Friday, November 6, 2009

The Shooting At Fort Hood

By now you've heard about the shooting that took place at Fort Hood. An army major, apparently distraught about being shipped to Iraq, opened fire on the base, killing thirteen people and wounding thirty more.

I'm not going to comment on the alleged motives of the gunman or his religion; not enough is known at this point (and may never be; the suspect was shot four times and is on a ventilator). I will however, comment on a couple of things.

First, I watched an interview on Good Morning America this morning with the suspect's brother. This man described the suspect as the target of racial slurs and negative comments about Islam. I'm not saying the charges aren't true (I have no idea). I will say though, that as a major in the U.S. military, if anyone did make comments to him of that nature as anything other than good natured joking, the offender would be disciplined before the ink dried on the complaint. As someone who served in the United States Air Force, I can tell you there is little tolerance for that sort of thing. A complaint is enough to launch an investigation, and no soldier, airman, sailor or marine wants to be on the receiving end of that. I knew people who got into trouble at Grand Forks A.F.B. They didn't enjoy themselves.

To be fair, the offenses I observed ranged from drugs to improper relationships. I never saw any race baiting or religious bigotry. And yes, there were muslims in my squadron. That is not to say it never happened, but I certainly never saw it. The consequences were certainly something to be feared.

The suspect's brother went on to say that in the face of this alleged harrassment, the suspect did everything he could to smooth things over and make peace. I'm sorry, but peaceful men don't go on shooting sprees.

The other thing I'd mention is this: I am expecting to see stories in the next few days painting this incident as a case for gun control. After all, the expected narrative goes, if a base full of gun-toting professional soldiers can't stop a gunman, why should we expect a bunch of armed civilians to do so?

The problem with this argument is that military bases are some of the strictest gun control zones in the world. Soliders don't, as part of their uniform, march around with weapons. Access to weapons is strictly controlled. Even parades normally consist of marching rows of soldiers carrying unloaded weapons.

Private ownership of weapons is also controlled. In my Air Force service, airmen were not allowed to keep weapons in the dorms. Even base housing had restrictions. Generally, personal weapons were to be stored at the base armory and could be checked out for use (target shooting, hunting, etc.). Guns were not to be kept for personal protection in homes on base. Note that my service ended over twelve years ago, so things may be different in Texas in 2009, but I don't believe so.

The only exception to this generally is military police officers. Those are the soldiers who responded and took down the suspect. If you start reading articles trying to tie this incident with gun control, please keep in mind that most reporters know next to nothing about how military bases are run and less about guns.


  1. Thanks for the perspective. It will be interesting to see how all sides play this incident.

  2. I always find it fascinating (okay, maddening) how quickly the media tends to force stories into the preferred narrative. In this case, said narratives are: more gun control, muslims are persecuted in America, sening people to war causes them to come back as killers (even though this guy had never been deployed to a war zone), and religion is only a factor if the suspect is Christian or the victim is not. And I say that as someone who is not much of a Christian.