- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fort Hood may seem worlds apart from Sandy Hook Elementary School, but they have at least two things in common: Both have been victimized recently by horrific mass shootings, and neither allows the carrying of firearms.

Critics of gun-free zones say that’s not a coincidence. In the aftermath of Wednesday’s shooting at Fort Hood, the second in five years, calls are growing for the military to allow base personnel to arm themselves.

Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas Republican, renewed his effort last week for House members to support his “Safe Military Bases Act,” which would repeal the ban on bringing weapons on base. Currently only base-security personnel are permitted to carry arms in most cases.

“This is the third mass shooting on a military base in five years, and it’s because our trained soldiers aren’t allowed to carry defensive weapons,” said Mr. Stockman in a statement. “Anti-gun activists have turned our military bases into soft targets for killers.”

Fort Hood was scarred by tragedy for the second time when Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, killed three and wounded 16 after opening fire Wednesday with a .45-caliber pistol he smuggled onto the base. He took his own life after being confronted by an armed security officer.

Rep. Roger Williams, Texas Republican, whose district includes the base, told the Burleson Star that the gunman might have been stopped sooner had more people on the base been allowed to carry weapons.

“If they had been armed, they probably could have stopped this action, said Mr. Williams. “These are the most highly trained people we have with weapons. They are returning from overseas war zones. They shouldn’t have to return to their homes — on our military bases — and face a war zone.”

Military bases are becoming increasingly popular targets for shootings, but so far the Pentagon has stood firm on its policy limiting who may carry weapons on base.

After Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009, the Defense Department examined its policies on concealed carry, and again after the deadly September shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart.

“DoD does not support arming all personnel. We hold this position for many reasons,” said Mr. Pickart in an email. “Some of the top reasons are safety concerns, the prohibitive costs of use-of-force and weapons training, qualification costs, and compliance with various weapons screening laws (for example, the Lautenberg Amendment).”

“However, DoD guidance does provide flexibility to Component and Installation Commanders to arm additional personnel based on necessity as long as they can meet the requirements of Department of Defense Directive 5210.56,” said Mr. Pickart.

That directive states that arming military personnel with firearms “shall be limited and controlled.”

“Qualified personnel shall be armed when required for assigned duties and there is reasonable expectation that DoD installations, property, or personnel lives or DoD assets will be jeopardized if personnel are not armed,” says the directive.

Steven Bucci, former commander of the Army 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces, and now with the Heritage Foundation, said he sees problems with allowing military or civilian personnel to carry firearms on base.

“I just get very concerned about some of these comments,” said Mr. Bucci. “Fort Hood is the size of a small city. There are all kinds of people there — do you really want everyone around there carrying a weapon? And trust me, I’m a big Second Amendment advocate.”

Mr. Bucci added that military installations “probably have less crime than anywhere else, but when you do have something happen, it’s pretty spectacular.”

That position was echoed by Adm. Michael Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”

“I’m not one, as someone who’s been on many, many bases and posts, that would argue for arming anybody that’s on base,” said Mr. Mullen.

Even so, Rep. Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that he wants to revisit the issue.

“It doesn’t take very long to wound and kill a large number of people,” said Mr. McCaul. “I think that would be a deterrent, number one, and number two, a way to have a quick response to any sort of shooter that’s come on these bases.”