In this column, A1F Daily trains its watchdog eye on “The Trace,” Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” site.
On Monday, The Trace posted its inevitable response to the swell of support for allowing members of the military on U.S. soil to be armed in the wake of the Chattanooga attacks. Among other things, author Adam Weinstein cites concerns about the lack of firearms training, the possibility of accidents and the likelihood that service members will run amok.
Let’s examine The Trace’s arguments, starting with the headline: “Why Military Security Experts Know That Arming All Troops Is Not The Answer.”
Leaving aside for the moment the fact that The Trace actually talks to no military security experts, we’d like to know just who is advocating arming all service members.
This false premise is a favorite of anti-gunners (see Fox News’ Juan Williams’ unbelievable screed from last week). Anti-gunners also oppose arming all teachers when policymakers consider allowing some teachers to be trained and armed to protect children; they oppose arming all college freshmen when campus carry advocates argue against disarming age-appropriate permit holders; and they still oppose arming all citizens, while concealed-carry laws that give citizens the choice to arm themselves have swept the nation.The Trace is arguing that, because our military doesn’t get enough training, they cannot be trusted with the same freedoms our citizenry enjoys.
Weinstein starts by bemoaning the lack of firearms training in our military. NRA is an advocate of increased firearms training for our military at every opportunity, but The Trace is arguing that, because our military doesn’t get enough training, personnel cannot be trusted with the same freedoms our citizenry enjoys.
In making the case that military members are not as proficient with firearms as we would like to believe (and therefore not capable of defending themselves against attack), Weinstein can’t help but be cute: “The upshot is that your average service member is more qualified than most civilians to handle guns, but no more qualified to neutralize an active shooter than the average professional mechanic is to race the Daytona 500.”
This is news on several fronts. Our military isn’t capable of repelling an attack by a single attacker? Did we lose Desert Storm and no one told us? What evidence does Weinstein have that an armed U.S. Marine is no match for a lone, depressed, bankrupt murderer in a rented convertible?
“Most service members—99 percent of airmen, 88 percent of sailors, and about two-thirds of soldiers and Marines—are not in direct combat roles, but instead are technical workers …”
We hesitate to use the word “lie” here, so suffice it to say this is an outrageous misuse of statistics. Weinstein has copied and pasted these figures from a DOD report on military roles open to women: “… 99 percent of all Air Force positions, officer and enlisted, are open to women. The figure is 66 percent for the Army, 68 percent for the Marines, and 88 percent for the Navy.”
The Trace scoffs at firearms proficiency among service members in roles such as “navigators, supply clerks, water purification specialists and camera crews.” However, the level of marksmanship in any deployable unit is vastly higher than Weinstein would like us to believe: IED attacks on convoys and bloody assaults on “rear areas” such as Bagram Airfield demand it. We remind The Trace that navigators get shot down with the rest of the flight crew, that PFC Jessica Lynch wasn’t filtering water when she was ambushed and captured by Iraqis in 2003, and that cameraman Joseph Galloway didn’t earn a Bronze Star for taking some nice pictures.
We mentioned earlier that The Trace didn’t talk to a single “expert” in personal security, military or otherwise, but we happen to have one here in the office. Frank Winn, A1F Daily guns and gear editor, has trained active duty and retired servicemen and their families in firearms self-defense for more than 20 years. He recalls a dinner with an Air Force colonel with a background in special operations: “Our conversation was over my offer to help form a cadet tactical pistol team for the U.S. Air Force Academy. He was enthusiastic, as he told me that the USAF actually had the highest percentage of ‘forward-deployable Military Occupational Specialties (MOS),’ a figure he placed at 80 percent. His SOF time had convinced him it was never too early to start developing these skills.”
Weinstein slings even muddier thinking while exploring his other possible concerns:
To support his position, Weinstein quotes current military policy, adopted in 2011, as saying armed service members who carry guns for service-related security “have the inherent right to self-defense.” That sounds an awful lot like the NRA’s position, doesn’t it? What kind of right is only “inherent” when authorized by the military?
He claims that among combat Marines, “firearms mishaps occur all the time,” but can only cite one story of a Navy recruiter as proof. Firearms accidents will happen among a population that handles firearms every day, but is he actually claiming that Marines are notoriously unsafe gun handlers?
He warns that mass murder on bases will rise, citing an NBC report claiming 20 such shootings at military installations since 1994. However, NBC padded its list with such incidents as: 1) the shooting death of a sailor attempting to stop a civilian gunman from boarding a ship (who was then killed by Navy security); 2) an Army captain wounded by her common-law husband; 3) a murder-suicide committed by a soldier diagnosed with dementia; and 4) a Marine reservist who committed a series of drive-by shootings, but hit no one. Such events, while lamentable, are hardly on a par with the Fort Hood massacre.
He even invokes the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars using the military to carry out domestic law enforcement. Does Weinstein mean that allowing service members to bear arms for personal protection would turn them into local cops, or is he just trying to impress us with his Latin?
He claims that terror attacks on recruiting stations have less to do with gun-free zones than they do with accessibility. One of his recommendations: Add DoD police, or allow one of the servicemen to be trained to carry and use firearms. Wait … isn’t that advocating the elimination of a gun-free zone?
In the last two paragraphs, Weinstein begins to show signs of low blood sugar: Allowing military access to the constitutional rights they are pledged to defend, he claims, is “the xenophobic expression of pathos by conservative chickenhawks.” Calling for the elimination of gun-free zones to protect our soldiers, he says, is to claim, “every inch of public space in America is an active battleground, and every American who opposes the militarization of that space … hates America and its troops.”
Whatever, Adam. All this talk of the level of military training and warnings of worst-case scenarios obscures the real truth—that current policy discriminates against service members by denying them the basic right to defend themselves that non-military citizens enjoy. Almost 13 million Americans now possess carry permits, and they have proven themselves to be far more law-abiding than the general population. What is it about our military personnel that makes The Trace place less trust in them than in the rest of us?
That’s the question Weinstein desperately wants to avoid. Instead of telling us why we should not arm all service members, he should tell us what special threat our service members pose that allows our bureaucrats to so unfairly discriminate against them … or stop wasting our time.