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Service members and federal civilians could carry personal firearms on military bases under a bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, that would reverse a 20-year-old policy on firearms.
“Why are civilians at a restaurant allowed to defend themselves but soldiers trained in firearms aren’t?” Stockman said. “Why can’t we extend common-sense gun laws like open carry to our soldiers?”
The Safe Military Bases Act, HR 3199, is Stockman’s response to the Sept. 16 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and is similar to legislation introduced after the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.
Stockman said mass shootings could be stopped if people on base carried their own guns.
“Our disarmed military bases are vulnerable targets for terrorists, as we saw in Fort Hood and the Navy Yard,” he said in a statement. “Despite that, soldiers trained to use guns cannot carry on base. The result is two mass killings where defenseless soldiers had to watch as their friends were murdered.”
“Saving lives by allowing trained soldiers to carry firearms should be an easy fix,” Stockman said. “No reasonable person can oppose that.”
His bill has six original cosponsors. It was referred to the House armed services and judiciary committees for consideration.
Firearms policies had been largely left to base commanders until 1992, when the Defense Department revised its regulations to limit who could carry weapons. At stateside installations, firearms were restricted by a Defense Department directive to law enforcement and security personnel, those guarding prisoners and those taking firearms training.
“The authorization to carry firearms shall be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried,” the directive said. “Evaluation of the necessity to carry a firearm shall be made considering this expectation weighed against the possible consequences of accidental or indiscriminate use of firearms.”
Current policy, revised in 2011 after the Fort Hood shooting, adds another line to the policy: “Overriding factors in determining whether or not to arm are the mission and threat.”
Although this original directive was issued in February 1992, Stockman and other opponents of the military’s policy on carrying personal firearms refer to this as a “Clinton-era” policy because the Army issued a separate instruction reinforcing the DoD policy in 1993.