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.”
I am by no means a legal expert but I would contact some of the second amendment organizations to see if they would be willing to take on the state law and challenge it on the grounds that it infringes on second amendment rights. If you recall Chicago had very restrictive laws about owning firearms and the supreme court threw out the law. Then when the city put requirements on owning a firearm which was basically a Catch 22 situation the Supreme Court step in and said no way it must be realistic. I'm hoping that someone will mount a serious challenge to New York's inane handgun law. The state I live in does not require registration of firearms, however, you do need a concealed carry permit. My feeling is that requiring me to spend over $200 for a concealed carry permit is an infringement on my second amendment rights. The constitution doesn't say anything about having to pay for the right nor does it say anything about having to spend almost $100 for a concealed carry class. In addition to having spent 20+ years in the Army with countless hours of weapons training, having owned firearms since I was about 12 years old, and having my own shooting range I have to take a class in order to get a concealed carry permit. But the Constitution does say that my rights shall not be infringed. As usual the politicians have made law abiding citizens pay the price for criminals. I am one who also believes that if you are going to carry a firearm you shouldn't have to hide it. I applaud states like Oklahoma, Arizona, and Tennessee where if you have a permit you can carry openly. To me carrying openly sends a real strong statement to the dregs of our society.
The reason our troops come home and commit suicide is three fold:
1. We ask our troops to fight "unjust" wars, with "unjust" rules of engagement, which have an "unjust" result of not being able to WIN WARS...just die in them.
2. If and when our troops come home, they have nothing, our military just dispenses of them outright and leaves them to their own devices.
3. If and when our troops come home, they see what they are returning to in Amerika, and the Freedoms that were taken from them, while they were trying to give Freedom to others in foreign lands.
It has little to do with alcohol and guns, those are just the devices used to carry out the action. If they are taken, pills, fights, and bridges will replace them immediately. What NEEDS to be discussed is why our troops are treated this way by our government! Only then will the number of suicides be reduced, not by a giant gun grab.
I have to generally agree with you Steve.......the politicians provide some initiatives to CYA themselves but in general our warriors a treated simply as "cannon fodder" not expected to return. And if they do it's a burden on politicians.
I remember a drill Sgt. at Tigerland, Ft. Polk, LA who told us we were nothing but cannon fodder! The straight leg Infantrymen in Viet Nam were just that. Their noisy, obvious, 100 man companies trodding through the bush were simply to draw fire so the higher ups could call in artillery and air power on the enemy.
As I stated in a previous post, this is merely a ploy for the military and civilian leadership to shift the blame for their failed policies to the troops. In addition it provides a means for confiscating firearms from a group of people that DHS considers potential terrorists.
Absolutely a covert firearms confiscation of the "enemy" by Obama, Holder, and Napolitano.
Ten Commandments of Gun Safety says alcohol and gunpowder don't mix (tastes bad, too). Better lock the liquor cabinet, too.