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Some question benefits of posts’s new gun regulations

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Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:13 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Fort Hood officials announced Dec. 17 a new command policy regarding privately owned firearms, and it has some questioning whether it would do anything to prevent incidents such as the Nov. 5 shooting that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded.

The new policy, part of Fort Hood Regulation 190-11, was signed into effect Dec. 15 by Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps and Fort Hood commander. It states:

All servicemembers and their families living, residing or temporarily staying at Fort Hood must register any privately owned firearm kept on post with the Directorate of Emergency Services.

All servicemembers living in barracks or in post temporary housing must notify their immediate commander of the possession of privately owned firearms and keep the weapon in their respective unit arms room in accordance with Army Regulation 190-11 and Fort Hood Regulation 190-11.

Servicemembers and their families living, residing or temporarily staying at Fort Hood will immediately notify Directorate of Emergency Services of any sale, purchase, trade, gift, exchange or any other action that changes the ownership or long-term possession of a privately owned firearm kept on the installation.

All persons, whether servicemember or civilian, who intend to transport a privately owned firearm onto Fort Hood must first register that firearm with the Directorate of Emergency Services.

When entering Fort Hood, all are required to declare to access control point personnel that they are bringing a privately owned firearm onto the installation.

Privately owned firearms being transported onto Fort Hood will, at all times, be accompanied by post registration documentation and are subject to inspection.

Despite a lengthy release sent out by III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs Office, little was changed in the post's privately owned firearms policy. It didn't affect soldiers, airmen or families as much as civilians who travel to Fort Hood.

The post has long had policies regarding those in uniform and the registering of their firearms, Fort Hood officials said in mid-December. Now, weapons must be declared at the gate, civilians who want to bring their weapons on post must now register them and Concealed Weapons License do not apply at Fort Hood.

The regulation addendum was in response to the Nov. 5 incident when a gunman in an Army Combat Uniform opened fire at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

Twelve soldiers and one civilian employee were killed. More than 30 others, including two Fort Hood civilian police officers who were first to arrive on the scene, were wounded.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist assigned to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, was arrested and later charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

The two civilian police officers at Fort Hood, Mark Todd and Kimberly Munley, shot Hasan.

Two handguns were allegedely used by the shooter: a semi-automatic 5.7 mm pistol and a .357 Magnum revolver, said Chris Grey, spokesman for U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Belvoir, Va. He would not say whether the weapons were registered on post as per the privately owned firearms regulation.

That information is part of the criminal investigation, Grey said Monday.

Fort Hood officials said that the update was a step the command took to ensure the health of the post's population as protected. The shooting came at a time when officials were making efforts to make the post more open and friendly to outsiders following post-Sept. 11 restrictions.

"As part of a review of our security and force protection measures, and because safety and security are top concerns among the people who live and work at the Great Place, we decided to strengthen the requirements for (privately owned vehicles) to enter Fort Hood," said Tyler Broadway, post spokesman.

Increased security measures included more vehicle searches at gates, a suspension of the post's open-gate policy from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and other measures officials wouldn't address.

"Because force protection is so important, we do not discuss all of our techniques, tactics or procedures," Broadway said when asked what other security measures Fort Hood put in place to keep its population safe.

The new regulations "will do absolutely nothing to prevent the type shooting that occurred a few weeks ago," local resident Roy Salazar wrote in a Dec. 18 e-mail. He called it a "feel-good policy."

"A criminal or terrorist is not going to take the time to ensure his or her firearm is registered before going on a crime spree," he wrote. "The regulation imposed on law abiding citizens has had the intended terrorist and criminal effect. Only the terrorists and criminals will have guns."

Another local resident, Joel Welsh, compared the updated firearms policy to another policy update enacted a year ago at Fort Hood regarding motorcycle safety.

Deadly motorcycle accidents involving soldiers were a problem at Fort Hood and then-commander, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, revised the post's motorcycle safety policy.

In a change that garnered much criticism from many at Fort Hood, including retirees and local residents, Lynch signed a general order that required all motorcyclists to carry and present a Motorcycle Safety Foundation card, valid registration and proof of insurance to be granted access to post. The cards are given to those who complete the foundation's riding course, which are taught on post and in several locations in the area.

Critics said that to get on post, the motorcycle must have a Defense Department decal. Riders could get decals only after providing officials with a foundation card, so showing the card at the gate was a redundant waste of time. Welsh, a former servicemember, said the updated motorcycle policy was more restrictive and difficult to comply with than on any other post to which he has ever been.

"They're based entirely on reactive, knee-jerk responses to accidents caused by soldiers doing the wrong thing and placing themselves in danger. But rather than punish the individual or hold them accountable for their actions, the chain of command takes the personal responsibility out of the equation and states that all motorcycle riders will comply, whether they are experienced riders or not. It doesn't matter that you have ridden for decades without a single accident or traffic violation; you have a motorcycle, therefore you are incapable of making intelligent responsible decisions about your actions while operating it."

The new firearms policy was "just basically falling back onto the old policy that was in place before the last commander came to post," he said. "It's comfortable, it's safer feeling and it's easy to prove that there is some type of control in place."

Retired Lt. Col. Dave Wood, Fort Hood Skeet and Trap Club president, a volunteer organization that runs the Fort Hood Skeet and Trap Range, said the new firearms policy requirements do nothing to "increase our force protection, prevent unauthorized (privately owned firearms) from entering post or stop a madman or terrorist from using a firearm on post."

What the new regulations do, he said, is "severely dampen the desire" for those off post to want to use the Skeet and Trap Range.

The range serves military and civilian shooters throughout Central Texas, including youth groups and state- and Army-wide competitions.

"By making it a requirement to register a (privately owned firearm) before you can even bring it on post, you eliminate those shooters who may be traveling some distance to Fort Hood from participating in a competition," he said. "By requiring them to 'register before you come,' you have effectively told them you don't want them to participate."

Declaring firearms and submitting to inspections will result in delays and hassles, he added.

Wood recommended going back to a pre-June 2009 version of Regulation 190-11 that required off-post firearms to be registered before they were used on post.

"This would allow someone who traveled from Dallas to come on post, get his (privately owned firearm) registered, and then participate in a competition," he wrote. "I would also recommend that proof of registration only be provided at the (access control point, or gate) when it is asked for. This will prevent delays during peak traffic periods and in no way decrease post security."

Wood said he fully supported any and all measures to increase the security and protection of soldiers. His son is a soldier with multiple combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, and Wood was angered and saddened by the "atrocious acts" on Nov. 5.

"I don't think that the more restrictive (privately owned firearms) security measures outlined above provide any meaningful result," he said.

Fort Hood officials simply responded to the criticism garnered by the updated policy, saying that "no policy can prevent every kind of incident."

"The motivation behind this policy involves our soldiers, airmen, families and civilians feeling safe and secure where they work and live," according to information provided by Broadway.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547

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