In History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2018 at 12:10 am

Chris Kyle was an American patriot—serving four tours of duty in Iraq. 

And 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.

Chris Kyle January 2012.jpg

Chris Kyle

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 tours 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, 2015, Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, died in a hail of 13 bullets fired by a semi-automatic pistol.

The murderer: Eddie Ray Routh, an Iraqi war veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

Routh, of Lancaster, Texas, a former corporal in the Marines, had been deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

His motive:  “I shot them because they wouldn’t talk to me. I was just riding in the back seat of the truck and nobody would talk to me. They were just taking me to the range so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn’t talk to me. I am sure they have forgiven me.”

Eddie Ray Routh

On February 25, 2015, a jury convicted Routh of double murder and sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Kyle’s believed that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness. And it was that belief that ultimately killed him.

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.” 

Chris Kyle was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose stance on firearms is best described as: “The more guns, the better.”

The NRA:

  • Opposes background checks for firearms owners.
  • Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm. 
  • Opposes banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
  • Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
  • Supports legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun—openly or concealed—even in bars and churches.
  • Has successfully pushed “stand-your-ground” laws in more than half the states. These allow 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.

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.

Even worse, he knew that Routh was unstable. During the drive to the shooting range, he texted Littlefield: ‘This dude is straight-up nuts.”

Kyle, who was 38, was survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.

Kyle was undoubtedly sincere in wanting to help his fellow veterans who suffered from PTSD.

But he could have offered them different—and far safer—forms of help, such as:

  • Urging veterans such as Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
  • Suggesting that they find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building affordable housing for the poor.
  • Helping them find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.

Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment. 

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. 

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, has repeatedly asserted: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

But the death of Chris Kyle raises a question that the NRA has yet to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?

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