Are U.S. military bases soft targets?

It isn’t just discipline that complicates the question, but suicide too. Two-thirds of all deaths caused by firearms in the United States are deliberately self-inflicted, and veterans and active-duty military personnel are wildly overrepresented in the statistics. The New York Times reported last week that the suicide rate among Israeli solders dropped 40 percent after authorities insisted that officers leave their guns on base before going home for the weekend. With 22 U.S. veterans killing themselves per day, the prospect of arming everybody on base is unlikely to appeal.

Thus far, at least, leaders are staying on the safe side. Indeed, if anything, the prohibitions are being strengthened. After the terrorist attack on Fort Hood in 2009, the facility changed the rules, henceforth requiring soldiers to register their privately owned weapons with their commanders. Similarly, a report issued by the Defense Department in the wake of the shooting at the Navy Yard didn’t even mention the idea of soldiers carrying private arms but made sure to recommend, among other things, that reminders that firearms are prohibited on base be “posted conspicuously” around military installations…

Unsure as he remains about the likelihood of anything being done, Hegseth considers the current situation unsustainable. “You have to arm certain members of the unit at all times,” he says. “You have to be prepared for a contingency like this — and deter one. If the one shot fired by the MP [base police officer] is what caused the shooter to put a bullet in his head, just one or two personnel with the ability to fight back changes the whole situation. Bases are bubbles; you need to trust that you are secure. However we do it, we need to introduce an air of uncertainty — or, rather, certainty that someone will be armed.”

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