The horrific act of terrorism Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan stands accused of perpetrating last week at Fort Hood in Texas is once again revealing the difference between the two views. For many, it is clearly understood that it was Maj. Hasan’s alleged actions that are evil: The conscious decision to betray not only his oath as an officer in the armed forces of the United States, but the commission of the most horrific act of terrorism within the territory of this nation since September 11, 2001 — these actions are seen by most rational human beings as evil. Whether a murderer commits his crimes with a broken bottle, vehicle, or a semi-automatic weapon, the intention and action of the individual are where the moral fault rests.
For others, however, it is the object which is evil. Thus, in the case of the Fort Hood massacre, one encounters the description of Maj. Hasan’s weapon of choice as a “cop killer gun.” For example, a story at ABCNews.go.com led with the headline, “‘Cop Killer’ Gun Used in Ft. Hood Shooting, Officials Said,” and declared,
The gun thought to be used in the Fort Hood massacre packs so much firepower, it's known as 'the Cop Killer,' federal law enforcement officials said.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly packed a FN Herstal Five-seveN tactical pistol, which according to federal law enforcement officials, was legally purchased from the "Guns Galore" shop in Killeen, Texas in Aug. 2009. The store's manager, David Cheadle, said that particular firearm can hold 20 rounds in a standard clip and take a ten round clip extension. Cheadle said with one clip and one round in the chamber, one could fire 31 rounds before reloading.
Hasan may have used an expanded clip in the shooting.
On FN Herstal's webpage, the benefits of the Five-seveN pistol note that it can "defeat the enemy in all close combat situations in urban areas, jungle conditions, night missions and any self defense action."
Whether intentionally or not, the comments of Maj. Hasan’s cousin, Nader Hasan, immediately after the shooting built on the evil-object theme: “He had always wanted to just get away from the war and (that) environment.... He wasn’t someone who even enjoyed going to the firing range.”
For a man with a purported disinterest in firearms, Maj. Hasan demonstrated a chilling facility with his weapon of choice. Setting aside inflammatory language about “cop killer” guns (a term which is almost as descriptively pointless as “assault rifle”), it was not a gun which was a killer, but, allegedly, a major in the U.S. Army. The issue is not the weapon, but a system which purportedly knew Hasan was an outspoken Islamic extremist and failed to act on that knowledge.
Photo of Nidal Malik Hasan: AP Images