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Why Do Our Military Installations Remain “Gun Free Zones?”

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Less than a year since the last mass shooting, the nation finds itself grieving again. On Monday, we watched in horror as news developed about a shooting at the Navy Yard located in Washington, D.C.; a federal military installation home to more than 3,000 civilian and military employees a mere stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol Building.

As the tragedy unfolded, the number of victims slowly rose from one, to two, to six, to finally 12 innocent people; and it became clear this was yet another tragic conclusion to a senseless act of mass violence. This is, however, a tragedy that likely could have been prevented not by more “gun control,” but by implementing reasonable measures designed to actually protect our military installations from deranged criminals and religious zealots.

As with any violent criminal episode involving mass victims, there are more questions than answers in the immediate aftermath of this incident. Unfortunately, a lack of facts or evidence has not stopped single-minded, anti-gun activists like President Obama and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein from using the tragic episode to renew calls for gun control.

Yet, if there is any place in the United States where firearm restrictions should have worked at preventing a shooting tragedy, it is the Navy Yard -- a highly secure military installation in a city with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the nation; not to mention the most advanced security systems on the planet.

However, in spite of all these “safety protocols” and gun constraints -- and, perhaps in part as a result of these factors -- the shooting still occurred.

That is what makes the anti-gun rhetoric of Obama and Feinstein so dangerous. Rather than acting based on a reasoned analysis of how and why mass shootings occur, they seek to advance political agendas. To them, tragedies such as this are not teachable moments we can use to reduce future acts of violence. Rather, mass shootings serve as yet another hilltop from which to press their anti-gun agenda. Given the philosophical blinders they chose to wear, they miss the real issue and history repeats itself -- tragically.

For example, we should have learned from the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting that the ban on military personnel carrying personal firearms in military installations (or even possessing guns in their homes) creates a relatively safe, target-rich environment for would-be mass murderers. Our domestic military bases have become Gun-Free Zones – a fact not likely lost on the criminally minded looking for a place to “leave their mark.” This irresponsible ban was instituted during the anti-gun administration of President Bill Clinton, and continues to this day.

Instead of focusing on making such institutions actually safer in the aftermath of the Ft. Hood shooting, the Obama Administration published an 80-page report signed by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that contained little more than politically correct pap.

Unfortunately, our military leadership has fallen in lock-step with the Administration’s view that firearms in the hands of our military personnel is just too much of a “public safety” issue to risk changing -- even though a single shot from an armed officer or enlisted person could have stopped both the Ft. Hood and Navy Yard shooters cold. Nary a single page in the Ft. Hood post-mortem contained any truly relevant or substantive steps that could be taken to “protect the force” against future attacks. The conversation about reevaluating Clinton’s pacifistic policy of populating our military installations with unarmed personnel never occurred.

As I wrote in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, if we want to prevent future attempted mass shootings, we must stop rushing to the easy scapegoat – guns -- which at best only addresses the “what” of mass shootings. Instead, we should focus on addressing the “why,” which is far more likely to lead to answers on how to prevent future attacks. But, we can only have this conversation if we tune-out the ideologues who hijack such tragedies for political gain.

In the coming weeks and months, it is my fervent hope that, at long last, a “meaningful response” to a mass shooting such as occurred at the Navy Yard, will be based on wisdom gleaned from a measured and logical analysis of the realities of how and why mass shooters act as they do; rather than on the tired, dead-end Shibboleth of gun control.

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