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Iraq Vet with Post-Traumatic Stress Kills Three, Wounds Sixteen at Fort Hood

Yesterday afternoon’s shooting spree at Fort Hood appears to be a related to post-traumatic stress.

NYT (“Iraq Veteran at Fort Hood Kills 3 and Himself“):

A soldier who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder opened fire at Fort Hood on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding 16 before killing himself, the authorities said. The shooting set off a huge police response and shut down the sprawling Army base, the same facility where a deadly rampage by an officer resulted in 13 deaths in 2009.

Fort Hood’s commanding general said the gunman, an Army specialist who had served in Iraq and was being treated for behavioral and mental health issues, had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The commander, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, told reporters that the soldier’s motive remained unclear, but that the shooting did not appear to be related to terrorism.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Tragic. Just tragic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. Mu says:

    Might be another case of “we don’t want to pay a combat related disability pension”, so we keep him around until he’s discharged and becomes someone else’s problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. legion says:

    Naturally, some are questioning why Lopez was allowed to purchase a handgun in his condition. But he hadn’t been diagnosed with a mental illness, had presumably committed no prior crimes, and is a combat veteran. I don’t know under what premise we would have denied him the right to purchase a firearm.

    On the radio this morning, they were saying that, while he had never been officially wounded, he had self-reported a traumatic brain injury. No details were given, but I suspect a large part of the problem in this instance will turn out to be either the difficulty & length of time involved in getting that report medically evaluated _or_ that its severity wasn’t taken seriously enough. As you say, he wasn’t diagnosed with a mental illness, but clearly he _should_ have been…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Mikey says:

    If he did in fact have a TBI, I’d consider that a far higher risk factor than PTSD. A TBI can cause some very significant, and sometimes negative, personality changes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    Of course the NRA wingnuts are already saying that the Fort Hood soldiers should all have been packing guns so it would have been a fair fight. It also would probably resulted in even more deaths and injuries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  6. Blue Galangal says:

    @Ron Beasley: But the left is the side that politicises gun deaths.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

  7. @Ron Beasley: Because police officers (including military police) always love walking into a ten way gun battle having no idea whose the hostile is and who isn’t.

    You would think that given the number of friendly-fire incidents that military has every year, people would be a little more intelligent about having military personnel (or civilians) firing on one another with absolutely no way for authorities to know who they should shoot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    Because police officers (including military police) always love walking into a ten way gun battle having no idea whose the hostile is and who isn’t.

    Excellent point!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. matt bernius says:

    I think it’s important to appreciate how much using an event like this to buttress one’s cause (whether it’s pro- or anti-gun restriction) is really an attempt to protect oneself against largely uncontrollable, seemingly random acts of violence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  10. Rob in CT says:

    Sad. Unfortunate. On some level, probably unpreventable (not in the specific, necessarily, but if you fight 2 wars for about a decade, you’ll end up with some damaged people who are pretty good at killing. Even foregoing the wars, you’ll have some such people).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. C. Clavin says:

    the issue here seems to be not gun control…but proper care and support for our vets…which begins by not sending them into stupid wars of choice to begin with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  12. ernieyeball says:

    People kill people with guns in this country because they can.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  13. stonetools says:

    @matt bernius:

    I call bullsh!t on “random, acts of violence.” Israel is a country with lots of combat veterans but they don’t have incidents. Why/ Because they have strict handgun control. A veteran doesn’t automatically have to right to own and carry around a handgun, they way he does here. He actually has to justify needing a handgun. You have to have a license to own a handgun, and to get a license you have to qualify:

    To obtain a gun license, an applicant must be a resident of Israel for at least three consecutive years, have no criminal record, be in good health, have no history of mental illness, pass a weapons-training course, and be over a certain age:
    20 for women who completed military service or civil service equivalent
    21 for men who completed military service or civil service equivalent
    27 for those who did not complete military service or civil service equivalent
    45 for residents of East Jerusalem.

    Gun licenses must be renewed every three years and permits are given only for personal use, not for business in the firearms sale while holders for self-defense purposes may own only one handgun, and may purchase a maximum of fifty rounds a year, except for those shot at firing ranges.

    It is likely that the shooter doesn’t get a gun if the Israeli requirements are in place-especially if PTSD is listed a a mental illness, as it certainly should be.
    The gun violence in the USA isn’t “random”-rather, it is exactly what is to be expected if you allow an untutored, unscreened public free access to unlimited numbers of powerful firearms. It is the natural and probable consequence of a society with an irresponsible attitude and policy towards firearms.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  14. matt bernius says:

    @stonetools:

    A veteran doesn’t automatically have to right to own and carry around a handgun, they way he does here.

    Without getting into the substance of what you wrote, I believe that Ivan Lopez was an active-duty member of the Army.

    Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/fort-hood-shooting/fort-hood-gunman-was-treated-depression-anxiety-n70441

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I heard some military spokesperson on NPR say that at this point in time, there was no indication that Lopez had ever been in combat. There are many ways to get a TBI and combat vets are not the only ones afflicted with PTSD. I read that his Iraq stint was only 4 months which made me wonder if his tour was cut short because of mental healt issues over there? It was in 2011 (?) so that was some time ago…

    with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that had recently been bought in the Killeen area.

    Whenever I read words similar to the above I always wonder “How recently?” There is an argument to be made after such incidents for waiting periods and making one jump through a few bureaucratic hoops to buy a hand gun (or any other for that matter). I remember the bad old days back in the 70s, 80s, 90s of filling out paper work and going to sherriff’s offices, coming back a week later, yadda yadda yadda… Never stopped me from buying a gun, but it did make me plan ahead. Something that mentally ill people have difficulty with and the bureaucracy can be frustrating on occasion but nothing a mentally sound person can not deal with. Somebody depressed? They just might say, “Screw it.”

    Of course, none of that might have made any difference in this case.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. PD Shaw says:

    The PTSD is probably irrelevant. He was being treated for depression and anxiety disorders, which is probably all that he he was suffering, and severe depression is sufficient without need for PTSD. He self-reported PTSD, probably because its sexier than depression, but he probably was unable to identify “the event” of recurring trauma, as opposed to a general sense of despair, etc.

    Follow-up needs to find out if he was prescribed anti-depressants and if he went off of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. matt bernius says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Whenever I read words similar to the above I always wonder “How recently?”

    This is a very important question to ask in this case. But it should be part of a larger study asking that question across a large amount of instances of gun violence.

    Thankfully, thanks to Obama, the CDC is finally able to engage in and sponsor such research.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/12/gun_violence_research_nra_and_congress_blocked_gun_control_studies_at_cdc.html

    https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2013/02/gun-violence.aspx

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. matt bernius says:

    @PD Shaw:

    He self-reported PTSD, probably because its sexier than depression, but he probably was unable to identify “the event” of recurring trauma, as opposed to a general sense of despair, etc.

    I’m not sure if the issue is that PTSD is “sexier” or whether it’s actually more acceptable in a military environment. A diagnosis of clinical depression can trigger significant actions and has long term ramifications.

    I don’t know enough about PTSD to know how similiar the results of a diagnosis are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @matt bernius:

    the CDC is finally able to engage in and sponsor such research.

    I had not heard that. Thanx Matt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. matt bernius says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I had not heard that. Thanx Matt.

    It was contained in the executive order that Obama issued in the wake of Sandy Hook. Arguably, it has the potential to have the most significant long term effect of all of those orders.

    That said, being an executive order, it can also be overturned by the next President. \

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. JKB says:

    @Timothy Watson: with absolutely no way for authorities to know who they should shoot.

    In an active-shooter situation, they shoot anyone with a gun in their hand that isn’t identifiable as police. It’s just the way it is.

    If you carry you have to remain cognizant of police arrival and entry. And clear your hands before encountering them. But the reality is, if a someone on site is armed (private citizen or off-duty officer), the shooting will be long over before police arrive.

    Note this shooter did not have his gun in hand when he encountered the MP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @matt bernius:

    I think it’s important to appreciate how much using an event like this to buttress one’s cause (whether it’s pro- or anti-gun restriction) is really an attempt to protect oneself against largely uncontrollable, seemingly random acts of violence.

    But it’s not largely uncontrollable — which we know, because almost every other advanced industrial country in the world manages to control these events, or at least suffers far, far fewer of them than we do. There’s nothing natural or inevitable about these sorts of shootings — they’re a very specific and foreseeable consequence of policy decisions we’ve made.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    On some level, probably unpreventable (not in the specific, necessarily, but if you fight 2 wars for about a decade, you’ll end up with some damaged people who are pretty good at killing. Even foregoing the wars, you’ll have some such people).

    But look at other postwar societies — for example, all of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Filled with literally tens of millions of damaged men who were pretty good at killing, and yet suffering almost no mass shooting attacks. Why? Very limited access to guns with which to carry out those attacks, and better access to mental health care.

    It’s not unpreventable — we just choose, very consciously, not to prevent it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. anjin-san says:

    Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly took a stand against naming the soldier who opened fire at Fort Hood on Wednesday, but she didn’t have a problem dropping an ethnic description of the shooter.

    Kelly opened her show on Wednesday night with an explanation of her show’s policy.

    “Authorities are identifying the shooter. If you are interested you can get his name on other shows, like the one that preceded this one and online, but we have decided not to name these mass killers as a policy here on the ‘Kelly File,’” Kelly said.

    She stuck to the policy later in the program, but casually offered a description of the suspect based on his name.

    The nationality of the shooter, it sounds Hispanic, Latino, but you can look up his name online,” Kelly said.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/megyn-kelly-fort-hood-shooter-name-ethnicity-nationality

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. matt bernius says:

    @anjin-san:

    “The nationality of the shooter, it sounds Hispanic, Latino, but you can look up his name online,” Kelly said.

    Sigh. By all accounts, the *nationality* of the shooter was *gasp* “American.”

    The *ethnicity* of the shooter is of course something different.

    Not that one should expect a major news anchor to know the difference now a days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  26. anjin-san says:

    I had a feeling that it must be Obama’s fault…

    The Obama administration hasn’t learned anything from the massacres at Fort Hood in 2009 or the Washington Navy Yard last year.

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/04/03/fort-hood-attack-my-son-our-soldiers-are-defenseless-sitting-ducks/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. matt bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    It’s not unpreventable — we just choose, very consciously, not to prevent it.

    While I appreciate your sentiment, and generally speaking tend towards the suggestions you raise, I think we should wait until more facts emerge before declaring that this was something that could have been easily prevented.

    The more research I’ve done into mass shootings (and other acts of spectacular mass violence), the more I come to see them as something different than the “garden variety” gun violence that plagues our nation.

    I definitely think a lot can be done to help curtail everyday acts of gun violence. I’m becoming less convinced about *most* mass shootings.

    In terms of this particular case, a lot will hinge on Ozark’s question of how recently the gun was purchased and whether or not Lopez left any artifacts that help explain what led up to the shooting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Mike says:

    What sticks out to me is that this fellow served nine years (if I can believe news reports) in the Puerto Rican National Guard and had been in the Army since 2008, and yet was only an E-4. There must be issues with this fellow than we are not hearing about. Reports are saying that he served four months in Iraq as a truck driver, and he was not involved in combat in Iraq.

    I am pro Second Amendment, but I think arming soldiers on Army bases is a bad idea. I might go so far as to say it is a horrible idea. I might go with allowing officers and senior NCOs to voluntarily carry side arms. Maybe not at every installation, but it might work at Fort Hood.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. @Rafer Janders:

    But look at other postwar societies — for example, all of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Filled with literally tens of millions of damaged men who were pretty good at killing, and yet suffering almost no mass shooting attacks. Why?

    Because they were all using bombs instead?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  30. @JKB: Christ, you’re a damn idiot. Cops, with you know training and better armaments than just handguns, get in extended gun battles with people and you think a civilian is going to be able to stop someone?

    And you are aware of the problems with situational awareness that occur when you’re shooting at somebody and someone is shooting at you, right? It’s not as simple as “Hey, a cop’s here now, I better stop shooting.” And what exactly is your plan for when Civilian A starts shooting at the bad guy, Civilian B sees a gun battle and thinks Civilian A is the bad guy and starts shooting at him?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. Tillman says:

    @matt bernius:

    I definitely think a lot can be done to help curtail everyday acts of gun violence. I’m becoming less convinced about *most* mass shootings.

    The way I see it, if someone is truly determined to commit mass murder with guns, they will go to any length of effort to secure the gun they want to do it with. However, the degree of determination they have should (with ideal gun regulations) be tested with several obstacles: bureaucracies to navigate, examinations to pass, and waiting periods to endure. Just these obstacles to gun ownership would deter some mass murderers into rethinking the motivations they have, question their own presumptions about what a mass shooting would accomplish.

    And when we get the inevitable lunatic who endures the system so he can finally kill people, at least he’ll be a higher quality of lunatic than some of the seeming crimes of passion we’ve encountered lately.

    I also think liability insurance for guns would be a nice touch. Make the parents of possibly-crazed teens be extra careful with the guns in their house, much as they would be letting their teens drive cars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    If you carry you have to remain cognizant of police arrival and entry.

    No problem. While I am in the middle of a firefight, I will keep a sharp eye out for cops arriving on the scene, being sure to scan the full 360 degree field of view. Good tip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. @JKB: By the way, I’m awaiting your expert analysis on situations like this, when someone gets their weapon taken from them:

    NavyTimes

    I’m sure your solution will be “MORE GUNS!!1!!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. JKB says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    You do know TV cops shows are fake right? Extended gun battles don’t happen that often. Most shootings, police or otherwise, are over and done in less than a minute.

    And you are sorely misinformed about the training/capabilities of the average police officer. Look up the police shooting up NYC streets. And NYPD gets a lot of training. But most of the officers are not gun people who shoot routinely.

    And it is simple. If you see the police you empty your hands. If you don’t see the police when they see you, you get shot at and probably shot.

    But a person on scene with a firearm will not be in a gun battle. They will shoot the gunman, they will disrupt him causing him to run or give victims time to escape, or the gunman will suicide upon confrontation. If you think some big gun fight will ensue, you are delusional.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  35. JKB says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    Gun retention is important.

    You cite a situation where an individual openly carrying, on official duty has their firearm taken from them.

    I’m not sure what your point is? Fewer individuals carrying for the government?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. JKB says:

    @Tillman: I also think liability insurance for guns would be a nice touch. Make the parents of possibly-crazed teens be extra careful with the guns in their house, much as they would be letting their teens drive cars.

    Do you even know the definition of a tort? Do you understand what insurance is?

    Making someone buy insurance does not make them liable for damages from injuries or wrong. The insurance is to assure against loss if they are judged liable for such damages. It seems you want to use mandated purchase of insurance as a “price” for exercising an enumerated constitutional right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Because they were all using bombs instead?

    No, false and stupid. The incidents you cite were largely politically-motivated terrorist incidents from the 1970s and 1980s by young men and women who were mostly at the time in their twenties and thirties, and thus (a) not random violence and (b) not carried out by traumatized WWII veterans. These were attacks carried out by the veterans’ kids, not by the veterans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tillman:

    The way I see it, if someone is truly determined to commit mass murder with guns, they will go to any length of effort to secure the gun they want to do it with.

    But they won’t, though — which we know from the example of every other major advanced country in the world, where people don’t go to any length of effort to get guns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  39. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB: \

    They will shoot the gunman, they will disrupt him causing him to run or give victims time to escape, or the gunman will suicide upon confrontation.

    Or, choice (d), they’ll shoot a bunch of innocent bystanders.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  40. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    And you are sorely misinformed about the training/capabilities of the average police officer. Look up the police shooting up NYC streets. And NYPD gets a lot of training. But most of the officers are not gun people who shoot routinely…..But a person on scene with a firearm will not be in a gun battle. They will shoot the gunman, they will disrupt him causing him to run or give victims time to escape, or the gunman will suicide upon confrontation. If you think some big gun fight will ensue, you are delusional.

    I love how in the same post he argues that (a) police who get a lot of training and routinely carry guns are not to be trusted with them and are as likely as not to shoot innocent bystanders as their target, and (b) random citizen without training and not used to carrying a gun will do well in an armed confrontation. And then accuses others of being delusional.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  41. anjin-san says:

    @ Rafer Janders

    I think there is a pretty good chance that there is a fantasy loop running in JKB’s head in which he calmly draws his weapon and dispatches a would be mass murderer with an expert shot. Perhaps that’s what he is talking about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. al-Ameda says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    But the left is the side that politicises gun deaths.

    Liberals such as FoxNews:

    “The nationality of the shooter, it sounds Hispanic, Latino, but you can look up his name online,” Kelly said

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. stonetools says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    But they won’t, though — which we know from the example of every other major advanced country in the world, where people don’t go to any length of effort to get guns.

    What’s unfortunate about this gun debate is that there is plenty of actual EVIDENCE from other countries that gun safety legislation does prevent mass shootings. It’s all ignored because, we are told, Americans are special snowflakes and the experience of other alien countries like, say, Canada, isn’t relevant.
    Instead of examining the actual evidence, we have free floating speculation and anecdotes about how mass shooters MIGHT or SHOULD act. Not surprisingly, when we examine the evidence, we find that that the kind of mentally disturbed people that actually do mass shootings have a hard time negotiating any administrative barriers to owning a firearm. They have a hard time with waiting periods, or passing a firearms safety course, or explaining why they need a firearm, or having a person or persons vouch for their good character and fitness to own firearms. The result is that they don’t get to legally acquire firearms.
    Unfortunately , these administrative regulations are inconvenient to our middle class weekend warriors who need quick and easy access to their deadly toys so they can do their macho posturing and act out their little fantasies. So for the sake of the convenience of gun buyers, the rest of us have to put up with the kind of mass shootings that don’t happen in other civilized countries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0