Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has submitted an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization bill that would authorize servicemembers to openly carry loaded firearms on military instillations, directly contradicting the wishes of military commanders.
Republicans have raised the prospect of arming soldiers on domestic bases in the aftermath of mass shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, in April and the Washington Navy Yard shooting last year, but have found little support from military leaders or in Congress. Current Department of Defense policy, which originated under President George H. W. Bush and was codified under President Bill Clinton, forbids soldiers from carrying weapons on military installations in most circumstances.
Asked about changing the policy during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April, the Army’s top general, Ray Odierno, argued that military bases already provide considerable security. “I believe that we have our military police and others that are armed, and I believe that’s appropriate,” Odierno said. “That allows us the level of protection necessary.”
Similarly, a Defense Department report examining security in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting, which killed 12 people, made 14 recommendations for improving security, but arming soldiers was not one of them. The analysis said instead that military installations should have signage “posted conspicuously” reminding soldiers that firearms are prohibited. “I don’t think soldiers should have concealed weapons on base,” Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the commander of Fort Hood, reiterated to reporters in April.
The House Rules Committee is expected to decide on Tuesday whether Gohmert’s amendment will be voted on during floor debate on the authorization bill later this week.
The measure requires the Secretary of Defense to establish either a security monitoring duty roster program that would authorize certain personnel to openly carry a firearm or a procedure to permit qualified military personnel to openly carry a firearm. The language ensures that commanders at all levels would have control and oversight over the authorizations. It also stipulates that a member of the armed forces who is allowed to carry a firearm “passes a background check” and “psychological evaluation.”
Gohmert has long sought to expand access to guns. Following the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in which an assailant struck former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, among others, Gohmert argued that members of Congress should be allowed to carry guns inside the Capitol Building and on the House floor.
The Rules Committee has ruled the Gohmert amendment in order and it’s been fast-tracked. The House may vote on the measure this evening.