Earlier this week, I wrote about a Department of Defense plan to address suicides among military personnel by enacting gun control efforts on base. In that, I noted that I didn’t see it working.
And I don’t. I think it’s going to accomplish absolutely nothing. At least, nothing good. I’m sure something will come of it, but only via unintended consequences.
Writing over at Reason, Elizabeth Nolan Brown has some thoughts on the subject, and they’re interesting because, among other things, she thinks the potential new rules could undermine faith in our military.
The flaws in logic here seem glaring. These are the people tasked with defending our country with force if necessary. Many of them will work with guns or other weapons as part of their service. How can Americans feel confident in their ability to do this competently, safely, and humanely if they can’t even be trusted to personally own or maintain a gun? On the flip side, how can Americans expect members of the military to fulfill their duties—with all the sacrifice that might entail—while denying them full access to their constitutional rights?
The gun recommendations manage to infantilize service members, limit their liberty, and serve as a vote of no confidence against them.
At the same time, the committee assigns lower priority to a number of things that could address the root causes of suicide among service members and help treat them. For instance, “increas[ing] the number of active-duty behavioral health technicians” and “provid[ing] behavioral health technicians with advanced training in evidence-based practices” are designated as only a moderate priority. The same goes for “ensur[ing] the availability of evidence-based care for those seeking treatment or support for unhealthy drinking” and “expand[ing] opportunities to treat common mental health conditions in
Brown brings up an excellent point here, namely that these things that might actually work are lower priority than gun control.
It’s hard to look at that and think that this is really about suicides.
After all, if one assumes that gun control will help with suicides–I don’t, but roll with me here–then why not at least put mental health efforts at the same level of priority?
The CDC notes that there were over 48,000 suicides in 2021. A tad more than 26,000 of them involved a firearm. Sure, as a percentage, that’s fairly high, but it’s not remotely the total number. A surprising 12,000 involved suffocation, for example.
With that in mind–and we have to believe those looking at this for the military had access to these numbers–why focus so single-mindedly on guns as the problem? Again, assuming gun control would address gun suicides, it would do nothing to stop suicides as a whole.
But it would make many people question how much we trust our men and women in uniform.
Considering the same report targets energy drinks, though, it would seem to me that the mistrust should be directed at the men and women behind this report and not the average military servicemember.