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Editorial: Rules for firearms on military bases deserve reconsideration

By Editorial Board
On April 14, 2014

Earlier this month a gunman open fired at the Fort Hood Army base, killing three people and wounding 16 others before taking his own life. This is the second time such a tragedy has occurred at Fort Hood, and it brings up the question of what should be done to prevent future instances from occurring. The approach should be two-fold, looking at mental health and at allowing guns to be on military bases.
The base commander, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, said investigators believed that the mental health of the gunman, identified as Specialist Ivan Lopez, had contributed to the rampage. Lopez was said to have had an "unstable psychiatric and psychological condition," and also self-reported a traumatic brain injury upon his return from serving in Iraq, according to The New York Times.
Additionally, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Lopez had been examined by a psychiatrist within the last month with no indications of the potential for a violent act. He was also on a sleep aid and medications to assist with anxiety and depression. While Lopez may not have been diagnosed with PTSD, it is still clear that he was suffering some form of mental trauma, as is common for soldiers returning from war. Not only does the military need to put more effort into understanding and treating such conditions, but also in identifying them at an earlier stage.
The other half of the coin is the presence of guns on military bases. Under a law implemented in 1993, military soldiers are not allowed to be armed on military bases. This was done in the interest of keeping the military base a professional environment, but it is harmful when scenarios like Fort Hood occur. Military soldiers are more qualified than the average citizen to bear arms and have likely gone through more training in how to properly handle a firearm. This isn't to say that every soldier on a base should be allowed to carry a weapon. Ideally, it would be a privilege given to higher ranking officials and other parts of the current law would remain intact, such as soldiers taking certain medication not being allowed to carry a weapon.
With a focus on mental health as a preventative measure and having some soldiers on military bases armed as a way to quickly respond should a similar incident occur, the military can take steps towards hopefully reducing tragedies like those at Fort Hood. 


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