Friday, November 06, 2009

News: History Repeating

As of this moment, the motives and specifics behind the horrific spree shooting at Fort Hood yesterday are unclear (terrorism? religious fanaticism? mental breakdown?), but the facts are pretty cold. There are at least 12 innocent people dead and many more wounded. But it all feels gratingly familiar.

Two years ago, a mentally unhinged student murdered people at Virgina Tech. On that dark day, two handguns were used, and more than thirty people were killed. Eighteen years ago, at a Luby's Cafeteria not far from Fort Hood, there was another infamous spree shooting, another mentally deranged person willing to hurt people. This shooting was also perpetrated with two handguns, and, like at Fort Hood and Virginia Tech, more than forty people would be shot before the smoke cleared.

There are differences, too. The victims at Fort Hood were quite unlike the elderly diners at Luby's and the college students at VA Tech. Here was a group of some of the bravest, most capable people in America. The victims were mostly soldiers, set to be deployed. In terms of situational awareness and fighting ability, they were probably far above the average civilian. Yet it appears that an Army psychiatrist - not a Delta Force guy, not a Navy SEAL - with two handguns murdered them in cold blood until he was finally shot by police.

This test population of soldiers was similar to the diners in that Luby's and the students at Virginia Tech in at least one way, though. All three groups were disarmed, by law - when not in combat, soldiers cannot carry handguns, concealed or otherwise. In fact, they face stiff penalties for bringing personal firearms on a military base, and are usually alerted to that fact with the "No weapons allowed beyond this point" signs posted at all entrances.

We have seen these signs before.

They don't work.

It's sobering to think that right now, on my hip, is a 9mm handgun with 15 stupid little lead pellets, completely ordinary objects that can be picked up at the local Wally World. Nothing special about them at all. But those pellets, and the gun that fires them, could have made all the difference at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center yesterday. Right now, I am better armed then a sworn member of the U.S. armed forces, at least those who are on military bases here in the States. And that is a damn shame.


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