A military police officer says he and his colleagues should be allowed to carry their own guns on bases while off duty to help provide security during mass shootings or other incidents.
The debate over whether to allow troops to carry personal firearms on military installations has gained momentum after the recent shooting at Fort Hood, Texas -- the site of two mass shootings since 2009.
On April 2, Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, an Iraq war veteran undergoing treatment for mental health issues, opened fire at the sprawling post outside Killeen, Texas, killing three people and wounding 16 before committing suicide. In 2009, then-Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people at the same location in the deadliest shooting on a U.S. military facility in history. He's awaiting a death sentence.
"It's completely nonsensical," the MP said of existing policy that restricts military law enforcement officers from carrying their own firearms. "These are people who are already acknowledged subject-matter experts in force protection and use of force."
The senior non-commissioned officer requested that his name not be used in order to speak freely about the subject.
Military police officers are only authorized to carry their duty weapons as issued by the armory while on post. Troops aren't allowed to possess personal firearms on base unless the weapons are registered and they're prohibited from carrying them on site.
The issue of letting more troops carry concealed weapons came up during an April 8 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno about it.
"There's some soldiers who feel quite strongly that concealed carry would be a sensible change in policies," Cruz said. "There are others who may disagree. I guess my question would be, it has been a long time since this committee has held a hearing examining that question -- examining the policy benefits and detriments of allowing concealed carry on military bases. In your view, would that be a productive topic for a hearing for this committee?"
Odierno replied, "There's clearly a difference of opinion on this. I would just say, senator, that our assessment is that we right now probably would not initially support something like that. But all this is always worth a discussion, if we think it's important."
With other Texas lawmakers such as Reps. Michael McCaul and Steve Stockman pushing for a change to the policy to allow more troops on posts to be armed, the debate will probably intensify.
The MP said they should start by relaxing the rules for military law enforcement officers. Recent changes to federal legislation will allow them to carry concealed personal weapons nationwide regardless of state or local law, once the Defense Department begins issuing credentials. But even with that, they won't be allowed to carry weapons on military installations.
"Change this," he said, "and it would exponentially increase the bases' internal security."