Fort Hood says soldiers and authorized civilians have registered more than 9,500 personal weapons with post authorities, allowing them to keep the guns in the housing or bring them on the facility to hunt or fire at ranges. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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WASHINGTON — Fort Hood says soldiers and authorized civilians have registered more than 9,500 personal weapons with post authorities, allowing them to keep the guns in the housing or bring them on the facility to hunt or fire at ranges.
The shooting in April at Fort Hood, Texas, has touched off a debate about whether soldiers should be allowed to openly carry their personal weapons on post or whether authorities should impose further restrictions.
Some officials say the 9,500 personal weapons is not out of proportion for a post that hosts 41,500 soldiers and more than 100,000 family members.
"We pretty much mirror the general population," said Christopher Haug, a Fort Hood spokesman.
In April a serviceman opened fire at the post, killing three soldiers before turning the gun on himself. The circumstances of the shooting remain under investigation.
The gunman, Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, used a privately owned weapon that he illegally carried on to the post, since it was not registered with authorities, according to the Army.
It was the second shooting spree at Fort Hood. In 2009, an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people on the Army post.
Army regulations require that personal weapons have to be registered before they are brought inside the post.
Soldiers can keep registered weapons if they live in fort housing, but troops must keep them in storage rooms if they live in barracks, which are dormitory-style buildings.
Civilian workers or military retirees who bring weapons on to the post to hunt or fire at ranges must register the weapons.
The regulations are Armywide.
The 9,500 weapons registered belong to active-duty personnel, dependents, retirees, civilians and contractors, Haug said.
The numbers could also reflect retirees or others who moved out of the area without notifying authorities to remove their names from the registry.
Military personnel generally have a higher interest in firearms than the civilian population, and they are usually better versed in safety and proper usage.
Regulations prohibit soldiers from carrying concealed weapons or carrying firearms openly on military bases. Authorized security personnel can be armed.
Some lawmakers have pushed for allowing soldiers to openly carry weapons, as is allowed in some states.
Gun rights advocates argue that such open-carry laws lower crime rates. "It only makes sense to allow trained military personnel the same protections," Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, said in a statement.
In congressional testimony after the shooting, Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, suggested it was sufficient that military police at Army posts carry weapons for law enforcement purposes.