Gun rights crowd targets military’s firearms policy after Navy Yard shootings

Liz Goodwin
Yahoo NewsSeptember 18, 2013
Flowers, flags and a child's drawing are pictured at a makeshift memorial outside the Navy Yard two days after a gunman killed 12 people before police shot him dead, in Washington, September 18, 2013. U.S. lawmakers are calling for a review into how Aaron Alexis, the suspected shooter in Monday's rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, received and maintained a security clearance, despite a history of violent episodes. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
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Flowers, flags and a child's drawing are pictured at a makeshift memorial outside the Navy Yard after a gunman killed 12 people, in Washington

In the wake of Monday’s mass shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, where a military contractor armed with a 12-gauge shotgun killed 12 people before being shot dead himself, some gun advocates are raising objections about the policy that prohibits servicemen and civilians from arming themselves for protection on bases.

Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, told Newsmax he thinks servicemen should be able to carry their personal weapons on bases. "I'd be all for everybody keeping their sidearms if they're in the military and on a military installation," Gohmert said. "That's something we need to get back to."

John R. Lott, a leading gun rights advocate and the author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” told Yahoo News he believes the Pentagon has effectively “disarmed” servicemen and civilians on bases. He argues that military bases are “gun-free zones” ripe for mass shooting events, and he blames a 1993 executive order signed by Bill Clinton for the change. (The official firearms policy was actually adopted a year earlier, under George H.W. Bush. It largely limits firearms use on bases to military police and other law enforcement officers, with a few other exceptions.)

“The law-abiding, not the criminals, are the ones who obey the ban on guns,” Lott wrote after the Fort Hood shootings in 2009. “Instead of making areas safe for victims, the bans make it safe for the criminal.”

“The cold, hard truth is when Americans are armed they can fight back and shootings like Fort Hood and the Navy Yard would not happen. Our Founding Fathers understood this,” wrote Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, in the Washington Times.

The National Rifle Association declined to comment on the issue through a spokesman. But the NRA’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, has advanced a similar argument — that “gun-free” zones attract mass shooters — in the past after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 first-graders dead. “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said then.

Others strongly refute this argument, saying more guns in the hands of untrained civilians will not prevent shootings. Based on an analysis by the liberal magazine Mother Jones, only one mass shooting in the past 30 years was stopped by an armed civilian.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear that members of the military were able to carry their weapons or concealed handguns on bases before the '90s-era weapons policy, as these gun advocates suggest.

Steven Bucci, a foreign policy expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank and a former Army Special Forces officer, said he doesn’t believe there was “ever an open carry law” on any military base in the country in recent history. “I don’t know where people got this idea that military guys are always carrying around weapons,” Bucci said. He said that in 1973 while stationed at Fort Bragg, he was required to keep his privately owned firearm stored in an arms room while on base.

The former Pentagon official said he personally supports the weapons policy.

“The idea of everybody carrying a weapon because they’re somehow associated with the military, no I’m not comfortable with that, and I’m very much in favor of gun rights,” Bucci said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday that the Pentagon will review security procedures and clearances at all U.S. defense facilities to try to address any gaps.