Pentagon: Despite Navy Yard, Fort Hood shootings, not safe to allow armed military personnel

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2014 – The Defense Department does not support allowing its personnel to carry weapons on military installations, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said.

“The department took a close look at this after the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood and again after [last year’s] Washington Navy Yard shooting,” Warren said.

Such a move would create a number of complications, he said, not the least of which is safety.

“Another reason is the … prohibitive cost of the training, the qualification requirements [and] recertification,” the colonel said.

There are legal obstacles as well, he said. Local, state and federal policy requirements pose numerous challenges.

Warren pointed at the Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which makes it illegal for persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes to possess firearms or ammunition, as one example. Service members convicted of such crimes may continue to serve under certain circumstances, but still are prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.

“So, there are a lot of barriers to this besides the department’s position, and we’ve spelled this out before that we do not support it,” the colonel said.

The ongoing investigation into the shootings April 2 at Fort Hood, Texas, should be allowed to develop in due course, Warren said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been clear that something did go wrong, the colonel said. “Now we’re allowing this investigation to unfold before we make any major steps,” he added. “The focus right now is on caring for the wounded, caring for the family members of those wounded and the greater Fort Hood community, and proceeding with the investigation.”

Investigators are looking for potential gaps in the mental health care system or in security procedures, Warren said. One aspect of the investigation will cover whether red flags were raised about the alleged shooter by mental health professionals, he noted.

“It’s entirely too early to make a judgment. … We have to let the investigation unfold, and then we have to examine what we can do better,” he said.

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