Investigators say Army Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire last Wednesday at the base, killing four people and wounding 16.
And while it might seem defense against a potential gunman would be straightforward on a military base, on-base soldiers, including those at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, are not allowed to carry weapons, even with a carry permit. Instead, they depend on security guards for protection.
With a U.S. Senate seat and several congressional districts open in Georgia this election season, many are debating whether or not the ban, put into effect in 1992, should be lifted.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is not up for re-election this year. He didn’t go as far as saying guns should be allowed, but did say the issue at least deserves study.
“In light of the shooting at Fort Hood, it is important that the Department of Defense consider all options before them, including amending the gun restriction policy,” Isakson said in an email. “Such a decision should be made based on thorough study and consideration.”
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) represents the 11th Congressional District, including most of Cobb County. He is one of several high-profile candidates running to fill Georgia’s other Senate seat, which was left open by the retiring Saxby Chambliss. Gingrey also would not commit either way on the issue, saying it needs more study.
“It’s one thing to say officers should be able to carry,” said Gingrey spokesman Cameron Harley. “We want to see what the military has to say about this. These guys are all trained; if someone is trying to do harm they are obviously mentally stable and it’s better to have someone ready to defend. But at the same time we’re cautious about telling the military how to run their bases. That’s something military officers need to have full control of. We’re not trying to make this into a political talking point when it comes to military stuff.”
In the 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 using a personal handgun. Lopez reportedly purchased his gun at the same store as Hasan and another man who planned an attack but failed in 2011. In each case, the men violated base rules by bringing the guns inside.
In addition to allowing military personnel to use weapons, some have proposed searching everyone entering a base or increasing the budget to increase defense spending as potential solutions.
Harley noted the issue has come up after previous base shootings.
“The first Fort Hood shooting comes up a lot,” said the Gingrey spokesman. “It was an issue in Congress when his (Hasan’s) trial was going on. It’s something we’re looking to talk with military leaders about.”
Candidates say ‘arm the soldiers’
Other candidates for the Senate seat threw their full support behind lifting the ban, including former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, a Republican.
“What happened this week is a complete tragedy,” said Handel spokesman Corry Bliss. “Karen, as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, does believe that the men and women of our armed services should have the right to be armed on base.”
The ban was instituted in February 1992.
Smyrna’s Bob Barr is looking to get back into the U.S. House of Representatives by running for the 11th District seat, and is one of many Republicans to point fingers at a former Democratic president.
“Since 1993, thanks to a policy ordered by then-president Bill Clinton, military bases in the U.S. have become gun-free zones, except for MPs or personnel engaged in actual firearms training,” said Barr’s spokesman and son, Derek Barr. “It makes no sense whatsoever to prohibit virtually all military personnel on our bases from carrying weapons. While rescinding such a ridiculous policy might not prevent another mass shooting such as those at Foot Hood in 2009 and this year, common sense tells us it definitely would stop such incidents far more quickly.”
But Barr’s assertion has been called into question. Clinton was elected in November 1992 and took office in January of 1993, nearly a year after the policy went into effect. Derek Barr said that issue is debatable.
“Depending on what source you use, documents were issued in both 1992 and 1993,” he said. “We found a Blaze article which said it was in 1992, and a Washington Times article saying it was 1993.”
According to Media Matters, a liberal-leaning media watchdog group, the order came down in 1992 under President George Herbert Walker Bush and then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.
“As The New Republic explained, a 1992 Department of Defense directive established the rules limiting firearms on military bases to ‘qualified personnel,’ issued under former President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney,” the group stated on its website, mediamatters.org.