Can we ever eradicate the threat of violence on military bases?

Posted at 7:13 PM, Apr 03, 2014

The Pentagon calls it the “insider threat” someone with credentials and access to military bases, who has gone through background checks and vetting, but still, for some reason, turns to violence.

Last week, it was Jeffery Savage, a civilian truck driver with a TWIC card who got on board Naval Station Norfolk and grabbed a gun from a petty officer on watch, killing Master-at-Arms Mark Mayo.

Last September, it was Aaron Alexis, who murdered 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.

But the Army experienced it first when Maj. Nadal Hassan murdered 13 of his fellow soldiers on Fort Hood almost 5 years ago.

Now, they are dealing with it again, after Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire at the same Texas base, killing three people.

“He was undergoing a variety of treatment and diagnoses for mental health conditions ranging from depression to anxiety, even sleep disorders,” said Secretary of the Army John McHugh, during his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday.

Lopez is no different from the rest, all these military base shooters had issues with mental health and violence.

But how do you keep bases safe from this type of threat, especially when it comes from a solider? And when so many troops are struggling with mental health issues after a decade of war, can we ever eradicate the threat of violence on military bases?

Lopez just had his latest mental health examination a month ago.

“We had no indication on the record of that examination that there was any sign of likely violence, either to himself or to others. No suicidal ideation,” said Secretary McHugh.

Currently, the Veterans Affairs Administration tries to keep weapons out of the hands of veterans declared incompetent from their mental issues, by entering their names into the Criminal Background Check System.

Lopez, though, had not been diagnosed with anything that met that level.

So with no criminal history, he easily passed a background check to buy the gun he used to kill 3 people.

Even according to top Army leaders, he was a good soldier, up until his shooting rampage.

“He had a clean record,” said Secretary McHugh.

Several investigations into base shootings have tried to address the insider threat.

After the first Fort Hood shooting, Army officials intended to 'develop a scientifically based list of behavioral indicators of potential violence.'

The Defense Science Board, tasked with coming up with that list, just couldn't do it.

They said in their August 2012 report,"no single screening method, checklist, or list of behavioral indicators/criteria can reliably predict violent behavior."

The report emphasized prevention over prediction.

But prevention can only go so far. The investigation into the Washington Navy Yard shooting determined..."entirely eliminating the risk of attacks on DOD facilities and personnel is impossible."