More weapons for U.S. troops stationed abroad may keep them safe in the event of an attack, but that rationale doesn’t apply to domestic military bases.
In the wake of the Fort Hood shootings last week, the Pentagon is defending its 20-year policy of restricting those who carry firearms on U.S. military bases, even as some lawmakers push for its repeal. In short, it comes down to cost and logistics.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven H. Warren told McClatchy News Service that the Pentagon “does not support arming all personnel. We hold this position for many reasons.” The top reasons, he said, include “safety concerns, the prohibitive costs of use-of-force and weapons training, qualification costs, and compliance with various weapons screening laws.”
At the same time, the Pentagon hasn’t announced any plans to significantly beef up security at U.S. bases. Searching all vehicles and employees for firearms could prove equally expensive, not to mention logistically overwhelming, particularly for bases where thousands of troops and civilians work and live.
Spec. Ivan A. Lopez last week shot and killed four people, including himself, and wounded 16 others at Fort Hood in Texas. It was the third fatal shooting on a U.S. military base since mid-September and the second at Fort Hood since 2009, when Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan killed 13 people.
In 1993, the Army implemented new policies regarding military personnel carrying firearms on base by limiting weapons possession to those involved in security roles. Those changes were set into motion by a related Army directive in 1992.
“The authorization to carry firearms will be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or Department of the Army assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried,” the directive states. “Evaluation of the necessity to carry a firearm will be made considering this expectation weighed against the possible consequences of accidental or indiscriminate use of firearms.”
DOD also has rules for troops living on or off base with regard to personal firearms. Soldiers who live off-base are required to register their weapons with base authorities if they plan on bringing them to base for activities such as target practice at a shooting range. On-base residents always need to register their personal firearms.
A bill to scale back the Pentagon’s firearm restrictions was introduced after the Washington Navy Yard shooting in September resulted in the deaths of 13 people. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), has 15 cosponsors. No action has been taken on the legislation.
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