Americans are laboring under the false impression spree killings are committed by lone, drug-addled psychopaths who kill themselves the moment they face armed opposition. The most recent Fort Hood shooting fits “safely” into the latter category. Spec. Ivan Lopez was alone. He was mentally ill. He “only” killed three people. Police responded quickly enough (unless you happen to be one of the 19 people shot). So there’s nothing to see here folks, save the usual missed opportunities to forestall the firearms frenzy and individual tales of tragedy and heroism. Oh sure . . .
There have been plenty of calls to eliminate the Bush/Clinton law that transformed military bases into “gun-free zones.” Calls to roll back gun-free zones in general. But Spec. Lopez’s shooting spree is too familiar, too “small.” It doesn’t have enough “juice” to trigger any significant change in America’s self-defense strategy against terrorists or psychopaths, either on-base or off.
That’s an enormous mistake that will cost hundreds of lives. Let’s talk about terrorism . . .
9/11 was an outlier. Most terrorist attacks aren’t as involved or inventive (for lack of a better term) as Osama Bin Laden’s airliner-based plot. While the public mind is understandably fascinated by the possibility of another complicated and devastating attack, we need only look outside our territorial borders to see that the reality is more prosaic – and even more deadly. Specifically, Afghanistan.
Back in 2012, huffingtonpost.com reported that IEDs (improvised explosive devices or bombs) “killed more than 600 American troops since 2001 and wounded roughly 7,000. They will continue to be a major threat in Afghanistan ‘because they are cheap, readily available, largely off-the-shelf, easy to construct, lethal and accurate,’ Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero told a congressional panel in September.
“Despite a strenuous and costly U.S. effort, the Taliban managed last year  to deploy 16,000 IEDs, the main killer of Americans, and are on track to exceed that record this year.” So why not here, on American soil? Lots of reasons, from the efforts of our anti-terrorist agencies to the vigilance of our citizens to pure, dumb luck. The main thing to keep in mind: it’s only a matter of time before terrorists launch another strike in the American “homeland.”
I repeat: expecting these future terrorist attacks to be Hassan-like “lone wolf” assaults involving firearms alone, or huge catastrophes like 9/11, is unrealistic. Chances are innocent Americans will face a carefully planned, “low tech,” multi-pronged atrocity launched by a group of terrorists.
Consider the four-day bombing and shooting attack in Mumbai in 2008 and last year’s Kenya mall assault. These horrific incidents were hardly “lone gunman” affairs. And those are only the headliners. There are so many terrorist incidents per year – many of which involved multiple attackers, all of which involve planning and coordination – wikipedia.org breaks them up into bi-yearly section (e.g., January – June and July – September).
Spree killers are less common but more apparent. At least in the U.S. But again, it’s a mistake to put these monsters in a box labeled “lone wolf.” Lest we forget, two teenagers committed the atrocities at Columbine High School. Their plan involved multiple bombs: one designed to distract local firefighters and two propane bombs that would have killed hundreds of students in the school cafeteria, had the IEDs functioned properly.
Which brings me to The Mother of All Warnings for Americans: the Belsan School Massacre. It’s the best (i.e. worst) example of a recent coordinated terrorist attack on a soft target that recent history provides. During three days of terror, several dozen Chechen terrorists, many carrying explosives, took 1,100 people hostage, including 777 children. At the end, over 380 people had been slaughtered, including 186 children.
Last week’s Fort Hood shooting pales in comparison. But it highlights – again, still – the unconscionable weakness of our security against terrorists and spree killers. Spec. Lopez roamed Fort Hood – an army base – unopposed for 10 to 15 minutes. If Lopez had anything remotely resembling a plan of attack he would have killed dozens of soldiers. If he’d been part of a larger conspiracy, hundreds or even thousands of soldiers could have died. For nothing.
Yes, there is that. It’s perfectly clear that armed soldiers can withstand (i.e. counter and eliminate) both spree killers and terrorists. At the Battle of Camp Bastion, 19 Taliban infiltrated one of the largest air bases in Afghanistan. [Click here to read GQ’s account of the fighting.] Brave Marines inside the base repelled the attack – despite the fact that many of them were non-combat troops and the terrorists were dressed as American soldiers.
Yes there is that.
Earlier this week, retired Army General Jack Keane told Fox News that soldiers shouldn’t be armed on base because first responders wouldn’t be able to separate the good guys from the bad guys during an attack. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Battle of Bastion would know General Keane is wrong. As a soldier assured me in an email to TTAG HQ, “I have no doubt that if we are allowed to be armed on base, we are capable of executing the same defensive capacity in the homeland, without inflicting massive friendly fire casualties.”
Is this true off-base as well? Of course it is. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the person or persons killing innocent people need to die, and die quickly. Nor is much cognitive power required to understand that a firearm is the best way to accomplish that task. Conclusion? The more armed Americans on-scene when terrorists or spree killers attack, the greater the chances of limiting the loss of life – whether the attack involves one killer or several, bombs or guns, or airplanes.
Will America be ready to defend the homeland during the next lethal terrorist or spree killer attack? In places where citizens exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, yes, they’re ready as much as they can be. In places where gun rights go to die – schools, hospitals, airplanes, military bases, etc. – no. Anything we can do to restore, defend and extend our gun rights is a step towards a society safer from these killers.
Guns everywhere? Absolutely.