The House on Tuesday night delayed a decision on whether members of the U.S. Armed Forces should be able to carry weapons while on base.
The sensitive issue is being raised in light of a rash of shootings inside military bases around the country over the last few years — including two at Fort Hood, Texas since 2009.
The shootings have sparked a debate over whether the military has set too tight of a limit on the ability of U.S. servicemen and women to carry weapons while on base. Many members, and Republicans in particular, believe allowing military members to carry would have meant far fewer deaths at bases over the last few years.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) is one of those members, and he proposed an amendment allowing members of the military to carry weapons on base for security purposes. Gohmert’s language would have amended the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2015, which the House is considering this week.
But late Tuesday, Gohmert agreed to withdraw his amendment after receiving assurances that GOP leaders would try to add language on this issue later, during meetings between the House and Senate as they try to reconcile their two NDAA bills.
“The chairman here tells me that this is an issue that they would like to push in conference with the Senate bill that will be brought through,” Gohmert said. “I have been encouraged and not in a bad way that this would be a way that we could do it, I would be consulted on what was being done in conference, and that it would be brought up there.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said he would rather consider the question in conference with the Senate, as his committee has yet to fully consider the issue. “This is the start of a process,” McKeon said.
But even as Gohmert said he has assurances that the issue will be discussed later, a Democrat tried to dispel that idea. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on McKeon’s committee, said he opposes the idea of arming the military on military bases, and said the issue shouldn’t be subject to a House-Senate conference if neither chamber has language on it.
“A colloquy doesn’t put something in conference,” Smith said of the Gohmert-McKeon discussion on the floor. “There’s nothing on our bill on this. If there’s nothing in the Senate bill, it ain’t in conference.”
Gohmert indicated that he would continue to push the question, and said some decision is needed given that the Obama administration did nothing during the four-plus years between shootings at Fort Hood.
“It made no sense not to do something,” he said of his amendment. Gohmert acknowledged there is a question of whether the military should allow open or concealed carry, but said some allowance should be made, especially since they are trained to handle weapons.
“Why shouldn’t they be able to carry weapons on military installations here in the United States?”