Battleland

Marines in Mourning: Double-Murder, Suicide at Quantico

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MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

Marine Corps First Lieutenant Agustin Solivan briefs members of the news media at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, near the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia on March 22, 2013.

The double-murder suicide at the Quantico Marine base 35 miles south of Washington comes as a shock. It stuns, not only because one Marine apparently used a gun to kill two others, and then himself, but because the nation counts on its highly-trained armed forces – with the emphasis on armed – to use its weapons only in carefully prescribed ways.

“A fatal shooting occurred at Officer Candidate School around 11 p.m. on March 21,” the Marines said in a terse statement. “The shooter, an active-duty Marine, has been pronounced dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound by law enforcement at the scene. Two other victims, also active-duty Marines, were pronounced dead at the scene.”

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326marines.org

Where the shootings took place.

All three were staffers at the school – not potential officers there for training, Marine officials said. The assailant shot and killed one male Marine in the Taylor Hall barracks before seizing a female Marine and then killing her and himself.

Any motive remains unknown. The names of those killed won’t be released for 24 hours or until their next of kin is notified.

The base was on lockdown for several hours following the shooting.

“This is truly a tragic loss for the Marine Corps, which has had a number of tragic losses in the last couple of weeks,” base commander Colonel David Maxwell told reporters early Friday.

Unlike the tragedy in Nevada on Monday, where seven Marines died after a mortar round exploded prematurely, the overnight killings at Quantico were not an accident. That depresses Marines more than anything: that someone inside this elite band of warriors could turn on his own.

Quantico – known as the Crossroads of the Corps – has a total population of about 12,000 and occupies nearly 100 square miles. It could also be known as the classroom of the corps, home to Officer Candidates School where the killings took place. That’s the path followed by most Marine officers. They are screened and trained for leadership billets in the corps over several weeks of courses, including field exercises, before being commissioned as 2nd lieutenants. The base also houses Marine Corps University, the corps’ Combat Development Command, its War-fighting Laboratory, as well as the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Brig.

Military violence unrelated to war surfaced at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, looking into suicide in the military’s ranks, and the role potentially played by service members’ relatively easy access to firearms. The Pentagon takes the threat of suicide by gun seriously enough that it has distributed more than 75,000 gun locks to its forces.

Cpl. Jared Litke, a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, gets ready to load a second magazine into his M16 national match rifle during a rapid fire session at the rifle range aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., July 14, 2010. The Marine Corps Shooting Team is made up of some of the Corps’ best shots and competes nationwide, as well as establishing a cadre of experienced marksmen to pass knowledge to the next generation of devil dogs.

Marine photo / Pfc. Christofer P. Baines

A Marine practices marksmanship at Quantico.

Those in uniform “have perhaps access to guns at a greater level than in the general population,” Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., said. “We have the literature indicating that restricting access to means — firearms, of course — is an effective strategy for preventing suicides.”

The Pentagon’s top suicide fighter said recent guidance from Congress has made it easier for the military services to inquire about military personnel’s personal firearms. Recently-passed legislation “just gave us some really good clarifying language on who can and when can you ask about personally owned firearms, ammunition and other weapons,” Jacqueline Garrick, chief of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, told the panel’s personnel subcommittee. “We are working on a guidance for that so that we can get that information out to the services and make sure that everybody that the clinicians as well as the commanders are tracking that on what you can do. So I think that was an important step for us.”

The Army’s top personnel officer says the new legislation will help keep tabs on personal weapons that may contribute to the military’s suicide toll. “Commanders sort of have the authority to get in what I call almost that invasive leadership,” Lieut. General Howard Bromberg said. The congressional guidance “did help us significantly by opening up the aperture for those that live off post or off the installation so we can ask the right questions to try to retrieve those weapons,” he added. “The commands are going after that very aggressively.”

It is not known yet whether the firearm used in the Quantico killings was the killer’s personal weapon.

The Army’s former top psychiatrist, who has questioned the easy access to firearms by members of the military, says that the issues that drive suicide in the ranks also can cause murder-suicides. “It’s too early to know what prompted this shooting,” says Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, who regularly contributes to Battleland. “But when we’ve looked at other murder-suicides, they often have the same dynamics as suicide itself – it’s often an action stemming from humiliation or a broken relationship — and easy access to lethal firearms.”

12 comments
CrossWinds
CrossWinds

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, and set the captives free..........Ask Him to save you, forgive you of all sin, and He will come into your heart, and fill you with His Holy Spirit.........

BruceHall
BruceHall

"Easy access to firearms" is another gratuitous jab at both the 2nd Amendment and the military which is based on weaponry.  Come on.  This was one of those rare occurrences in the military... unlike the constant shootings in, say, Chicago which has very restrictive gun laws.  Use a little common sense when covering events such as this.  Of course as Voltaire said, "Common sense is not so common."

thejesusfreak919
thejesusfreak919

My dad works at Quantico, it is 30 minutes from here. As a former Marine and popular on base, he probably knew the Marines.

xavierjaime2
xavierjaime2


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CeltricNight7
CeltricNight7

No motive, seems like this has something to do with love triangle.

ThaTutsta
ThaTutsta

See it ain't guns that need to be banned, it's whackomericans!

bobell
bobell

Gee, easy access to firearms leads to violence. Who would have thought it?  Certainly not Republicans in Congress.

[I do not mean the foregoing snark as disrespect for the dead, for whom I feel deep sorrow.  I mean it as disrespect for the Republicans in Congress. And some cowardly Democrats, for that matter.]

ScottBowen
ScottBowen

@bobell None of the proposals up for debate regarding gun control would disarm our active-duty military. I fail to see your logic. Are you suggesting we disarm our military? And easy access to firearms doesn't lead to violence, if you are going to be violent, easy access to firearms allow you to kill more people more easily. The only way forward from here seems to me to be to focus on mental health issues that would lead someone to do that. I know people that have tons of guns, because they hunt or are collectors, and none of them have killed anyone. Sure, guns make it easier if you have the intent, but frankly, so does a car or a plane. Should we outlaw them and force people to only use public transit because someone might drive it into a person? (no snarkiness here, I just don't see your logic.)

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@ScottBowen@bobellScott, let's be a little less hyperbolic and bring the argument from the general to the specific.

Here's how that works: You do not allow military personnel to keep weapons in their quarters when off-duty at state-side posts.  The check them out at the start of their watch and check them in at the end.  Punish them for having one when they're off duty.

Exceptions to this could be made on a base by base, need by need basis.  The point is to reduce the casual, easy access to firearms overall.  They don't carry arms when on leave, or when off duty (not state-side, anyway), so they don't need to HAVE THEM.  If that's "disarming the military" (what hyperbolic tripe!), then yes, let's disarm them at least to that extent.

And, please, let's not go into the fallacious and irrational argument that it won't stop people from shooting people.  It won't STOP it, but like disarming the military, that's not the goal, either.  It WILL decrease firearms violence.  And that IS, in fact, the goal.

As for your other irrational and non-logical arguments.  Using a car or a plane to kill people involves a great deal more planning, cost, involvement and risk of failure.  Those all are reasons simpler methods are found, which is in firearms. There are FAR more cars on the road than firearms, but the number of people killed by guns is almost as great as those killed by cars (about 60-75%), and given the hours using cars versus using guns, the hour per use ratio means guns are far and away more likely to kill someone in a considerably shorter time frame than cars are. Guns are too easy, too available, too deadly.

Another problem is that planes, cars, knives, baseball bats and other things that can be used AS weapons are not THEMSELVES weapons.  A gun has one, and only one, purpose: To kill people.  Inversely, like a car can be intentionally used to kill people, a gun can be intentionally used to do things other than kill people - like target shoot.  But like a car is designed and intended to allow people to travel safely from place to place when properly used, a gun, when properly used, is designed to kill people.  They have different purposes, different reasons for use, different design, different costs.  If you want to compare things, try actually comparing similar things instead of the statistics they produce.  That's how logic works.

Finally, let's not use a minuscule sample size to determine the likelihood of what others will do.  You say , "I don't know anyone who's gone off and killed anyone else with a gun."   Big deal. .  Maybe you don't know that many gun owners. People are killed 30,000 times per year in the U.S. alone (on average).  And a very large number of them doing the killing are perfectly legal gun owners going nuts all of a sudden and taking out others before they kill themselves.  So your "I know people that have tons of guns, because they hunt or are collectors, and none of them have killed anyone" quote needs one more word added at the end: YET.

A person living with a gun in the house is five times more likely to die from a firearm than someone who lives without one.  A woman is 20 times more likely to die by firearm than a woman who lives in a house without one.  It's simply a matter of time and statistical probability.  One of those people you know will kill someone - if not themselves (the most common reason for firearms death), then others (family members murdered by firearms used by a family member are #2).

Oh, and that intruder you want to kill?  The odds that you'll ever have that chance are pretty slim.  It's actually about a 500:1 chance in favor of you blowing yourself away instead of an intruder.

Enjoy your gun.  Try not to chip a tooth when you leave.

bobell
bobell

@ScottBowen I'm not trying to disarm the military.  The proposals now in Congress aren't attempts to disarm the military.  My point is that guns make it easier to kill people, which you seem to realize.   Given that truth, fewer guns will mean fewer deaths.  It would be nice if we didn't need armed forces, because, among many other good things, it would lead to fewer firearm deaths, both intentional and accidental.  I don't propose confiscatintg all firearms -- although, if I am to be honest, I probably would if the Second Amendment weren't on the books.

What frosts my gizzard is that the congressional opponents of sensible firearm restrictions never learn the lesson of Quantico, which is also the lesson of Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, and on and on.  That's my point.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

@bobell This is still a democracy, sort of.  There are an estimated 3.7 million AR-15 type weapons out there, plus other types of "assault" weapons owned by citizens. Disarm these people? Not a chance. Forget it. So Congress (R's and D's)  is responsive to the public, not to Quantico-type events.  That's the way it works.


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