Skip to comments.Lawmakers Say Military Suicides are Reason to Look at Gun Ownership
Posted on 12/13/2012 8:39:42 PM PST by smoothsailing
December 13, 2013
The Army today released its updated suicide data through the end of November: 177 potential active-duty suicides; 113 of these confirmed as suicides and 64 under investigation.
In 2011, there were 165 Army suicides. With other branches of the Armed Forces, the Army has multiple programs under way in an effort to reduce these statistics, from crisis counseling to suicide prevention training for families.
But some lawmakers see this tragic trend as reason to pinpoint gun ownership in the defense authorization bill that headed to conference.
Conference committee selections were finalized this week to hammer out differences between the bills passed in the House and Senate.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) urged their colleagues to include an amendment that would allow military officials to ask service members about their private gun ownership.
It amends the 2011 defense authorization to, as stated in Sec. 1071 of the House-passed version, authorize a mental health professional that is a member of the Armed Forces or a civilian employee of the Department of Defense or a commanding officer to inquire if a member of the Armed Forces plans to acquire, or already possesses or owns, a privately-owned firearm, ammunition, or other weapon, if such mental health professional or such commanding officer has reasonable grounds to believe such member is at high risk for suicide or causing harm to others.
The 2011 bill stated that the Defense Department shall not prohibit, issue any requirement relating to, or collect or record 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.
Johnson and Kerry contend this provision is confusing and commanding officers could encourage such service members to store their firearms in a military facility or install gun locks. A statutory clarification would alleviate any ambiguity, they said.
This is not an attempt to limit gun rights or an individuals ability to own a firearm, said Johnson. Prohibiting commanders and mental health professionals from helping soldiers defies common sense and dangerously interferes with our obligation to ensure the health, welfare, morale and well-being of the troops. Military suicide is a complex problem that demands a range of actions to address it. This common sense provision adds another tool to help prevent tragic deaths.
Weve come a long way since Vietnam in looking for and treating the invisible wounds left by months and years of combat, but we need to be even more vigilant about the signs that some in uniform are facing great difficulty. As of June, suicides were up 18 percent over the same period the year before thats a frightening figure but more importantly it needs to be a wake-up call, Kerry said.
Often its the commanding officers who are in the best position to make a difference and to help save lives, the senator added. We owe it to our brave men and women in uniform to do all we can to help them make safe and responsible decisions when they are struggling.
The lawmakers, along with an unnamed bipartisan group of 34 senators and representatives, penned a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services committees: Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Reps. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
Nearly three quarters of the military suicides that occurred between 2008 and 2010 were committed with a personal firearm, they wrote. Amending this language would simply reaffirm and clarify the ability of military commanders and those tasked with protecting our service members, who identify someone that may be at risk, to discuss personally-owned weapons and perhaps suggest the safe storage of this weapon in a military facility or even the use of a gunlock. This sensible approach does not attempt to limit an individuals 2nd amendment rights.
So often these suicides are unplanned, so delaying the act, even by a short time can mean the difference between life and death, Kerry and Johnsons letter adds. The bonds of service are important, especially when an individual is feeling isolated, angry or depressed. That is why it is critical that military commanders have the ability to talk to those at risk about their personal firearms.
They cite Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former Army vice chief of staff, as stating in a January Christian Science Monitor article, When you have somebody that you in fact feel is high risk, I dont believe its unreasonable to tell that individual that it would not be a good idea to have a weapon around the house.
Johnson and Kerry included a letter from former military commanders supporting fixing this language about gun rights in the 2011 bill.
We so often hear that we must listen to military commanders on the ground and that those in command know whats best for our troops, they wrote. So lets listen to what they are saying and protect our men and women in uniform from the deadly threat of suicide.
This comes on the heels of Senate Republicans failed attempt to put language in the defense bill that would have stopped the Veterans Affairs Department from putting the names of vets deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their finances into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prohibit them from buying or owning a gun.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has tried for years to repeal this power of the VA, contending vets should be able to have the registry listing clear a court before being stripped of their gun rights.
Burrs Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee but has never gotten a floor vote.
Backed by 21 co-sponsors, including Democrats Jim Webb (Va.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) and Independent Joe Lieberman (Conn.), the bill amends U.S. Code to clarify the conditions under which a service member may be treated as adjudicated mentally incompetent.
In any case arising out of the administration by the Secretary of laws and benefits under this title, a person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness shall not be considered adjudicated as a mental defective under subsection (d)(4) or (g)(4) of section 922 of title 18 without the order or finding of a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), another co-sponsor of the Burr bill, tried to add an amendment with similar language to the defense authorization.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) opposed Coburns failed effort. I love our veterans, I vote for them all the time. They defend us, he said. If you are a veteran or not and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun.
***”This is not an attempt to limit gun rights or an individuals ability to own a firearm, said Johnson.***
Of course not - why would anyone think that? We know your intentions are honorable.
P.S. I agree with you.
Ok, I'll say it louder. :)
From The Future!
December 13, 2013
That PJ Media is really something, what a scoop!!!
As long as Gravity exists, so will Suicide.
Good, that gives us an extra year to fight it.
How about these cowards go jerk around the shrinks, and insist that they report folks sufficiently unstable as to being restricted from purchasing guns?
Back in the late 1960s I bought several guns at the Base ExchangeS. It was only oversees on Okinawa that I was required to turn them in to the master of arms. Got them back when I left and I found out something.
If a soldier gets sudden orders to ship out and can’t get his private property, the Master of Arms often keeps them FOR HIMSELF!
Government suicide is a good reason to maintain ownership. Bastages want so bad to disarm the public that they can taste it.
Just one more thing to prove that our “lawmakers” are IDIOTS.
Gun ownership is not why soldiers are committing suicide. It is multiple deployments to muslim hellholes and then not being allowed to do what you trained for and that is kill the enemy.
Yes, I assumed it was caused by being sent to kill people only to find out the next day that even though they were trying to kill you they were really our friends. In all seriousness, I wouldn’t be surprised that the suicides were being caused by what in WWII standards would be called “civilian casualties” that are in fact today’s combatants (children, women, etc.).
Ditto, you said it perfectly!
There has always been suicides in the military, just like in the general population...Its sad in both cases..
I agree. This is BS
Furthers the lie that soldiers are crazy and danger...too dangerous to be permitted the second amendment. We should all sacrifice the constitution for them...because they kill...because they are crazy murder machines.
I am truly sorry for vets who suffer after the war(sssss). Stripping them of their freedom and us of our freedom is not serving anyone but the Marxists and fascists. Getting the economy out of the crapper would help.
Kerry is a liar. He can’t stand the military. And who is this johnson from GEORGIA?
What would be interesting in relation to this article would be the statistics regarding suicides by folk in the military vs. civilians. I'd bet they are actually lower than the general population, and this is just an excuse to bring up gun control.