on their weapons at home, or recommended that high-risk troops lock up their personal weapons on base if they were believed to be high risk. But the National Rifle Association and gun advocates objected and Congress barred that practice in last year’s defense authorization bill.
But with military suicides continuing to climb, key leaders are not giving up on regaining a tool they considered helpful in saving some troops’ lives.
“There’ll be a broad discussion on that,” Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told Military.com Wednesday, after a senior Pentagon official stressed the importance of the policy at a conference on military and veterans suicide.
Dr. Jonathan Woodson, an Army Reserve brigadier general who serves as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, had told the conference the services must get better at recognizing people at risk of suicide and then doing what they know works to improve the odds.
“In many circumstances, awareness of risk means removing firearms from those who we believe are at risk of harming themselves or others,” he said. “I would ask all of you at this conference to commit to making reasonable recommendations that will guide uniform policy that will allow separation of privately owned firearms from those believed to be at risk of suicide.”
Those may prove to be fighting words to the NRA, which lobbied for the ban on personal gun restrictions even as the Army revealed its increasing numbers of military suicides and made the link between the deaths and personal weapons.
Former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, in an interview with CNN, said the best way to reduce suicide among troops is to take the weapons away from those who appear likely to hurt themselves.
“A majority of [suicides] have two things in common, alcohol and a gun,” he told the network. “And when you have somebody that you in fact feel is high risk, I don’t believe it’s unreasonable to tell that individual that it would not be a good idea to have a weapon around the house.”
The NRA, however, not only thought it unreasonable, but the director of its lobbying arm called it “preposterous,” arguing Army leaders’ actions were intrusive on soldiers’ rights to own their own guns if they chose.
Chris Cox slammed a proposal to make restrictions that were being applied locally into a military-wide policy.
As a result Cox, the NRA and Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe crafted legislation put into the 2011 defense bill that barred the secretary of defense from issuing any regulation or policy on legally owned personal firearms or ammunition kept by troops or civilian employees off base, or from collecting any information on their guns or ammo.
The Pentagon this month released figures showing that military suicides jumped after leveling off in 2010-11. Figures show that 154 servicemembers took their own lives during the first 155 days of 2012.
“We know that firearms play a prominent role in completed suicides, particularly with males,” Woodson said. “We need to have a straightforward conversation in our community about what actions make a difference, and it is about communities, it’s not about authorities imposing regulations, but about preparing communities to be partners in this process.”
A twist on "Guns don't kill people, it is the IDIOTS behind the trigger". If the idiot behind the trigger is an unstable individual mentally, then they need immediate psychological help. If the idiot behind the trigger wants to commit suicide, then they will commit whether they have access to a pistol or not. WHY BLAME IT ON THE PISTOL? IT IS NOT THE PISTOLS FAULT?
You know, Clois, I don't think you really mean this in the way you have stated it, but just in case you do, I'd like to remind you that a returning soldier with severe PTSD is NOT an IDIOT of he/she pulls the trigger. They are a seriously traumatized individual who needs help.
Well Golden Eagle, you are right about the using of the "idiot" word and it wasn't suppose to be interpreted as the soldier returning from the war zone. I understand a soldier in a severe PTSD due to trauma in battle needs help, and should get all the help he needs to get past the PTSD. I am talking about those people, that have hit the bottom, don't get professional help, then refuse to believe there is a way out other than suicide. Sorry, I should have clarified my statement. Thanks for pointing out. I will try to be more clarifying going forward.
I knew you didn't mean it the way you wrote it Clois. I find that I like reading your comments here.
The GI's returning from WWI, WWII, and Korea went through many of the same things today's guys are going through, but they didn't come home and make a big deal about it. Indeed, they turned the United States into the greatest nation that ever existed upon the face of the Earth. They had "battle fatigue", but that was dealt with in the field at the company level without medical intervention.
Starting with Viet Nam, we started seeing this PTSD, and I submit to the forum that it isn't what goes on in the field per se which causes the trouble. I believe it is the realization that all of the work, pain, and sacrifice were for naught because the powers that be never had any intention of allowing a victory. Having been there, I can tell you that casting oneself against the wheel and, then, discovering that there is no hope of making a difference will cause a man to "have issues".
It's not the military nor the war experiences causing PTSD; it's the damned politicians.
I think you have a valid point Ed..........
Yes Sir Ed. on the money. What we the civillian forces NOW Need are New R.O.E. to deal with Politicians.
Exactly Mr. Miller, taking away someones private firearms is in no way going to stop them from committing suicide. The one thing I might add to your list of reasons in the 1st section, the rules of engagement that make it close to impossible to do their job, which is kill the enemy.
Want an example to share with your friends?
Japan has had strict gun laws since the time of the Great Sword Hunt.
And yet, I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, they are world leaders in suicide. And no, not just Kamikaze's attacking Yankee aircraft carriers, but kids stressed out over exams, 'Salarymen' (businessmen) stressed out over 14-hour days and lonely wives who never get to see their Salarymen.
Railroad crossings, high buildings, pills, deep water, razor blades, tubs and toasters... no guns needed...
Yep Karl but our government officials aren't worried about SUicide. looking at this squarely these officials know that it is real hard to turn a tall building, a bridge or a bottle of pills on them. Now a gun is another matter - -Oh Gracious this conjures up a whole 'nuther "BARREL of Monkeys". Actually the barrels don't contain monkeys and they know that now that we are wise to their crap, they full well know thjat SUicide can become "YOUicide" when one of their underhanded slimy lot is in the cross hairs. We do need to give them plenty to worry about now that they are starting to QUIVER in their Alinsky-Cloward and Pivens uniforms.
Dang: You ought to see the gun adds in the AAFES Bx paper of last week ! ! !.
I was a Marine for 25 years,personal weapons were ALWAYS banned in the barracks.You could keep them in your on base home but they needed to be registered. If a guy wants to kill himself you are not going to stop him. Sorry,it's not the way it works.