Editor’s Note: I wrote this article last year after a spate of accidental shootings by the “good guys” that occurred in the aftermath of the attacks on military recruiting stations. Given the number of gun-related stories in the news lately, it seemed appropriate to run it again.
Five US service members, four from the Marine Corps and one from the Navy, are dead at the hands of a “lone wolf” attacker who was (most likely) an Islamic extremist. In reaction to this atrocity, which ironically (but not surprisingly) took place in a so-called “gun free zone” in two separate locations in Chattanooga, Tennessee, many people called for the immediate lifting of the ban on members of the military carrying private weapons in government facilities and on federal installations.
Understandably, after the Chattanooga attack some members of the military, particularly recruiters, chose to exercise both their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms as well as their inherent right to self defense and arm themselves against copycat attackers. I don’t blame them and I like to think that I would have done the exact same thing if I had been in their shoes.
However, I also like to think that I would not have shot myself on accident the very next day.
That’s right, on July 17th, the very next day after the Chattanooga tragedy, police in nearby Gainesville, Georgia responded to a report of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound… at a Navy recruiting station. While details have not yet been confirmed, it seems likely that a Navy recruiter, concerned for his safety after this latest attack, decided to protect himself with a personal weapon and experienced a little “desk pop” action.
And this, friends, is why we can’t have nice things… or guns.
Governors of several states have either authorized or directed military members to arm themselves in the wake of the Chattanooga shootings. Unfortunately, occurrences like the one in Georgia give ammunition to those who believe that mass arming of military professionals means mass accidental shootings.
While I firmly believe in both the 2nd Amendment and personal responsibility, I also realize that the “anti-arming” crowd has a point. I did more than a half-dozen tours downrange and I personally saw, and/or heard about, numerous incidents of people having accidental discharges–or “negligent discharges” (NDs) as the term has become known. I think if you ask any multi-tour veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq and they’ll tell you the same thing. These were both men and women, “pogs” and gunslingers, newbies and experienced warfighters, line troops and those in special operations. And these were people who carried weapons EVERY DAY.
At the same though, I fully recognize that the violence is the only language some people understand, and I know that in almost every case that the only thing that stops someone with a gun is someone else with a gun. I’ll just say that I wonder if we’re about to make a bad situation worse by putting a whole bunch of guns into the hands of people who, frankly, aren’t prepared for the responsibility and leave it at that. I can’t help but wonder if the number of troops killed and injured with a “universal carry” policy like those that have been recently imposed will result in more deaths and maimings of troops than what we currently have in place. That’s the paradox of the situation in which we find ourselves. But I’ll also say that if given the option to be armed in my current (stateside) job, I’d absolutely do it.
I wish God’s peace on the family and friends of the fallen, and a speedy recovery to the recruiter who shot himself. I’ll close by urging all of my brothers and sisters in the military to do what you have to do to protect yourselves and each other, but be sure you know what you’re doing before you make the problem even worse. No desk pops, no NDs, no accidental shooting of bystanders. The stakes are too high for mistakes.