When Meteor Blades wrote a diary the other day about how Republicans would just love it if Obama would propose some new legislation regarding guns, it drew my ire but also my agreement. This is no call-out; I agree. It would be a bad idea to try anything right now.
As it is, the GOP, willing tool of the NRA, is already attacking Obama and Democrats for wanting to take our guns! Even though absolutely nothing of the sort has happened. I'm sure the Republican base eats it up, but they would regardless. The attacks may not convince anyone new, though, without a target -- like some new proposal. So I realize that issues like the one I found today are unlikely to be addressed this year. As a result, more American soldiers are likely to die. Thanks, NRA.
US military commanders, according to the Christian Science Monitor, are trying to deal with an epidemic of suicides among the armed forces. This is something I've heard of before. The military was put through the wringer in this past decade, particularly during the years of the Bush regime, what with the 'stop-loss' and repeated deployments and such that were a feature of Bush's warmongering.
What I didn't know about was an provision slipped into the NDAA from late 2010, backed by the NRA and championed(!) by Senator James Inhofe (R-not-so-OK), that the NRA was crowing about back in January 2011.
Protecting the privacy and Second Amendment rights of military personnel, their families, and other DOD personnel: Section 1062 of the Act prohibits the Secretary of Defense from issuing any requirement, or collecting or recording any information, “relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm, privately owned ammunition, or another privately owned weapon by a member of the Armed Forces or civilian employee of the Department of Defense” on property not owned or operated by the DOD. It also requires, within 90 days, the destruction of any information of the type prohibited by the Act.I found that this law has come up before; ThinkProgress covered it last November, and noted that Inhofe and the NRA were battling to make sure this provision would not be repealed.
Championed by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Section 1062 was necessary because of a preposterous regulation imposed by the garrison commander of Fort Riley, Kans., similar regulations imposed on other bases, and a regulation DOD was considering to impose department-wide—schemes which violated and threatened to violate the privacy, self-defense and Second Amendment rights of military personnel and their families.
Congress could use this year’s defense bill to repeal the measure, but the NRA had made it clear that they will fight any change tooth and nail. In fact, they collaborated with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to insert language into the defense bill that would prohibit the Defense Department from “issuing any requirement, or collecting or recording any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm.”Clearly, they were successful, otherwise military commanders wouldn't be bringing it up now. I also found an article on NewsCorpWatch from February of this year, where the NRA's president was interviewed on the subject.
During our interview, David Keene, who said his own daughter is in the Army and currently deployed in Afghanistan, was unapologetically sold on the idea that troops "have to deal with their problems, not with the group of tools that they have... if you have depression and depression creates a suicidal situation if you don't have a gun, you'll use something else. And there are a million ways to commit suicide."Sure, if they don't have guns, they'll find some other way. It is inevitable. Now that's a line I've heard before. And, in this case, doesn't address the reality of impulsive attempts at suicide.
Keene's statements fly in the face of analysis by public health experts, who say that many suicide attempts are impulsive and that the high lethality of guns makes suicide attempts using them much more likely to succeed. His claims are also inconsistent with my own experiences as a veteran who deployed to a combat zone.
So, by the time I get back to the present day and the latest article from the Christian Science Monitor, it seems almost silly that such an obvious solution would still get pushback -- yet it has, and it still does.
Half of troops that killed themselves use firearms to end their life and “suicide in most cases is a spontaneous event” that is often fueled by drugs and alcohol. But “if you can separate the individual from the weapon,” he added, “you can lower the incidences of suicide.”You've got to be kidding me. So if some individual gets the notion in their head to commit suicide by, say, self-inflicted gunshot wound, and they can't do it easily, they might stop? Unbelievable.
I must apologize for being so flippant about something like suicide, but that's the quality of the arguments I've been reading. That it doesn't matter how easy guns make things, people would simply find other ways. Apparently this may not be so. The military even has experts and studies in mental health backing them up.
Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs are backing US military officials in the matter. Commanders who have asked troops they feel are at risk to consider locking their firearms on base temporarily are making use of an important “stalling technique,” Jan Kemp, national mental health director for the VA, said at a conference late last year.I would not be surprised if nearly everyone who reads Daily Kos could agree that something ought to be done about this. There's no need to look for Democratic targets for casting blame, and I'm not looking to find fault here. No one here wrote this law; that was Jim Inhofe. And while the NRA does receive some support from these parts, I know it's not monolithic; it's not absolute.
She pointed to a study that found that a large number of suicides are impulsive events. If someone plans to jump off a bridge and finds that the bridge is closed, “Studies show that they won’t go to another bridge,” says Dr. Kemp. “They will think about it.”
So, what does Senator Inhofe have to say for the consequences of his and the NRA's handiwork? Well. Nothing. Directly, anyway. Clearly not important enough for his time, the Christian Science Monitor reached a communications director instead.
Others add that the law is not meant to preclude commanders from talking about firearms. “Obviously, the intent of the law is not to preclude a commander from taking steps necessary to mitigate a suicidal or dangerous situation,” says Jared Young, Communications Director for Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma, in an email. Senator Inhofe was the author of the legislation. Spokesman Young said the senator is “very concerned” about suicide within the military. “At the same time,” he adds, “individual rights must be protected.”Sure. It wasn't meant to do that. Except that it was, and that Inhofe went on reinforcing that point. The NRA's own report on their website makes it a law protecting privacy rights about guns, after all. Seems a bit difficult to talk about something if the talking would violate privacy. See above, from ThinkProgress' November 2011 report. Oh, I'll just reiterate it, saves time:
In fact, they collaborated with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to insert language into the defense bill that would prohibit the Defense Department from “issuing any requirement, or collecting or recording any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm.”So it's not meant to preclude commanders from talking about guns, except that they can't record any information about guns, which (I suspect) may involve talking about guns. What are they supposed to do? Talk, but don't take any notes? And certainly don't do anything about whatever is said. Individual rights to kill oneself quickly and efficiently, and all that. And, of course...we're concerned about the suicides, but...but nothing. FREEDOM!
Anyway, just one of those proposals about guns that might make sense, in that it might prevent some soldiers from killing themselves, but it's not going to happen. Although John Boehner, Jim Inhofe and the NRA would love it if we tried. Not to actually fix the problem and save soldiers' lives. No, just to make a convenient target for their conspiracy theories, craft a few attack ads, score some votes. So, to the military, sorry about that whole suicide epidemic thing. You know who to talk to about it. I only wish things like this could come up in the political discourse. To at least attack the conservatives, shame them for this, as they should be ashamed of this, even if they're not.