Wednesday, May 20, 2009

EDITORIAL: Enemy in the mirror

The Army has a bigger problem than private guns

Suicide is the third-leading noncombat cause of death in the U.S. military, according to Defense Department data. On at least one Army post, the response was a misguided effort to require some soldiers to register personal firearms.

The Army would not tell us how many soldiers have used private weapons to kill themselves. In the general population, firearms account for about half of all suicides nationwide each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, owning a firearm doesn't raise the risk of playing Russian roulette, just as owning a private car doesn't increase the risk of intentionally driving off a cliff in desperation like Thelma and Louise. There is an underlying intention that manifests from what physicians call "suicidal ideation," which is the process of thinking about and planning to end one's life.

Some overzealous Army commanders appear to categorize private gun ownership, rather than depression and desperation, as the problem. In March, soldiers in Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., were told they would have to start registering their privately owned arms with their command. Post spokesman Cathy Gramling told us that the order came from the "subordinate unit commander." The soldiers also were told to provide the storage location of their personal weapons along with information on their state-issued concealed carry permits. Ms. Gramling told us the commander who spearheaded the effort thought he was acting within his authority to address "a number of negligent discharges of privately owned weapons." The program has since been suspended.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

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