Respecting the Sacrifice of America's Warriors; Banning Armed Self-Defense on Military Bases Amounts to Dereliction of Duty

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

Respecting the Sacrifice of America's Warriors; Banning Armed Self-Defense on Military Bases Amounts to Dereliction of Duty


Byline: David G. Bolgiano

Since the recent active-shooter incident at Fort Hood, Texas, in which Ivan Lopez reportedly killed three and wounded 16, nearly all media outlets have focused on the presence of a weapon as the lead story.

As a combat veteran, former law enforcement officer and judge advocate who has used deadly force in defense of self and others, I find it terribly disturbing that instead of arming select noncommissioned officers and officers to better prevent this type of attack, Army leaders at Fort Hood and elsewhere are attempting the disarm those on the side of angels.

Nationwide, it takes about 14 minutes for law enforcement to respond to an active-shooter incident. Most of these incidents are over -- either by the assailant's suicide, death or surrender -- in half that time. The surest and best way to stop an active shooter is to kill him.

How is it that our warriors, who typically carry loaded M4 carbines and pistols in Afghanistan, are suddenly not trusted to respond in defense of self and others domestically? The answers are threefold:

First, the average senior officer in the military simply does not trust his subordinates. Machiavelli in his "Discourses on Livy" states, "You have to have confidence in your commanders and must give them authority. If they make a mistake out of malice, you punish them, and if they make a mistake out of ignorance, you actually reward them because you want people to continue to have flexibility and creativity."

After more than 12 years of war, this concept is still foreign to the average senior military leader. These colonels are too busy scrambling to make general officer and want nothing to go wrong on their watch. They find no incongruity in killing 25 noncombatants in a drone strike, yet crucify subordinates at the tip of the spear who, under situations that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving, inadvertently kill the "wrong" person in the clear vision of 20/20 hindsight.

Second, the average senior military leader is also typically not a "gun guy." He may have directed troop movements from a tactical operation center, but most have never personally experienced the stress of a deadly-force encounter or close-in killing. That is why they impose ill-founded rules by which they attempt to control a dynamic situation with simple prescriptions. The result can be seen in ridiculously complex and restrictive rules of engagement.

These "leaders" also fail to differentiate between reasonable mistakes in battle and legitimate war crimes. Prosecuting war crimes is essential, but underwriting mistakes takes a degree of loyalty and moral courage many senior officers lack. This has ramifications not only for adequate self-defense, but also for unit cohesion, organizational culture, trust, morale, resiliency and the prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Third, too many legal advisers advise commanders with a view toward prophylactically covering their hindquarters rather than providing tactically sound guidance. …

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