Stray Brass – New Executive Action on Gun Control Angers Servicemembers

The speech as it unfolded on the hospital TV. (Photo credit: Andy Wolf)

We saw it coming.

As I sat in one of many military clinics for my appointment today, I watched as soldiers and retirees all turned their heads to the the televised image of the Commander in Chief preparing to give a speech we all knew was bound to happen at some point or another- one concerning use of executive authority to introduce more stringent gun control in the United States.

As the speech unfolded, I could hear the groans and quiet reviling by disgruntled soldiers and veterans. “Idiot is kicking the hornet’s nest”, a young officer scowled quietly to himself, much to the amusement of the retired noncommissioned officer seated next to him. “That’s your boss”, the older man replied. Across the way, two individuals shook their heads in dismay, grumbling something amongst each other about the President’s emotions overflowing into tears as he proposed his new call to action, claiming that there are “constraints on our freedoms in order to protect innocent people”. This phrasing admittedly struck a chord with me as well, though I decided to voice my disdain by way of keystrokes and continued to pay attention to others around me.

While I was bounced from clinic to clinic through the day, the situation seemed the same throughout the hospital, clinics and pharmacy. Those who saw it were talking about it- some loudly, some below their breath- and very few had a positive feeling about what was said.

“He isn’t very popular around here”, one soldier told me as I tried to strike up a conversation amidst the repetitive airing of the speech on a TV hanging from the ceiling. He looked down at his coffee, smiling to himself. “This is a hospital, too”, he said, “Can you imagine how pissed they are (elsewhere on post)?”.

As he rambled on, I thought to myself. How would the American population feel if they witnessed the troops as I had just witnessed them? The dissent, anger and sharp words towards their leadership and the system as a whole. How would John and Jane Q. Public respond to that? Would their image of the infallible, clean-cut muscle of a strong Federal government be shattered if they understood where their allegiances lie? I posed this question to a few soldiers, friends and random people as I visited the PX and nearby gun shops.

For the most part, the answers tended to all stream into the same river of thought: the current proposed gun control measures would do the most damage or inconvenience to the law-abiding while doing little to nothing to deter actual crime. If anything, they began the slow creep to quietly and gradually usurp Constitutional rights from the law-abiding citizenry.

In addition to a number of other regulations, the President has proposed to allow access to more mental health care records in reference to background checks. Combined with over $500 million being invested to access of mental health care, the Department of Health and Human Services finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers that prevent States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons. While on paper this seems like it would prevent firearms from getting into the hands of the mentally defective who wish to do harm upon others, there are many unforeseen consequences, especially for those who serve. It is easy to see why such a proposal rattles some servicemembers and veterans- namely those diagnosed at some time or another with anxiety, depression or PTSD. You know, pretty much everyone who has seen a deployment or two in a dangerous place.

Many veterans and soldiers feel that this could jeopardize not only their safety but livelihood, affecting their duties to defend the Constitution at home and abroad, as well as their ability to take care of their families or keep their careers further down the line. Because of this, many soldiers or veterans may not seek help for fear of losing their right to bear arms, as we’ve seen in the scare caused by the VA to attempt to prevent some veterans from owning firearms. As a result of this fear, soldiers and veterans that may need help might not seek it and unfortunately pay the ultimate price.

Others criticize the nature of closing the erroneously-named “gun show loophole” by demanding what appears to be the precursor to the “Universal Background Check”. Targeting for-profit gun sales and person to person transfers, the legislation implies that if you are selling even one or two firearms- be it online, social media forums or at a show- you’re now in the business of selling firearms and therefore you must get a license as well as conduct background checks. To back this up, the ATF will be establishing an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to tackling other tasks as well.

While similar background check requirements have existed in states like Colorado, the laws concerning them have been practically impossible to enforce, as such a system cannot be enforced without an active (and mandatory) gun registry, something that is highly unlikely (not to mention Unconstitutional) to ever pass in the United States (at least in our lifetimes), as critics of registration cite evidence in other countries that such actions are merely the precursor to confiscation.

In short, these and other laws proposed in the executive order have certainly rubbed people the wrong way- particularly in the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement sector and veteran community. “It’s completely unconstitutional,’ said one Airman (who wishes to remain anonymous), ‘It goes against my State and Federal oaths to uphold the Constitution of the United States.”

One man, a Law Enforcement Officer, put it more bluntly than the others. “They’re gonna need to hire a lot more Federal agents”, he said with a straight face as he leaned against his patrol vehicle. “Nobody worthy of their position is going to enforce this garbage or let people get pushed around. We lose a little more of our rights every day, I ain’t gonna be one of the shovelers that buries freedom.”

For more information, view the summary of the executive order here.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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