“I am not allowed to ask a soldier who lives off-post whether that soldier has a privately owned weapon”
So complained General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff, last January, as it related supposedly, to suicide prevention.
That is correct, General. You cannot. The NRA, of course, is to blame, says the Christian Science Monitor. Why, when looking out for suicide prevention and the safety of our service members, it would only be common sense that commanders can and should be able to know whether their soldiers own a firearm or not. Right?
Not so fast. While the case to be made for such sweeping invasion of privacy is emotionally compelling, it is also anecdotal, and perhaps largely irrelevant. The General’s next words shed light on the problem of allowing military commanders to require their troops to reveal what firearm may be legally in their homes off post/base on the grounds of using that information to “protect them”.
“I’m struck by the number of folks who come in for behavioral health counseling and are rated as ‘low to medium risk’ [of harming themselves or others] and two weeks later commit the irrevocable act of suicide,” Chiarelli says.
“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.”
The problem, Chairelli says, is that “we have issues in even being able to do that.”
What? So, even those not considered high risk for suicide should be “separated from” their legally purchased and owned weapon? (And no, a senior officer does not “recommend” the weapon be turned in. Seniors give orders.) Where does that little bit of authority end? Of course, General, you damned sure should have “issues” in being able to deny someone’s Constitutional rights without anything resembling due process, even if you think you are doing so in the interest of that person’s safety. The stars on your collar do NOT give you that right or authority, nor should they.
That the VA is supporting the military in this matter does not help the General’s assertions. Veterans who have sought counseling for post-traumatic stress have seen that fact used as a premise for denying purchase of a firearm. Many fear that such a diagnosis can be used as a justification for confiscation by law enforcement. In this climate of government overreach, that fear is not misplaced.
Nor does it help to hear the assertion of BGen Woodson, an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.
“In many circumstances, awareness of risk means removing firearms from those who we believe are at risk of harming themselves or others. I would ask all of you at this conference to commit to making reasonable recommendations that will guide uniform policy that will allow the separation of privately owned firearms from those believed to be at risk of suicide.”
When does “allow” become “require”? When a base or unit CG decides that everybody is a slight suicide risk, and decides he will take no chances? It isn’t like we don’t see extreme risk aversion now. What does that translate into when HIS boss tells him that any suicides will reflect poorly on his command climate? Do we really think the soldier’s Second Amendment rights are going to trump careerism? (See: Doctrine Man/Reflective Belt Technique.)
Also, the idea of “reasonable recommendations” from the Medical establishment regarding gun control is not terribly credible. As Dr. Miguel Faria Jr. pointed out in 2001,
Over the years, the entrenched medical/public-health establishment, acting as a willing accomplice of the gun-control lobby has conducted politicized, results-oriented gun (control) research based on what can only be characterized as junk science.
Don’t believe him? How about this statement in the JAMA from February 1989 (cited by Dr. Faria) from an official in the CDC?
“Bringing about gun control, which itself covers a variety of activities from registration to confiscation was not the specific reason for the [CDC] section’s creation. However, the facts themselves tend to make some form of regulation seem desirable. The way we’re going to do this is to systematically build a case that owning firearms causes death.”
The National Rifle Association has seen many, many attempts to categorize firearm ownership as a “health issue”, to include Pediatricians and Day Care Providers being encouraged to ask children about whether parents owned guns. They have also seen the rampant anti-gun propaganda from many who currently hold office in this Administration.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s 1995 admonition to “brainwash” young people with an anti-gun agenda.
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education:
“This is a public health epidemic. We are struggling to find the cure for AIDS, we are struggling to find the cure for cancer; we know the cure for this public health epidemic: getting rid of guns.”
VP (then-Senator) Joe Biden (AP interview, 1993):
“Banning guns is an idea whose time has come.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (then-First Lady) in 1993 NYT:
“I’m personally all for taxing guns to pay for health care coverage.”
The article, and General Chiarelli, go to great lengths to show how it is the NRA that is being unreasonable, perhaps even paranoid, in denying military commanders the authority to demand to know which of their soldiers owns a private firearm off of a military installation. However, it isn’t such a far-fetched suspicion that such authority will not simply be used for only altruistic reasons, but instead will eventually be leveraged for more politically-motivated purposes. And that such authority will not simply be limited to those whom commanders believe at risk for self-harm.
Some years ago, I had a Commanding General that was very open about his objection to private firearm ownership. He required all his Marines to request his sign-off on any gun purchases, with a justification for the purchase, before the Marine could buy the weapon. That was true even if that Marine never intended to bring it on base. His Chief of Staff and I exchanged “pleasantries” on the matter when I was a Captain and purchasing one of my 1911s. While the incident didn’t do my career any good, I noticed that the offer to take it to an Article 32 to determine the lawfulness of his order went unfilled. That CG should have been counseled by his boss (perhaps he was, I don’t know) and told to desist immediately, or he should have been relieved. What would such authority as discussed above in that commander’s hands have resulted in?
While General Chiarelli laments not being able to ask soldiers about off-installation private firearm ownership, the article in CSM rightfully mentions that there is no prohibition from advising that, should a soldier have a weapon at home, he/she take it elsewhere, even on base, if he/she has suicidal ideations.
General Chiarelli likely knows that. And while he may have the purest of intentions, his idea of quizzing soldiers about privately-owned off-installation firearms is a very dangerous idea. There is a hair’s breadth between voluntary surrendering of that firearm from a private residence, and forcible confiscation. The first is merely a way-station to the second. “Can” becomes “should”, and then “will”. With such issues, when was the last time that didn’t happen? It isn’t as if our senior commanders haven’t made a habit of giving into political pressure from the Left in the last several years, now is it?
Right on cue, none other than Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), who once sponsored legislation to ban all firearms, and called the NRA an “extremist” organization, (violent extremist?), gives us this pearl of wisdom, in relation to trying to attach a gun control amendment to a cybersecurity bill:
“We can debate where to draw the line of reasonableness, but we might be able to come to an agreement in the middle.”
I have no reason whatever to suspect that uniformed senior leadership will not respond in true “three bags full” fashion when far-Left politicians like Schumer enforce their definition of “reasonable” on the power to confiscate firearms from service members.