Military and Personal Arms for Soldiers

A few years ago there were military commanders that were hostile to the idea of their soldiers having private arms, and tried to do everything in their power to discourage their soldiers from keeping their private arms, or outright forbade it in some circumstances. NRA got language inserted into a budget bill to prevent army commanders from maintaining records of private arms, or asking about them. That also prevented ├é┬ácommanders from inquiring about firearms ownership for soldiers that were suicidal. There’s a move to alter the language to allow military commanders to inquire about private arms for cases where they have reasonable grounds that a person is high risk for suicide, provided there is no power to confiscate said private arms. Extrano’s Alley thinks all this fuss is to miss the point that the high suicide rate among members of the military is due to low morale. I tend to agree, but I don’t frankly have a problem if military personnel ask about personal firearms in the context of suicide risk, provided they can’t order confiscation of them.

9 thoughts on “Military and Personal Arms for Soldiers”

  1. Are there any real options these days for a commander who believes someone they are responsible for is suicidal? It seems that going though proper channels would almost inevitably end a soldier’s career.

    1. Yes. The Army is very serious about bringing down suicide rates. If you can get to them after they start thinking about it, there are counseling and other corrective treatment options that are confidential.

  2. Asking about guns in suicidal cases is really missing the point. If they are suicidal they’ll find a way to off themselves.

    1. This.

      Look up the suicide rates for countries like England, Australia, and Japan. Then compare those rates with the suicide rates in the U.S., and Switzerland. Hell, compare the suicide rates of the different states.

      We have a high *gun* suicide rate here because firearms are relatively easy to acquire. Countries where firearms are almost impossible to acquire often have similar suicide rates, people just have to use slower, and/or less sure, and/or messier methods to kill themselves.

  3. I seem to recall some years ago Japan had a much higher suicide rte than to U.S. Their most common method was the leap from a tall building.

  4. I still don’t see why a change in the law is necessary.

    The law states that commanders cannot DEMAND information on privately owned firearms. I see no prohibition on a voluntary discussion during a counseling session so long as undue command influence or threats are not used to extract information.

    Before the restrictive NDAA language was imposed, it was common practice for the services to collect and document information about privately owned firearms. I know that at least one service’s annual physical (a web based form that prohibits “skipping” a question or leaving it blank) asked point blank, “Do you own privately owned firearms?” in the “risky lifestyle assessment” section. Because it is computer based the results are stored forever, linked to multiple databases, and linked to your SSN…. No chance of that paper form being lost in your medical record or anything like that.

    One problem is that the military tends to be extremely risk averse. This makes sense — with promotion rates as high as they are, the only way to NOT make O-5 and 20 years for a safe retirement in most branches and career fields is to have some sort of grave misfortune happen on your watch. There is strong pressure to “do something” to avoid career-terminating blame being placed. That is why the military loves “death by powerpoint” for all sorts of issues — powerpoint never stopped a sexual assault or a suicide but gosh darn it, it sure looks like “doing something!”

    Another problem is that the military bureaucracy is rather anti-gun. The vast majority of military people are NOT combat arms or trigger pullers, even in the Army. Those people tend to have similar attitudes to the society from which they come about firearms. Those that are “trigger pullers” have likely not been trained in a particularly safe manner so it is reasonable for them to have skepticism about “safety” and “firearms handling” going hand in hand.

    Of course, actually teaching people to handle firearms safely and actually caring about and connecting with the troops you lead is a lot harder than “doing something,” so I doubt we’ll see the Pentagon tackle such steps.

  5. I’ve been noticing the reported increase in problems among returning service members, and I think I have part of the answer.
    Used to be, we deployed with our unit, did what we had to do and returned to our base at the end of the deployment. We were still active, still in uniform, still mustering every morning and doing our duty, even if it was “garrison” duty. We were still surrounded by our fellow service members at work, even if many of us lived off-base with our families.
    This gave us a chance to “decompress,” if you will. Sure, we were back with our families, but at work we were with our buddies, many of whom shared the deployment experience.
    Now, it seems, our National Guard troops leave the drugstore, or the insurance office, or the restaurant, hop on a plane and fly into the sh*t. They stay there for the duration, then hop on a plane and, for all practical purposes, are back at work in their civilian job the next day. I cannot imagine the stress this must create in a rational human being, and I abhor the system which treats this as normal.
    No wonder the suicide rate is up!

    1. Speaking as a former Guardsman, it ain’t quite like that. Mobilization was about five months, and demobilization was about a month. There was no good way to keep the battalion together, with guys spread all over New York state. Nothing like driving the length of the State twice a week, so one can see his family over the weekend, to keep the suicide rate down, by having guys die in car wrecks.

      I stayed at Fort Dix for an extra month while I was getting my knees and back checked out, and while the bureaucracy didn’t make me suicidal, it certainly made me think of death.

  6. Sebastian,

    I do have a problem with superior officers and NCOs being allowed to ask about personal firearms in just about any context.

    Chris from AK makes the point that many in the military are “risk averse” that can and does lead to a problem with overreaction. Any officer who fails to ‘counsel adequately’ or do the utmost to prevent a suicide (i.e. talk someone into turning in their firearms) will unlikely be promoted. With the continued budget cuts, risk averse mindset; any excuse can and will be used to end careers.

    On the individual side; there will be incredible pressure brought to bear any time any even looks despondent. Any accusation or hint from a spouse will bring a fast response warranted or not.

    The question as always is what degree of liberty will we require people to give up to save a few lives.

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