Gun control is driving a wedge between congressional Republicans and leaders at the Pentagon, who usually see eye-to-eye on a lot of topics. Republicans on the Hill are interested in changing the rules for allowing soldiers to carry weapons on base. This comes after a second shooting at Fort Hood where gun control has emerged as a hot topic and many say if somebody would have been carrying a weapon, the shooter would have been stopped quicker than having to wait for authorities. The Pentagon is not supportive of this change to its gun control policy and does not want the current policy to be altered.
Hawkish Republicans and the senior leadership of the Pentagon typically see eye-to-eye on most things, but the deadly shooting at Fort Hood last week has exposed a rift on a highly-charged issue: Gun control.
After U.S. Army Specialist Ivan Antonio Lopez killed three troops and wounded 16 others last week, Republicans on Capitol Hill began calling for new legislation to allow servicemembers to carry concealed weapons on U.S. bases. The measures are strongly opposed by the Pentagon, which says they would be costly and do nothing to improve security at bases.
“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,” a spokesman for the department said.
But on Capitol Hill, a number of GOP lawmakers say the current system is broken and if more Fort Hood personnel were armed last week, Lopez would not have been able to kill and injure as many as he did.
“We should be looking at the idea of senior leadership at these bases, give them the ability to carry a weapon,” Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee told Fox News on Sunday.
McCaul isn’t alone. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) introduced legislation following the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard in September that would allow servicemembers and civilians to carry personal firearms on bases. A spokesman for Stockman says his bill gained three co-sponsors since last week: Paul Broun (R-GA), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) and Scott Perry (R-PA). In the Senate, James Inhofe (R-OK) also says he supports allowing service members to carry on base. At a hearing last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested the ban on concealed carry weapons should be lifted.
The Pentagon counters that a lack of guns on military bases is not the problem.
Existing rules allow military police and some other personnel to carry weapons deemed necessary for their job. In such a situation, a service member would openly carry government-provided weapons with the approval of the installation commander. Beyond that, the military says it “does not support arming all personnel,” a position it came upon after ordering a review of safety protocols following the 2009 Fort Hood killings and another review following the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in September.