What Conservative Media Are Getting Wrong About Guns On Military Bases

Here's what right-wing media are missing in their rush to blame gun regulations and Democrats for the tragic shooting at Ft. Hood on April 2, in which a gunman killed three people and wounded 16 others before taking his own life.

Ft. Hood

MYTH: Clinton To Blame For Military Base Gun Regulations 

Fox News: Clinton Administration Decided Trained Military Professionals Shouldn't Carry Arms On Base. On the April 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that gun regulations which restrict firearms on military bases were enacted under President Clinton's administration:

DOOCY: Keep in mind, it was back, I believe it was during the Bill Clinton administration, where they decided that men and women on base shouldn't be able to carry arms, even though they're trained professionals.


DOOCY: But nonetheless, what we have learned twice now, at Ft. Hood and last September at the Navy Yard, is that these guys are sitting ducks. Somebody comes in there, they have a gun -- there's nothing they can do. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/3/14]

Jim Hoft: “Thanks To Liberals And Bill Clinton And Democrats Our Military Bases Are Gun-Free Zones.” In an April 3 post for his conservative blog The Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft claimed:

Thanks to liberals and Bill Clinton and Democrats our military bases are gun-free zones. As a result, Fort Hood just experienced its second mass shooting in 5 years.

How many more US soldiers will have to die due to gun-free regulations? [The Gateway Pundit, 4/3/14]

FACT: First Bush Administration Enacted Military Base Gun Regulations

President H.W. Bush Enacted Military Base Gun Regulations In 1992, A Year Before Clinton Took Office. As The New Republic explained, a 1992 Department of Defense directive established the rules limiting firearms on military bases to “qualified personnel,” issued under former President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney: 

[T]he impetus for the Army regulation was, in turn, Department of Defense directive 5210.56, which was issued on February 25, 1992, and was considered “effective immediately” for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Clinton, of course, did not take office until January 20, 1993. So if we're going to blame a former president for a mass murder ... see how ridiculous this all is?

What's more, that directive--signed by Donald J. Atwood, George H. W. Bush's deputy secretary of defense--was by no means a “ban” on firearms at military installations. It explicitly authorizes DOD personnel “to carry firearms while engaged in law enforcement or security duties, protecting personnel, vital Government assets, or guarding prisoners,” and simply aims to “limit and control the carrying of firearms by DoD military and civilian personnel. [The New Republic, 11/17/13]

MYTH: Military Bases Are “Gun-Free Zones” That Leave Soldiers “Defenseless”

Fox Contributor Allen West: “Our Military Bases Shouldn't Be Free Fire Zones.” In a tweet posted April 2, Fox News contributor and former GOP congressman Allen West labeled military bases “free fire zones,” where service members are “sitting ducks”:

Allen West

[Twitter.com, 4/2/14]

Fox's Doocy: “Sadly,” Our “Army Bases Are Gun-Free Zones.” Fox News host Doocy tweeted on April 3 that because “army bases are gun-free zones,” military personnel cannot protect themselves: 

Steve Doocy[Twitter.com, 4/3/14]

Fox Contributor Katie Pavlich: We Have Stopped Giving Soldiers Guns, Result Is Mass Shootings. Townhall.com editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich tweeted on April 3 that soldiers are “defenseless” because they cannot carry guns on base: 

Katie Pavlich[Twitter.com, 4/3/14]

FACT: Authorized Personnel May Carry Guns On Military Bases

Guns May Be Carried On Military Bases Under A Substantial Number Of Circumstances. The 1992 Department of Defense directive limited many soldiers from carrying weapons on military bases, but does not ban all guns, such as those carried by active-duty military police:

An authorization to carry firearms may be granted to personnel authorized to be engaged and in fact engaged in the following activities:

1. Law enforcement activities, including investigations of espionage, sabotage, and other serious crimes in which DoD programs, personnel, or property are the victim, or

a. In cases where DoD personnel are involved in serious crimes; or

b. Where investigations are conducted in hazardous areas or under hazardous circumstances.

2. Protecting classified information, systems, or equipment.

3. Protecting the President of the United States, high ranking Government officials, DoD personnel, or foreign dignitaries.

4. Protecting DoD assets and personnel.

5. Guarding prisoners. [Department of Defense, 2/25/92]

1992 Directive “Explicitly Authorizes Certain Military Personnel To Carry Firearms. The New Republic explained that the 1992 directive “explicitly authorizes” certain “DOD personnel to carry firearms”:

[T]hat directive--signed by Donald J. Atwood, George H. W. Bush's deputy secretary of defense--was by no means a “ban” on firearms at military installations. It explicitly authorizes DOD personnel “to carry firearms while engaged in law enforcement or security duties, protecting personnel, vital Government assets, or guarding prisoners,” and simply aims to “limit and control the carrying of firearms by DoD military and civilian personnel. The authorization to carry firearms shall be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried. Evaluation of the necessity to carry a firearm shall be made considering this expectation weighed against the possible consequences of accidental or indiscriminate use of firearms.” [The New Republic, 11/17/13]

At Ft. Hood, Shooter Was Stopped By Military Police Officer With A Gun. As NBC News reported, an armed military police officer stopped the shooter at Ft. Hood on April 2:

A “heroic” female cop ended Wednesday's Fort Hood shooting rampage by confronting an Iraq war vet who had killed three colleagues and wounded 16 others.

The military police officer was only 20 feet from the gunman - who was named by officials as Ivan A. Lopez, a 34-year-old who was being treated for depression and anxiety.


Lopez was carrying his semi-automatic weapon in a parking lot when confronted by the female officer, Fort Hood's commanding officer told reporters.

“He was approaching her at about 20 feet. He put his hands up, then reached under his jacket, pulled out the (.45) and she pulled out her weapon and then she engaged, and he then he put the weapon to his head,” Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said late Wednesday. [NBC, 4/3/14]

MYTH: Allowing All Soldiers To Carry Weapons On Bases Would Prevent Mass Shootings

Fox's Martha MacCallum: “If Other People Had Been Armed On That Base,” “Highly Possible” That Lives Would Have Been Saved. On the April 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum wondered that the shooting could have been prevented or stopped “if other people had been armed on that base”:

MACCALLUM: In every one of these cases, what stops these shooters, is another person with a gun who stops them. I mean, we know that. So in this case, if other people had been armed on that base ... it's highly possible that some of these lives could have been saved. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 4/3/14]

Mark Levin: “What Is It Going To Take For Our Armed Men And Women ... To Be Allowed To Have Weapons When They're Off Duty?” Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin argued on April 2 that military personnel are unable to protect themselves when they cannot carry weapons on the base while off-duty:

MARK LEVIN: What is it going to take? Whatever the circumstances surrounding this, whatever the motivation for this, what is it going to take for our armed men and women in these very services to be allowed to have weapons? When they're off duty? And many of them when they're on-duty on these bases. What's it going to take? How many more deaths, how many more injuries?


The point is, that people need to be able to protect themselves. [Cumulus Media Networks, The Mark Levin Show, 4/2/14]

FACT: Ft. Hood Commanding Officer Does Not Support Concealed Weapons On Base

Ft. Hood Commanding Officer Lt. General Mark Milley: “We Shouldn't Have Concealed Weapons On Base.” During an April 2 press conference, Lt. General Mark Milley, Ft. Hood's commanding officer, stated that military personnel “should not have concealed weapons on base,” citing the fact that law enforcement agents and trained professionals are available who are authorized to carry weapons on base:

MILLEY: If you have a weapon and you're on base, it's supposed to be registered on base. This weapon was not registered on base.


REPORTER: What are your thoughts on soldiers carrying weapons for self-defense?

MILLEY: You're not allowed to carry concealed weapons on base.

REPORTER: Do you think that should change?

MILLEY: No I don't think so, we shouldn't have concealed weapons on base. We have law enforcement agents, with trained professionals, and I don't want to endorse carrying concealed weapons base. [Mediaite, 4/2/14]

FACT: More Guns Do Not Prevent Mass Shootings

Experts: Stricter Gun Regulations Do Not Encourage Mass Shootings.  Mother Jones reported that according to experts “there is no evidence indicating that arming Americans further will help prevent mass shootings”:

There is no evidence indicating that arming Americans further will help prevent mass shootings or reduce the carnage, says Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin. To the contrary, there appears to be a relationship between the proliferation of firearms and a rise in mass shootings: By our count, there have been two per year on average since 1982. Yet, 25 of the 62 cases we examined have occurred since 2006. In 2012 alone there have been seven mass shootings, and a record number of casualties, with more than 140 people injured and killed. [Mother Jones, 12/15/12]

Gunmen Do Not Target Locations That Ban Guns. According to mass shooting data compiled by Mother Jones, there is no evidence that shooters specifically open fire on locations that ban guns:

Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location.


No less a fantasy is the idea that gun-free zones prevent armed civilians from saving the day. Not one of the 62 mass shootings we documented was stopped this way. Veteran FBI, ATF, and police officials say that an armed citizen opening fire against an attacker in a panic-stricken movie theater or shopping mall is very likely to make matters worse. Law enforcement agents train rigorously for stopping active shooters, they say, a task that requires extraordinary skills honed under acute duress.  [Mother Jones, 9/16/13]

No More Than 15 Percent Of Mass Shootings Took Place In “Gun-Free Zones.”  An analysis from Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that no more than 15 percent of mass shootings in public spaces from January 2009 through January 2013 occurred in gun-free zones:

gun-free zones[Mayors Against Illegal Guns, September 2013]