The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

April 6, 2014

Lessons from 2nd Fort Hood

Why it matters: We owe it to our military personnel to take the time, compromise on solutions

The shooting at Fort Hood last week has stirred up more debates about guns and mental health but adding little more than some oratorical dust.

Consider these elements:

n Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, who killed three and wounded 16 others before taking his own life, was “under diagnosis” for post-traumatic stress disorder but had “not yet been diagnosed.” This perplexed mental health professionals who reportedly said it takes about one hour to determine PTSD.

n The .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol he bought off base was purchased legally. However, although under treatment, there was no way of knowing he had purchased the handgun. And, under recently-enacted legislation pushed by the National Rifle Association, his commanding officers were barred from asking him about it even if they suspected.

n After the Washington Naval Yard shooting last year in which 12 people were shot to death, the Defense Department admitted it had done a poor job securing the facility, screening personal and recognizing and addressing the mental health issues of the shooter. Months later, we are still addressing base security.

n Questions about why combat-trained service people are not carrying side arms while on base have again surfaced and some members of Congress want to re-examine that policy. But despite the Fort Hood shooting of 2009, the Naval Yard shooting in 2013 and now this latest shooting, efforts to introduce such legislation, little action has advanced except to post signs more prominently telling people firearms are not allowed in federal facilities.

To this last point, soldiers once were allowed to carry arms if base commanders deemed it appropriate. However, in 1993, all personnel except security detail were barred from carrying firearms. Following the 2009 shootings, not only did the ban remain but now soldiers are required to register with their commanders the weapons they store on base — regardless of conceal carry or permit to carry laws in that state.

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