Hints of Gun-Control Revival After Fort Hood Shooting, But Broader Focus on Mental Health
Thursday was a pre-planned lobbying day for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which urged supporters to flood senators with phone calls as pro-gun rights groups made their way through meetings with lawmakers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a key force behind last year's failed gun control bill, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today that "this experience shows that no part of our country, no place, is immune from gun violence."
"And whether it is a small school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, or an urban community in New Haven, or one of the great military installations in the world, Fort Hood, everybody shares in the tragedies that needless and senseless gun violence causes in this country today," Blumenthal said. "And this experience I think also shows, as a number of my colleagues have observed, the importance of mental health care."
Acknowledging that the investigation was in its beginning stages, the senator asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno if there is "enough screening of individuals to know whether they are dangerous."
"The individual was screened, was receiving counseling. So in a lot of ways, the system worked. But, obviously, it didn't work completely, because, in the end, he made some decisions that obviously cost other people's lives," Odierno said.
"…One of the issues we run into all the time is the sharing of information, trying to protect individual's rights but also trying to ensure that we are providing them with the help necessary."
The general said they needed to "combat the stigma of coming forward with behavior health issues," though as he noted Lopez was receiving treatment.
Army Secretary John McHugh added that "behavioral health encounters" in the Army have increased by over 90 percent.
"Clearly, we may have missed something yesterday," McHugh said. "We need to work very hard to understand what that might have been, and if we can learn a lesson and improve the process, that's what we want to do."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Odierno whether "one way to deal with attacks like this is to have installations where people are armed and can fight back."
"I believe that we have our military police and others that are armed. And I believe that's appropriate. And I think that -- I believe that that allows us the level of protection necessary," Odierno replied. "Although we carry arms quite regularly overseas when we're deployed and do it on a regular basis, I believe back here in the United States it's more appropriate that we leave it to that, sir."
At the daily White House press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney was asked what the administration would say "to people who are just demoralized at the prospect that anything will ever be done at the federal level to fight gun violence."
Carney stated he didn't want to "have comments I make about the broader subject be suggestive of anything specific about that incident."
"What I can say is that the president made abundantly clear his disappointment and frustration with Congress and its failure to listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people when they made clear they wanted to see the background check system made more effective and expanded. That was a proposition that, in no way, violated our Second Amendment rights, rights which the president supports," he continued.
"And the president also made clear at the time that he would continue executing on the broader plan that the vice president and he developed to reduce gun violence in America, which included in addition to pushing that specific piece of legislation, a number -- more than 20 -- executive actions that the administration could take. And there has been action on all of them, as well a some additional ones," Carney said.
"So I think that there is certainly reason to be frustrated, as the president was and is by the failure of Congress to act on something so common sense. But that doesn't mean you give up on efforts that remain possible. And that's why the president has taken the steps he's taken and we'll continue to look for ways to implement common-sense solutions to this very challenging problem."