Wednesday’s deadly shooting at Fort Hood raised questions about whether soldiers should be allowed to carry personal weapons on military installations.
In the wake of the shooting, which left four dead and 16 injured, it was revealed gunman Spc. Ivan A. Lopez used a legally purchased .45-caliber handgun in the attack before turning that same weapon on himself. That gun was not registered with Fort Hood’s Directorate of Emergency Services, nor was it declared at the gate — both policy for soldiers on post with personal firearms.
Fort Hood’s policy on carrying personal firearms — dictated by the Defense Department — requires all service members and dependents living, residing or temporarily staying at Fort Hood to register personal firearms with Fort Hood’s Directorate of Emergency Services. Concealed weapons are not allowed on post.
Any service members living in the barracks are required to register personal firearms and store them in their unit’s arms room.
Soldiers who live off post are not required to register their personal weapons, unless they plan to bring them on post, the policy states.
“We tried to do everything we can to encourage soldiers to register their personal weapons,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “We are not legally able to compel them to register weapons when they reside off post.”
Lopez lived in Killeen.
In the wake of Wednesday’s shooting, Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley said there would be no immediate changes to the post’s policy on weapons.
“At this time there is no change in the DOD policy that I am aware of in terms of carrying a weapon on a military installation,” Milley said.
While Milley did not indicate the policy would change, some federal lawmakers said such requirements likely will be given a second look.
“I’m confident that there will be a thorough review of that policy,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, during a news conference Thursday at Fort Hood’s main gate.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, did not directly answer questions on the subject at a news conference Friday afternoon.
“At this point today, we need to be focusing on the victims — praying for their recovery and helping this community come back together,” he said. “There will be plenty of time to have discussion about public policy issues going forward.”
While Cornyn and Cruz appeared reluctant to address the issues, one Texas Republican, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, vocally urged lawmakers to allow soldiers to carry weapons on post.
“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,” he said.
In a statement issued shortly after Wednesday’s shooting, Stockman urged his fellow lawmakers to support his bill, House Resolution 3199, which would repeal the ban on military personnel carrying weapons on installations.
“In 1991, just six miles from Fort Hood, we suffered a mass shooting at a Luby’s cafeteria of civilians who by law had to leave their guns in their cars. Texas responded to this tragedy by passing a concealed carry bill allowing civilians to defend themselves in public,” Stockman said. “It’s time for Congress to allow soldiers to defend themselves on base before this happens again.”
While politicians and policy makers will likely continue to debate, Fort Hood and the surrounding community will continue their attempts to move on after yet another tragedy — a feeling summed up by State House District 55 Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, on Friday.
“It’s a shame that we are having to live through this scenario all over again,” Sheffield said.