It is still not clear whether Pensacola murderer Mohammed Alshamrani was part of an extremist Muslim cell or acted alone, although some of his fellow Saudis evidently shared his political views and bloodthirstiness. For now, I want to salute the contribution of Joshua Watson, 23 years old, who was one of Alshamrani’s three victims.
Watson graduated from the Naval Academy in June and was stationed at Pensacola because he wanted to be a Navy pilot. He was the “officer on deck” when Alshamrani’s rampage took place and apparently was in or near the classroom when Alshamrani began shooting. Despite being shot multiple times–at least five, according to his father–Watson was able to get away from the classroom and connect with first responders who were arriving at the base. He told them where the attack was taking place and gave them a description of the terrorist before dying.
The first responders were local policemen because the Pensacola Navy base is, like most U.S. military facilities, a gun-free zone. Joshua Watson was a rifle team captain at the Naval Academy. If he had been armed when Alshamrani began his rampage the outcome likely would have been different. Many, many other servicemen and women at Pensacola are perfectly competent to carry arms and do so away from the base. Bizarrely, not even the guards at Pensacola were armed. Glenn Reynolds says succinctly: “An unarmed guard isn’t a guard at all, but something more like a hall monitor.”
President Trump has instructed military base commanders to rethink policies about allowing military personnel on bases to be armed. Like so many reforms of the Trump era, it is long overdue.