Chris Kyle was an American patriot–serving four tours of duty in Iraq.
He was a killer: From 1999 to 2009 he recorded more than 160 confirmed kills as a sniper–the most in U.S. military history. Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.
He was an expert on firearms: After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team. And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.
He was a successful writer–author of the 2012 bestselling American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.
In 2013, he wrote the equally bestselling American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.
He created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares, to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.
In 2014, his autobiography, American Sniper, became a major film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie portrays his work as a SEAL marksman in Iraq and his struggles to be a good husband and father during his tour of duty.
And Kyle was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD–Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It was this last activity–and, more importantly, his approach to therapy–that cost him his life.
On February 2, an Iraq War veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD turned a semi-automatic pistol on Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.
The accused murderer is Eddie Ray Routh, of Lancaster, Texas. Routh, a corporal in the Marines, was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.
Eddie Ray Routh
Police later found the murder weapon at his home.
Routh is being held on one charge of capital murder and two charges of murder.
It was apparently Kyle’s belief that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness.
Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said that Routh’s mother “may have reached out to Mr. Kyle to try to help her son.
“We kind of have an idea that maybe that’s why they were at the range for some type of therapy that Mr. Kyle assists people with. And I don’t know if it’s called shooting therapy, I don’t have any idea.”
According to Travis Cox, the director of FITCO Cares: “What I know is Chris and a gentleman–great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield–took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them.”
The National Rifle Association has taken a stance on firearms that can only be described as: “The more guns, the better.”
- Opposes any background checks for firearms owners.
- Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm.
- Opposes laws banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
- Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
- Pushes legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun–openly or concealed, even in bars and churches.
- Is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” laws now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to try to retreat first.
- Has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated ”cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.
- Has repeatedly asserted that if more Americans knew the joys of firearm ownership they would just as fervently resist any attempt at controlling the spread of firearms.
Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States. Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.
And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm.
And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.
Kyle, who was 38, is survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.
Certainly only praise can be lavished on Kyle for his generous efforts to help his fellow veterans suffering from PTSD.
But, equally certainly, there were other–and far safer–forms of help that he could have offered–such as:
- Urging Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
- Suggesting that he find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building affordable housing for the poor.
- Helping him find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.
Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment.
Kyle almost certainly knew he was dealing with a mentally unstable person.
Yet he chose to place himself in close proximity to such a man. And to take him to a shooting range where the discharge of firearms is expected.
Kyle was an expert on using firearms in self-defense. But that knowledge proved useless when he allowed his empathy to overrule his common sense.
And this, in turn, raises yet another question for the NRA to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?