Heavily armed civilian police officers (not soldiers) guarding the East Rancier Gate At Fort Hood, April 3, 2014.  Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman
Heavily armed civilian police officers (not soldiers) guarding the East Rancier Gate At Fort Hood, April 3, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman

A mother of a soldier one building away from where Ivan Lopez initiated his deadly rampage last week is questioning a decade’s old Department of Defense policy that effectively turns military bases into gun free zones.

The search for answers continues at Fort Hood, Texas, the scene of Wednesday’s shooting rampage. The shooter, Specialist Ivan Lopez, took his life after killing three and injuring at least 16 other people.

The shooting has reawakened a debate over gun control on Capitol Hill. WHNT News 19 spoke with one woman in the Tennessee Valley whose son was just 100 feet from the shooter that day. She is urging lawmakers to push for the right to carry concealed weapons on base. She said her son could have acted, if he had been armed.

“They started describing the buildings where these things were going on,” said Lynda Voyles-Konecny. “I knew exactly where my son was and where the shooter was because I’ve been at Fort Hood.”

Voyles-Konecny’s son, Jason, has been stationed there for the past 7 years. “He didn’t have a weapon to defend himself with,” she said. “It’s hard to talk about, had he had that weapon, I’m confident he would have taken out that shooter.”

Voyles-Konecny’s sentiments are being shared by many Americans of varying levels of familiarity with the military. They can’t understand why those who are trained with firearms aren’t allowed to be armed on duty on base.

First, let’s dispense with the idea that every serviceman needs to be armed while on duty; that doesn’t happen during war on foreign soil away from the front lines, and will not happen domestically.

That belief ignores the fact that the supermajority of servicemen don’t use weapons in their duties, and many never fire a gun again after basic training (unless periodically required in certain roles). Arming every serviceman would be a logistical nightmare fraught with negligent discharges and millions of wasted man-hours logging weapons in and out of armories.

Likewise, on-duty concealed carry is a political  and security non-starter.

There is however, a plausible window of opportunity to push for senior officers and NCOs on duty to be armed with a service sidearm while on duty, and perhaps even lobby for controlled weapons lockers with M4 carbines or M16 rifles that can only be opened by a combination of two senior officers or NCOs.

While adding rifles to the mix might sound extreme to some, 5.56 rifles can be utilized with hollowpoint fragmenting rounds in a stateside law-enforcement capacity that offers soldiers greater range, practical accuracy, high standard magazine capacity, and a lower risk of over-penetration than many pistols. Military rifles are also the correct response to the ever-present and some might argue inevitable attempt at a terrorist attack on a stateside military base.

We’ve been relatively fortunate in that while there have been multiple on-base mass shootings during the Obama Presidency, they have all been fratricidal attacks carried out by individuals armed with short range and relatively low-powered pistols and shotguns. There haven’t been any left-wing terrorists attacks like the one the Weather Underground plotted for Fort Dix that was only stopped by an over-eager bomb-builder’s premature detonation, and the few Islamist plotters who have dreamed of attacking bases have been stopped in their tracks.

Experts acknowledge, however, that terrorists only need to be successful once.

A small team of moderately-well-trained terrorists armed with crude IEDs and common long arms could quickly cause dozens if not hundreds of casualties in the 10-15 minutes it takes for base security to identify the location of a threat and begin responding effectively under our current system. Senior Officers (and perhaps more importantly, senior NCOs or trusted NCOs with CQB experience) with sidearms and service rifles could hope to contain and perhaps neutralize future threats while military and civilian security forces begin responding.

Clearly, what we have now isn’t working. It’s time to start looking at better options to protect those who have decided their lives to protecting us.