Rep. Mike McCaul: We need to heal the "broken minds with our returning veterans"

Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul said the latest shooting at Fort Hood appeared to be motivated by mental illness, and should prompt a larger discussion about both security on military bases and mental health for the nation's veterans.

"I'm very disturbed about the uptick in shootings and violence at our military installations across the nation," McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CBS" "Face the Nation" Sunday. "We need to look at how we can better fortify our force protection at military installations. But also, how can we deal with these mental health issues with our returning veterans? And our suicide rate in the military is twice as high as the average population. We do a very good job at fixing broken bodies, but not such a great job at healing broken minds with our returning veterans."

McCaul said that the shooter, Spc. Ivan Lopez, "appeared to be a disgruntled employee," not unlike a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard last fall. The base's commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said that Lopez's mental condition was a "direct precipitating factor" in the shooting, along with an "escalating argument" with colleagues. Lopez's family has said he was upset about the amount of leave he was granted to attend his mother's funeral.

In addition to examining mental health treatment for veterans, McCaul has suggested that more soldiers be allowed to carry weapons on military bases, as a precautionary measure.

"I think a lot of people don't realize that our military that defends our freedoms abroad, when they come home to the military base are not allowed to carry weapons. Now I think we need to have a discussion," McCaul said. "We need to talk to the commanders about whether it would make sense to have not all but maybe some of our senior leadership officers, enlisted men on the base, carrying weapons for protection."

Ideally, he added, there would be more military police officers on bases, but that suggestion is "not as realistic" given the current budget climate.

"It only takes a few minutes to wound and kill a large number of soldiers. Any time we see soldier on soldier, it's one of the most tragic things we can conceive. And if we had senior leadership armed, just maybe they could have stopped it before it got worse," he said.

But Dan Pfeiffer, a senior advisor to president Obama, said in a separate interview on "Face the Nation" that the Pentagon has looked at proposals like the one McCaul offered but concluded it is not a good idea. He added, though, that more needs to be done to ensure men and women in the armed services feel safe when they return home.

Pfeiffer also said that the president and first lady will travel to a memorial service at Fort Hood Wednesday.

Milley, the base commander at Fort Hood, was also asked about the limitations on guns the night of the shooting and said he didn't endorse the idea of carrying concealed weapons on base, even for those who have the permits to do so.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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