One way to help reverse the devastating trend of suicides?

Losing the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide, a report issued October 31 by the center for a New American Security, outlines steps the country need to take to help reverse the devastating trend of military suicides.  Among other things, the report recommends “removing the congressional restriction on unit leaders discussing personally owned weapons with service members.” This restriction, by the way, is hard to find, tucked in as it is under Subtitle G–Miscellaneous Authorities and Limitations of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, but there it is:
(a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (c), the Secretary of Defense 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 that is not–
(1) a military installation; or
(2) any other property that is owned or operated by the Department of Defense.
What this means, according to Phil Ewing in, is that military commanders can no longer talk with troops about the advisability of their owning firearms.  The National Rifle Association,  Ewing reports,
pushed for the ban on personal gun restrictions earlier this year after learning these kinds of rules were being put in place locally at posts around the U.S.   Chris Cox, director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said in a message to members earlier this year that it was “preposterous” that commanders at Fort Riley, Kan., wanted troops to register privately owned weapons kept on and off base.

Cox also denounced a proposed military-wide plan that would require “troops to register all privately owned firearms kept off base, and would have authorized commanders to require troops living off base to keep privately owned firearms and ammunition locked in separate containers,” he wrote.

The authors of  Losing The Battle Against Military Suicide   cite that in  48% of suicides in 2010, the servicemember used a personal weapon.  They write:

The current law does allow military leaders to discuss privately owned weapons with service members who appear to be a threat to themselves or others, but commanders cannot ask a severely depressed individual about personally owned weapons if that individual denies that he or she is considering harming himself or herself.
Recommendation: Congress should rescind the NDAA 2011 restriction on discussing personally owned weapons so that unit leaders can suggest to service members exhibiting high-risk behavior, acting erratically or struggling with depression that they use gunlocks or store their guns temporarily at the unit armory. Given this change in law, unit leaders should engage both at-risk service members and their family members, and encourage them to obtain gunlocks or to store privately owned weapons out of the household.

 As is always the case with guns in our country, the recommendation is sure to create a stir.  Yet it seems pretty straightforward and, given the enormity of the problem, necessary.

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Filed under military, suicides, veterans

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