Congressman wants Army input about concealed carry regulations

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: April 14, 2014

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting at Fort Hood, a push is underway for the military to change its policies to allow soldiers to carry concealed weapons on installations.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said he would consider such a change, but only with the recommendation of the military.

“They have the expertise; they have their eyes on the ground,” he said. If the Army and Department of Defense concluded such a change was necessary, he said, he would support it.

Mr. Owens said a larger priority in the aftermath of the shooting would be ensuring military personnel have access to mental health care resources.

“There’s no doubt in my mind the person involved was having a mental health crisis of some kind,” Mr. Owens said. “Getting them the help they need is something we should be focusing our efforts and our resources on.”

The argument for allowing concealed weapons came after the April 2 shooting at Fort Hood, during which gunman Spc. Ivan Lopez killed three soldiers, wounded 16 and then killed himself after being confronted by a military police soldier. Similar proposals to change the rules have been taken up after the 2009 shooting at the Texas installation, along with last year’s attack at the Washington Naval Yard.

Among those pushing for the change is Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, along with Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, who crafted a bill to repeal the policies last year. However, the proposed change has been met with some opposition from top military leadership, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

Policies restricting firearm use have been in place since the early 1990s, effectively restricting possession to personnel in law enforcement or security roles and other limited capacities.

Soldiers and family members living on post may own firearms, provided they register their firearms with the post’s Directorate of Emergency Services and their unit leadership after arriving on post. Soldiers must keep their handguns in their unit’s arms rooms until they register them with the state and obtain a state handgun license.

Soldiers living in on-post barracks must store all firearms in their unit’s arms room, and sign them out for use.

A change in concealed carry rules might have a limited effect at Fort Drum, given the strict gun rules on the books for New York, primarily the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013.

Even if Fort Drum’s policy changed, soldiers still could face a lengthy wait to get the appropriate paperwork from the state.

“They’re not here long enough to justify it,” said Mary A. VanTassel, who owns VanTassel’s Gunsmithing on Route 37 in Evans Mills with her husband, Dennis J. VanTassel.

Many of them decide it’s not worth the wait; Mrs. VanTassel said she visits the post weekly to collect soldiers’ firearms, which she then ships to registered dealers in their home states.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-NY


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