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April 7, 2014

Fort Hood, Mental Health and ‘Gun Free Zones’

It only works if everyone abides by the rules. Bad guys generally don’t.

Last Wednesday, U.S. Army Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez, a 34-year-old Iraq war veteran, killed three people and wounded 16 others at Fort Hood in Texas. When confronted by law enforcement, he took his own life. The dead were Sgt. First Class Daniel M. Ferguson, Staff Sgt. Carlos A. Lazaney-Rodriguez and Sgt. Timothy W. Owens.

Naturally, the attack brought back the painful memories of another rampage at Fort Hood – the one in November 2009 in which Major Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 14 people, including an unborn child, and wounded more than 30 while screaming “Allahu Akbar!”

There were numerous differences in the two tragic incidents, however. Most important, Hasan was clearly motivated by a desire for Islamic jihad, although warning signs – including email exchanges between him and radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – were either missed or ignored by his superiors. The Obama administration still refuses to acknowledge that it was a terrorist attack, opting instead for the pathetic politically correct term “workplace violence.” The families of the dead and the wounded have therefore been denied proper recognition and benefits.

Lopez, on the other hand, seems to have been motivated simply by a troubled soul. In a Facebook post weeks before the shooting, he said, “I have just lost my inner peace, full of hatred, I think this time the devil will take me. … Green light and finger ready. As easy as that.” Lopez served four months in Iraq but never saw combat, and he logged nine years in the Puerto Rican National Guard. He was being treated for “behavioral health and mental health issues.”

In another Facebook post of interest, he panned the Sandy Hook shooter, writing, “It is stupid to me that anyone can have easy access to a powerful weapon without being mentally evaluated. This makes the government indirect accomplice.”

Which brings us to a New York Times story noting that Fort Hood is a “gun free zone,” one of the Left’s favorite farces. “Military personnel who are not police officers are not allowed to carry privately owned weapons on Army bases,” reports the Times. “Soldiers on post must register their firearms, which Army officials said Specialist Lopez failed to do with the handgun he used in the attack. Fort Hood’s rules rely in large part on the honor system, and require all personnel bringing a privately owned firearm onto the base in a vehicle to declare that they are doing so and state why.” Imagine – a person seemingly bent on murder declined to register his firearm and ignored a “gun free” policy.

The Times describes Fort Hood as sprawling “340 square miles over the Texas prairie.” It quotes the base’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, who points out the obvious: “We’ve got a population well over 100,000 here. It would not be realistic to do a pat-down search on every single soldier and employee on Fort Hood for a weapon on a daily basis.” In other words, Fort Hood and other military installations – or for that matter, schools, restaurants, etc. – are only “gun free” in so far as people abide by the rules. The bad guys generally don’t. Furthermore, our military personnel are trained to handle firearms, and yet they have fewer gun rights than most civilians. The Times would fix this by stripping away rights from civilians, too.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wants to change military policy. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that our military that defends our freedoms abroad … when they come home to the military base, they are not allowed to carry weapons,” McCaul said. “We need to talk to the commanders about whether it would make sense for some … of our senior leadership officers and enlisted men on the base [to] carry weapons for protection.” No doubt this has been considered before, but for various reasons has yet to become policy. So it remains to be seen what will happen in the days ahead, but our prediction is that nothing will change.

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