Saturday, Nov. 07, 2009|
Army to review gun policies for all bases
By ANNA M.TINSLEY AND AMAN BATHEJA - McClatchy Newspapers
FORT WORTH, Texas -- One day after a shooter opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr. ordered a review of all force protection policies at Army bases worldwide.
Thursday's shooting, he said during a briefing at Fort Hood, was a "kick in the gut."
Casey's announcement comes after questions were raised about base security and why soldiers couldn't protect themselves where they live and work.
"There will be an investigation, a look at the whole policy, but Congress should not step in and try to change the policy," said U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas.
Each branch of the military sets a policy on whether guns may be carried on bases. Private guns are not allowed on Army bases or at facilities such as the Naval Air Station Fort Worth.
Soldiers generally carry weapons on base only when there is a reason, such as a training exercise or a trip to the firing range. Personal weapons are registered with authorities on the base and stored until they are signed out.
"This base, and other bases, these are people's homes," Granger said. "So there are people who are armed on base - military police, security guards - but not in their homes, their schools or, in this case, the deployment area."
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, is among those wondering whether that is the right policy."The investigation at Fort Hood is still ongoing, and Congressman Burgess believes that answers are needed before conclusions can be drawn and action can be taken on related issues," said Lauren Bean, a Burgess spokeswoman.
Thursday's shooting revived the debate about gun rules for military bases. Currently, concealed-handgun laws such as the one in Texas do not apply on military bases.
Suzanna Hupp, a former state representative whose parents were among the Killeen, Texas, Luby's massacre victims in 1991, said allowing soldiers on base to carry arms would not prevent attacks like Thursday's but would likely reduce the damage.
"Of course the element of surprise was a probably valuable tool for a creep like this," Hupp said. "You're not going to prevent somebody from killing those first couple of people ... but after that ... it could have ended much, much, much sooner."
Hupp said the issue wouldn't be addressed while the Obama administration is in power.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a gun rights advocate, said that the policies at military bases should be up to military officials but that a review makes sense.
"I'm not saying the policy should change ... but again we have an example of a shooter going to a target-rich environment where he knew that no one was there who could resist," he said.
Gun control groups quickly pointed to the Fort Hood shooting as a reason to stiffen gun control laws.
"This latest tragedy, at a heavily fortified Army base, ought to convince more Americans to reject the argument that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people with more guns in more places," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.