Time after time, public murder sprees occur in "gun-free zones" - public places where citizens are not legally able to carry guns. The list is long, including massacres at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School along with many less deadly attacks. Last week's slaughter at Fort Hood Army base in Texas was no different - except that one man bears responsibility for the ugly reality that the men and women charged with defending America were deliberately left defenseless when a terrorist opened fire.
Among President Clinton's first acts upon taking office in 1993 was to disarm U.S. soldiers on military bases. In March 1993, the Army imposed regulations forbidding military personnel from carrying their personal firearms and making it almost impossible for commanders to issue firearms to soldiers in the U.S. for personal protection. For the most part, only military police regularly carry firearms on base, and their presence is stretched thin by high demand for MPs in war zones.
Because of Mr. Clinton, terrorists would face more return fire if they attacked a Texas Wal-Mart than the gunman faced at Fort Hood, home of the heavily armed and feared 1st Cavalry Division. That's why a civilian policewoman from off base was the one whose marksmanship ended Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's rampage.
Everyone wants to keep people safe - and no one denies Mr. Clinton's good intentions. The problem is that law-abiding good citizens, not criminals, are the ones who obey those laws. Bans end up disarming potential victims and not criminals. Rather than making places safe for victims, we unintentionally make them safe for the criminal - or in this case, the terrorist.
The wife of one of the soldiers shot at Fort Hood understands all too well. In an interview on CNN Monday night, Anchor John Roberts asked Mandy Foster how she felt about her husband's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Ms. Foster responded: "At least he's safe there and he can fire back, right?"
It is hard to believe that we don't trust soldiers with guns on an Army base when we trust these very same men in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Clinton's deadly rules even disarmed officers, the most trusted members of the military charged with leading enlisted soldiers in combat. Six of the dead and wounded had commissions.
Most people understand that guns deter criminals. Research also shows that the presence of more guns limits the damage mass murderers can unleash. A major factor in determining how many people are harmed by these killers is the time that elapses between the launch of an attack and when someone - soldier, civilian or law enforcement - arrives on the scene with a gun to end the attack. All the public shootings in the United States in which more than three people have been killed have occurred in places where concealed handguns have been banned.
Thirteen dead bodies in a Texas morgue are the ultimate fruit of gun-control illogic - in which guns are so feared that government regulation even tries to keep them out of the hands of trained soldiers. With the stroke of a pen, President Obama can end Mr. Clinton's folly and allow U.S. soldiers to protect themselves. Because we clearly cannot protect our soldiers from harm, the least we owe them is the right to protect themselves.