Gun Control, Veterans, and Why Fort Hood Matters

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

A shooting at Fort Hood military based in Killeen, Texas, led to the tragic death of four, including the shooter, and left sixteen injured in hospitals and three in critical condition as of Wednesday night. The shooter was an Army serviceman named Ivan Lopez, an Iraq war veteran being treated for anxiety and depression who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder during the time leading up to the shooting. He was married and had a 2-year-old daughter.

A recent breaking news report from the Associated Press noted that the Army Secretary says Lopez had not seen combat in Iraq and was not injured there. Earlier, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, a senior officer at Fort Hood, told Fox that Lopez had come to the base in February, and that after returning from his four month tour in Iraq he had made complaints about a traumatic brain injury. So far, according to Milley, there is no evidence of terrorism or religious ideology behind the shooting, but he said they are “not ruling anything out.”

Fort Hood was the site of another shooting in 2009, when military psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed thirteen individuals, injuring more than thirty more. The shooter was eventually revealed to have had religious motivation, calling himself a “soldier of Allah,” according to USA TODAY, and saying his actions were done to protect Muslim insurgents overseas. A similar extremist motivation was behind the Fort Dix plot in 2007, which was prevented beforehand, but the death of four in a shooting at Fort Dix in 2001 was not deemed terrorism related.

At the time of the 2009 shooting, gun control became a topic of focus for the media and politicians — as has been the case with most shootings, military related or otherwise — and similar emphasis on gun violence is being seen following the latest incident. In the case of both Sandy Hook Elementary, Virginia Tech, and the Colorado theater, gun control proponents and pro-gun legislation both were sparked to action by the events.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) spoke on firearm restrictions with MSNBC the morning after the shooting took place, saying that victims would have been better protected by the ability to carry their firearms. “I would disagree with a lot of these gun control people who are trying to blame the gun and not the individual,” noting that during his time in the military “we didn’t have the restrictions that they have right now.”

While the reasons behind this most recent Fort Hood shooting are still unconfirmed and the Army Secretary’s latest statement seems to point away from PTSD or brain injury, the terrible event has drawn attention to statistics of suicide and PTSD for returning veterans and the continued need for support. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs 2012 suicide data report, “the number of Veterans who die from suicide each day has remained relatively stable over the past 12 years,” at eighteen to twenty-two deaths by suicide every day. It said at the time that “VA must continue to provide a high level of care, and recognize that there is still much more work to do.”

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