In one week, there were two mass shootings at U.S. military installations–including an attack by a foreign national–raising questions about a controversial policy about firearm use on bases.
“Last week’s shooting that claimed four lives and injured several others has renewed scrutiny of Pentagon policies that severely restrict the ability of military personnel to carry guns on bases,” Fox10 News reports.
On Wednesday, a sailor shot and killed two civilian Defense Department workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii, then killed himself. Two days later, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, Mohammed Alshamrani, who was in the U.S. to participate in a program at Naval Air Station Pensacola that trains foreign service members, killed three people.
More than 15 fatal shootings that have occurred at U.S. military facilities since 2009, Fox 10 reports, and gun-free policies are being blamed.
NBC News reports:
Most American have not spent time in uniform, and so it may come as a shock that a military camp or base, with thousands of service members, is not bristling with weapons. In fact, all military arms, including small arms and handguns, are in locked racks or safes in secured arms rooms. Individual troops are assigned specific weapons, and they are issued only under signature for training, then returned under signature at the conclusion of the exercise. This means gunfire on bases is exceedingly rare, despite a handful of high-profile mass shootings like the deadly 2009 shooting spree in Fort Hood, Texas.
Service members may also possess private weapons, but these are treated the same ways. Obviously, many service members living off base also own guns, and commanders have a difficult time restricting members from bringing those weapons onto the base. So there is an interesting contrast that develops between the attitude towards weapons on military bases and the attitude towards weapons that has developed among the civilian population, especially in open-carry states. This can make security difficult.
“What they’ve done is they’ve made our military bases so-called gun-free zones,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the pro-gun Second Amendment Foundation, told Fox10. “And all they’ve really become is victim-disarmament zones, and people have no means of defending themselves. And it just doesn’t work. It’s proven it hasn’t worked. It’s really kind of a stupid policy. And I hope Congress changes it.”
President Donald J. Trump has also criticized the policy .
“They were a military base in a gun-free zone,” Trump said in a speech last year, referencing a shooting at a military recruiting center in Tennessee in 2015. “They were asked to check their guns quite far away,” he said. “And a maniac walked in, guns blazing, killed all five of ’em. He wouldn’t have had a chance if these world-class marksmen had – on a military base – access to their guns, and I’m gonna look at that whole policy on military bases.”
Those who support gun restrictions on bases say if there were more guns on base, accidental shootings might increase.
While the military contends that there are enough trained military police available to respond to urgent situations, Gottlieb noted that, according to reports, it was the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office who shot Alshamrani in Pensacola last week, not base police.
“In this particular case in Pensacola, it appears that it took civilian law enforcement to come on base to solve the problem because the military police weren’t there or couldn’t get there in an adequate amount of time,” Gottlieb told Fox10.
One of the shooting victims in Pensacola was the captain of the U.S. Naval Academy rifle team. His brother said he was an “excellent marksman,” Fox News reports. The outlet interviewed several military members who did not provide their names because they were not authorized to speak with the media. Some said the shooter had 10 minutes to carry out the assault. One said, “It’s so stupid that on a military base, the shooter was allowed to roam free for so long. In a gun fight, that’s an eternity.”
“We trust 18-year-old privates in combat with grenades, anti-tank missiles, rifles and machine guns, but we let service members get slaughtered because we don’t trust anyone to be armed back here in the United States,” a senior U.S. Army officer told the outlet.
The brother of one of the three victims, Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, is urging lawmakers and military officers to allow service members to protect themselves on base.
“[Joshua] was well qualified to have a firearm and defend himself. If we are going to ask these young men and women to stand watch for our country, they need the opportunity to defend themselves,” Adam Watson said during an appearance Tuesday morning on “Fox and Friends.” “This isn’t the first time this happened and if we don’t change something, then it won’t be the last.”
“Our message is simple: arm us,” one pilot told Fox News. “We don’t want to count on cops or gate guards to save us in a crisis.”
DMLNewsApp founder Dennis Michael Lynch condemned the terror attack at a U.S. naval base in Pensacola.
“Why are we training foreign military on U.S. soil? This is an act of terror by members of a foreign military unit, known as the Saudi Arabian military,” Lynch said.