Pentagon Experts Don't Trust Young Men With Guns, Red Bull

Plus: FBI director says COVID's origins "are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan," Supreme Court justices seem skeptical of student loan forgiveness, and more...


The U.S. military is concerned with the rising rate of suicides among service members. In response, a Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC) established by the Department of Defense (DOD) is recommending limiting their access to guns and posting warning signs about energy drinks.

An SPRIRC report recommends "on DoD property, raise the minimum age for purchasing firearms and ammunition to 25 years." This change is designated as "high priority"—something SPRIRC considers to be "necessary" or "must" change.

The committee also recommends subjecting all gun purchases on DoD property to a seven-day waiting period, and implementing "a 4-day waiting period for ammunition purchases on DoD property to follow purchases and receipt of firearms purchased on DoD property."

The waiting period rules are also designated as high priority, as is requiring "anyone living on DoD property in military housing to register all privately owned firearms with the installation's arming authority" and establishing "DoD policy restricting the possession and storage of privately owned firearms in military barracks and dormitories."

The flaws in logic here seem glaring. These are the people tasked with defending our country with force if necessary. Many of them will work with guns or other weapons as part of their service. How can Americans feel confident in their ability to do this competently, safely, and humanely if they can't even be trusted to personally own or maintain a gun? On the flip side, how can Americans expect members of the military to fulfill their duties—with all the sacrifice that might entail—while denying them full access to their constitutional rights?

The gun recommendations manage to infantilize service members, limit their liberty, and serve as a vote of no confidence against them.

At the same time, the committee assigns lower priority to a number of things that could address the root causes of suicide among service members and help treat them. For instance, "increas[ing] the number of active-duty behavioral health technicians" and "provid[ing] behavioral health technicians with advanced training in evidence-based practices" are designated as only a moderate priority. The same goes for "ensur[ing] the availability of evidence-based care for those seeking treatment or support for unhealthy drinking" and "expand[ing] opportunities to treat common mental health conditions in
primary care."

To be clear, there are plenty of SPRIRC recommendations that seem reasonable and well prioritized. And the committee does a good job of considering a broad range of factors that could contribute to suicides, from frequency of reassignments to internet connectivity and substance abuse.

But there are also some recommendations that seem just plain weird. For instance, "rais[ing] the minimum purchase price and ban[ning] price discounting of energy drinks sold on DoD property," "ban[ning] the promotion of energy drinks on DoD property," and "display[ing] signs on vending machines and retail outlets where energy drinks are sold about responsible energy drink consumptions."

A number of recommendations would effectively penalize all members of the military (and their family members on bases). These include things like making alcohol sold on DOD property more expensive and limiting access to some areas off base ("partner[ing] with local communities in collaborative efforts to limit or restrict access to sites or locations commonly used for suicide"). 

That last recommendation, like the gun recommendation, seems to rely on the idea that making a few particular avenues of self-harm slightly more difficult will effectively prevent suicides. To this effect, the committee also recommends "ensur[ing] that all shower curtain rods, window curtain rods, and closet rods installed in barracks, dormitories, and military housing can 'break away' with excessive load."

It seems strange to focus more on the tools of suicide than the causes, especially as the report acknowledges that as "detection of high-risk service members" and referrals to behavioral health clinics have gone up, this "was not accompanied by an increase in behavioral clinicians."

In fact, "the number of behavioral health professionals in the DoD has actually decreased over time," resulting in "longer wait times for service members to initiate behavioral health treatment and extended gaps between scheduled appointments," stated the report. Yet with the exception of "expedit[ing] the hiring process for behavioral health professionals," none of the high-priority recommendations deal with this shortage.


The FBI endorses lab leak theory of COVID-19 origin. Following reports that the U.S. Department of Energy had decided a lab leak was the most likely origin of COVID-19, FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that his agency came to a similar conclusion. "The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan," Wray said in an interview with Fox News.


Supreme Court justices appeared "skeptical" of President Joe Biden's student loan debt forgiveness scheme at oral arguments yesterday, reported The New York Times:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. indicated that the administration had acted without sufficiently explicit congressional authorization to undertake one of the most ambitious and expensive executive actions in the nation's history, violating separation-of-powers principles.

"I think most casual observers would say," the chief justice said, that "if you're going to give up that much amount of money, if you're going to affect the obligations of that many Americans on a subject that's of great controversy, they would think that's something for Congress to act on."

The court's three liberal members said Congress had already acted, by passing a law in 2003 that authorized the secretary of education to address emergencies.

"Congress could not have made this much more clear," Justice Elena Kagan said, adding: "We deal with congressional statutes every day that are really confusing. This one is not."

By the end of about three and a half hours of arguments in two separate cases, the court's conservative majority seemed likely to dash the hopes of the 26 million borrowers who have already applied for loan relief, including millions who have received approval. If the administration is to prevail, it would probably be on the ground that none of the plaintiffs in the two cases had established standing to sue, but that outcome did not seem likely, either.

The chief justice, joined by other members of the court's six-member conservative majority, invoked the "major questions doctrine," which requires that government initiatives with major political and economic consequences be clearly authorized by Congress.

More backstory on the challenges to Biden's student loan plan here.


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