By David Tulis
The fate of a local U.S. Navy commander who fired his personal handgun at a Muslim attacker in Chattanooga is in the hands of the JAG, the judge advocate general, the legal arm of the military.
It is making a decision on prosecuting Lt. Cmdr. Tim White, an officer who had charge of the Naval and Marine Reserve Center along Amnicola Highway in Chattanooga on July 16.
Mr. White admitted that he fired bullets at Mohammad Abdulazeez as that Muslim devotee, 24, of Hixson, stormed the largely unprotected facility, his AK-47-style rifle belching death.
[This essay first appeared at Chattanoogan.com, your most vital local news source. — DJT]
As the prosecutor weighs his case, a local mom is organizing a demonstration Aug. 22, a Saturday, at the Joel Solomon federal building downtown, hoping to draw at least 100 people in support of Mr. White.
“We are calling for a show of solidarity for the Navy commander that discharged his weapon defending his fellow soldiers,” says Mrs. Essex, mother of two children who recently obtained a criminal justice degree. “We are looking for 100 people to show up from all over the country to join us as we march past the federal building.”
Organizers plan to show up at noon at the building where several federal agencies have their offices and where the U.S. district court tries civil and criminal defendants from Tennessee and other Southern states.
The group has created a Facebook page.
Meanwhile, another group is petitioning the White House and asking President Obama to honor Mr. White for bravery. To gain notice within the executive branch, the petition has to reach 100,000 signatures by Aug. 28.
Mr. White is father of seven children (one still enwombed in his wife, Franicia) and a practicing Christian who believes in the doctrines of God’s grace. The man at whom Mr. White fired his pistol, Mr. Abdulazeez, was a follower of Mohammad who sought to buy an indulgence for his sins (alcohol, drugs, debts) by an act of jihad. With jihad, Muslims do the work to assure themselves a place in paradise
The legal issues
The rules under which Lt. Cmdr. White serves are the “Navy personal security and law enforcement program.” This program is contained in a 108-page manual that describes naval personnel’s duty as regards personal weapons.
No one may bring a personal weapon into such a facility without first obtaining written permission from the ICO, or installation commanding officer. Lt. Cmdr. White is the ICO of the riverside facility nestled among trees and fields next to Chattanooga State community college.
The JAG prosecutor is reviewing directives that are, to a defendant, traps, some of which the prosecutor can make snap against one’s ankle bone.
Did he make a personal application to the ICO (to himself) for the presence of his weapon? If not, is that because he has authority to bring a private weapon into the facility? Does the commander have to follow rules pertaining to ammo, storage of the weapon, or segregation of the weapon from military arms? As commander, does he have to “register” his private pistol?
If Mr. White has his weapon in his briefcase, he violates (presumably) rule 0306(d)(1) requiring bullets and gun be stowed in separate locked containers. Did he obey another rule that requires “documentation of each time the owner of a personal firearms removes and returns the personal firearm to storage in Navy armories or weapons containers”? Does that rule apply, or not? If Mr. Smith registered his weapon as a man (Tim White, Navy man at the base) with himself as the ICO (Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White), did he make note of the serial number?
Use of pistol not in view
I suspect the JAG probe is not focusing on his use of his weapon. If it is, Mr. White’s defense is necessity. The necessity defense allows for one law to be broken for obedience to another — a higher law. A man rushing a pregnant wife to the hospital offers the necessity defense against a charge of speeding. Officials blowing up houses to prevent the spread of fire have necessity as their defense of tort claims. More likely in view is Mr. White’s attention to the rules in bringing and stowing the weapon on the facility — his ignoring the rules. The JAG is deciding how to apply the administrative webbing, the strictitudes of bureaucratic rules, upon the suspect.
The decision is not merely legal, but politically charged.
The rules, confounding, comprehensive, are designed for the peacetime base, not for the battlefield. If Mr. White consciously overlooked these rules, he did so knowing that his neglect of them would bring demerits. But he wanted in arm’s reach a powerful means of personal protection (a favorite automatic) that would save lives the moment he drew it.
One breaks paperwork rules day after day in anticipation of a single act, that powerful solitary threat against which one acts decisively. One squeezes the trigger, one stays the hand of death against the innocent. Of necessity, Lt. Cmdr. White used his pistol. Mr. White’s action is justified and expiated by Abdulazeez’s bloodletting of unarmed service members.
At least in the eyes of us civilians.
Do constitutional rights apply to one in military service? Some would say yes, that his swearing to uphold the constitution does not deprive him of the protections of the second amendment right to bear arms. I would say no. Military life is just that, a servitude, a sort of voluntary enslavement to martial jurisdiction. Mr. White has no constitutional right to bear arms as a service member. His bearing arms is wholly at the service of the U.S. congress and the federal president.
In the satire Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, the adventurer Gulliver washes up on the shores of Lilliput after his ship sinks. Before he wakes up, that island’s fearful 3-inch tall residents immobilize the giant with hundreds of lengths of tiny string.
Chattanooga also had a naval wreck of sorts July 16 and Mr. White has washed up ashore. But only a dozen Lilliputian strands tie down this survivor. The attack by Mr. Abdulazeez roused Mr. White from desk duty; he hunched behind his pistol and pulled the trigger, not thinking that a possible disregard for paperwork could matter in the larger scheme of things.
— David Tulis hosts a talk show 9 to 11 a.m. weekdays at AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond.