Deterrence Is Only One Facet
Earlier this week, the United States Air Force (USAF) released a statement reminding their respective base commanders that they could authorize subordinates to carry firearms on base as a deterrence, even when such personnel were off-duty and in civilian attire.
As it almost goes without saying, this has ignited a fresh barrage of arguments from both sides of the gun control/gun rights discussion. The USAF cited the 2015 shooting at a military recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a strong reason for the personnel directive. During the attack in Chattanooga, five service members were killed. The USAF has made it clear that anyone who would be authorized to carry a firearm on base will also be vetted through a series of training programs and additionally be required to update their shooting qualifications regularly.
Firearms in the hands of those who are assigned to carry them cover two of the three responsibilities for a safer environment. They are functional as a “deterrent”, meant to make an attacker second-guess his/her decision to attack a target; they also act as a “reactive” method, where if someone attacks a location with deadly force, equal and greater measure can be applied to stop it. Even though deterrent and reactive safety methodologies are (for the most part) effective, they are not perfect. These methodologies are not very effective when it comes to an attacker who is delusional or suicidal. For example, on September 16, 2013, Aaron Alexis entered his place of employment at the Washington Navy Yard and killed 12 people. The Washington Navy Yard had an extensive series of deterrent and reactive security protocols, and it still did not stop Alexis from entering building 197 fully armed and committing rampage violence. Post-attack investigations into Aaron Alexis revealed a man who was troubled with fits of behavioral threat-indicators, psychological issues and suicidal ideation. As such, Alexis’ motivation to commit harm to himself and others was greater than his personal concern for what would happen to him if he attacked such a heavily armed location like the Washington Navy Yard. We use “deterrence” as a method to stop rampage violence in our corporations, on campuses and in our community. But a person like Aaron Alexis, whose insanity could not grasp the consequences of testing such security measures, paid no mind. It was only through the reactive measures of our brave law enforcement personnel, after the attack at the Navy Yard had begun, was Alexis’ stopped. The deterrence argument became a moot point and was ineffective.
But Aaron Alexis displayed multiple behavioral indicators prior to the attack. Although it is too late to do something for the victims of the Navy Yard, we can still identify behavioral conditions in others that were similar in Aaron Alexis. What we know is this: An individual who is planning to attack a target will display conditions of threat-related behavior prior to the assault. It is practically a guarantee. If we can train our community to be watchful of those conditions in others, then we can stop future tragedies like those that occurred at the Washington Navy Yard. Sadly, we as a society continue to focus on using strictly deterrent and reactive methods of protection, with little regard for behavioral identification training. We need to concentrate on training our community to identify these behavioral indicators and proactively address them, and use this training in conjunction with the other two that we already employ.
NAPS, Inc. was created to provide that training to our community. Everyone can be trained to identify these behavioral conditions and report their concerns, and get others the professional help they need. No one needs to be authorized to carry a firearm, and a shot never needs to be fired.
Jason Wells is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety, Inc., an educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes. He is a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, and holds a Masters of Science with highest honors in Strategic Security and Protection Management. Mr. Wells is currently pursuing his doctorate in Strategic Security with a focus on proactive interventions to stop threat-related behavior. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.