December 8, 2023
Is a report ignoring the basics and telling servicemembers they’re not really trusted the best way to help those in serious pain and immediate need? (U.S. Army/Facebook)

U.S.A. – -( “Today, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC) released their independent report, providing their findings and recommendations,” DoD announced Friday. “The Department of Defense has taken note of the SPRIRC’s work and will use it to enhance their current approach in three key priority areas. These areas include fostering quality of life, building healthy climates and cultures, addressing stigma as a barrier to help-seeking, and promoting a culture of lethal means safety.”

That means focusing on guns, and considering that’s what the majority of service suicides use to end their lives, that’s understandable. What’s arguable, though, is whether putting the major emphasis on means neglects the important questions of “Who?” and “Why?”

With a team of 10 experts and a price tag of $2.4M, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect the 115-page “Preventing Suicide in the U.S. Military: Recommendations from the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee” report to identify at-risk personnel subsets more prone to suicide within the greater military population, instead of one-size-fits-all programs requiring administrative bureaucracies and facility improvements (and some cost estimates for those shouldn’t have been too much to ask), and, of course, across-the-board restrictions on guns.

That’s what this does, and while that fits in with the Administration’s biases and goals, as with all “commonsense gun safety” schemes that focus on the inanimate object, it completely ignores the reality that firearm restrictions don’t stop those motivated to acquiring them for abusive purposes. They have no problem doing so.

The term “firearm” shows up 132 times in the report. The “recommendations” include things that have been tried over and over again for years in civilian life – and never worked – as well as some military-specific infringements. Among the “solutions” identified by the Review Committee:

  • Substitute real due process with “procedural due process regarding the collection and recording of information relating to the lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm or weapon by military personnel and civilian employees of the DoD.”
  • Have the lawyers figure out a way to bypass current legal protections so that “information about firearm acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm or weapon by military personnel and civilian employees of the DoD can be legally collected by program evaluators.”
  • Mandate “safety training” for privately owned firearms, with five-year renewals.
  • “Implement a 7-day waiting period for any firearm purchased on DoD property.”
  • “Develop a national database for recording serial numbers of firearms purchased on DoD property.” – Presumably, that information will still be available and accessible by a changeable list of “authorized persons” yet to be determined even after the servicemember has retired.
  • “Implement a 4-day waiting period for ammunition purchases on DoD property to follow purchases and receipt of firearms purchased on DoD property.”
  • “On DoD property, raise the minimum age for purchasing firearms and ammunition to 25 years.”

There’s more: Locks. Notifying command of purchases. Registration. Living quarters restrictions. A total gun ban for visitors. How much of this is already required has not been stated. Evidently, it wasn’t required that the committee know.

But to show that they haven’t fixated exclusively on guns, the committee also recommends retrofitting shower and window curtain rods, and closet rods that “can ‘break away’ with excessive load” (they don’t already?) That and banning discounts on and promotion of “energy drinks.”

There’s also an expectation that nominal training will allow store clerks to practice psychoanalysis without a license:

“Require Military Exchange personnel to complete skills-based training designed to recognize indicators of elevated emotional distress and effective methods for interacting with and responding to acutely distressed customers. Military Exchange personnel who sell firearms and ammunition may be ideally positioned to identify and intervene with at-risk military personnel experiencing acute emotional distress. DSPO should create and implement customized suicide prevention training for Military Exchange personnel who sell firearms and ammunition. The training should include content focused on observable indicators of emotional distress and skills training focused on approaching and effectively responding to distressed customers.”

At this point, it doesn’t seem out of line to ascertain the qualifications of the experts returning such advice in exchange for a healthy chunk of taxpayer money. The study’s “lead” is identified as Dr. Gayle Iwamasa, who, in addition to “serv[ing] as the National Inpatient Mental Health Program Director in the VA Central Office (VACO), Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),” also “co-leads OMHSP’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.”

That’s a relatively recent term— looking back through the Internet Archive, just in 2016, treated “D.E.I.” as either “Dutch East Indies” or the Latin word for “God.”  It would appear it was not until mid-2021 that the term was updated on that site to include “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

That makes it fair to wonder what recent, sudden, and dramatic social changes, expectations, and pressures are service members now being subjected to, and do those changes factor into suicides? Especially noting that the DoD press release cited “addressing stigma as a barrier to help-seeking”…?

Does the new “woke” military culture, with the potential to be humiliatingly and publicly “canceled” if one falls afoul of command and peer expectations, play a role?

What about reports that recruiting shortfalls have resulted in the Army lowering physical and academic standards? Is there a corresponding lowering of emotional health? And does lowering standards for women have any effect? The Committee apparently didn’t see much need to explore this.

Are suicides evenly distributed across the board, or do age, race, and orientation factor in, as they do in the civilian population? How and how much, and if so, wouldn’t allocating expenditures to address those special needs better serve suffering servicemembers, instead of, say, “light-blocking window coverings”? (And note all of the times expansion of “behavioral health” is mentioned—at times it seems this tax-funded report is being used as a fundraising appeal for the behavioral health industry.)

“You and your families sacrifice every day for us,” the Review Committee told Service Members in their “Foreword” to the report. “You deserve excellence, dignity, and respect, and to have your voices heard. Our freedom and national security depend on each and every one of you, and we endeavor to work equally hard to support you in the ways we can.”

How lumping the good in with the bad and the healthy in with the troubled, ignoring politically inconvenient realities, and mandating increased restrictions on the fundamental rights of all demonstrates excellence, dignity, and respect is not explained. Such “equity” seems a curious way of saying “Thank you for your service.”

On the plus side, Lloyd Austin and Joe Biden have something new to show the press besides Obama-era empathy pregnancy bellies and high heels. They can act like they’re doing something about the mess that years of mismanagement and neglect of basics created and are making worse.

Don’t think for a moment the Russians and Chinese haven’t noticed.

About David Codrea:

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

David Codrea

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