This morning, at the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, in the Naval Yard in Washington, D.C., multiple gunmen dressed in military attire opened fire on military personnel and civilian workers, multiple sources have reported. The Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters is the largest of the Navy’s five system commands, and accounts for approximately a quarter of the Navy’s entire budget. U.S. Navy officials have confirmed at the time of this writing that at least 6 people have been killed in the attack, and many more are being treated for injuries at nearby hospitals. For our readers who are not fully familiar with American law and politics, it may come as a surprise that a fatal mass shooting could occur on a military base, where one would normally expect to find legions of soldiers bristling with weapons and security measures. Unfortunately, this image diverges somewhat from the reality: The men and women of the US armed forces at the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command are not permitted to carry firearms, and the responsibility for this lack of protection rests on the shoulders of one of the country’s most shamed and celebrated former leaders.
One of the first executive actions undertaken by then president Bill Clinton was to disarm the soldiers and employees of the nation’s military bases. In the spring of 1993, President Clinton issued orders barring members of the military and the civilians who work for them from carrying their personal firearms on base, and making it prohibitively difficult for commanding officers to issue firearms to their own soldiers in the United States. Thinking himself to be providing for the security of U.S. soldiers by government means, Clinton deigned to require Military Police officers to carry weapons on the job, but their presence has been stretched increasingly thin by huge demand for military police in the country’s growing number of war zones. Whether the government will ever be able to singlehandedly provide for the security of its citizens in such disarmed zones is doubtful. Indeed, as many commentators have noted, they are not even able to prevent such crimes in federal prisons.
Addressing members of the press ahead of a planned speech on the economic recession, President Obama stated, “We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military institution in our nation’s capital.”
“It’s a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work doing their job protecting all of us. They are patriots and they know the dangers of serving abroad but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t expect here at home.”
In the wake of this tragedy, we can expect the current president to continue take every opportunity to politicise and sensationalise the events of this morning, as part of his relentless efforts to restrict gun rights in the United States despite widespread failure of such campaigns in the fifty states. However, it is not wrong to politicise a tragedy in its own right, though many may object. A tragedy is certainly no good for anything else. As long as the victims are taken care of, the first thing to do is investigate how to prevent it all from happening again. But the president would do well to reconsider the lesson to be learned today.
Similar crimes have occurred in similar places. The primary school shooting in Newtown, CT took place in a gun-free school. The Batman premier shooting in Aurora, CO took place in a gun-free cinema. Finally, in striking resemblance to the Naval Yard shooting today, the massacre at Ft. Hood, TX took place on yet another gun-free military base.
Shooters targeted all of these locations because they knew none of their victims would be able to defend themselves. Because of the fear mongering of Barack Obama and others like him, guns are so feared that government regulations have gone so far as to keep them out of the hands of trained soldiers. Because of Clinton’s gun control policies, a terrorist could expect more of a fight at a convenience store than at a base of the U.S. military. Mandy Foster, the wife of a surviving soldier shot at Ft. Hood, understands this lesson all too well.
In a 2009 interview on CNN, anchor John Roberts asked Ms. Foster how she felt about her husband’s upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. She responded: “At least he’s safe there and he can fire back, right?”
It now comes to us to do everything we can to prevent such a tragic shooting from ever happening again. So, should we further increase the list of places where honest and ordinary citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms? Should we rely further on the ever-scarcer resources of the state to provide for security in these places, even though they have never succeeded before? Should we step in line with Barack Obama, and further restrict the Second Amendment in the United States?
The answer is clearly no.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy, and with their families.