Monday, November 9, 2009

Lawmakers see 'wake-up' call in shootings

Lawmakers see 'wake-up' call in shootings
By Jordy Yager - 11/08/09 12:59 PM ET

Defense Appropriations Chairman Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) said he had visited the medical processing center at Fort Hood, Texas, that was the scene of the sporadic shooting earlier this week and could see how it would be vulnerable to attack.

“I was out at Fort Hood at that very location maybe six months ago and people were lined up and bunched up and I can see how it would be a target, and I can see how that many people could be hurt by one person,” Murtha told The Hill, adding that “it’s easy to criticize the element of what might have happened and I just think we don’t know enough about it.”

Murtha is one of a handful of House lawmakers who are looking at the killing spree that left 13 people dead and wounded at least 38 others to see if there were warning signs that could have prevented Major Malik Nadal Hasan’s attack.

Hasan's rampage has led to questions about whether the psychiatrist, who objected to an impending deployment, acted out of a stress-related disorder or due to extremist views reportedly expressed to others.

“There should’ve been red lights,” said Rep. Eliot Engle (D-N.Y.) in an interview. “Someone should have spoken to him. It’s amazing that nobody could see that he would be a menace to himself and to others. Look, it’s easy to point fingers after a tragedy. But I think it’s a call to wake up.”

Engle, whose district includes the Bronx, referenced the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and how afterwards Americans became more vigilant about spotting suspicious behavior.

“We’re not going to be able to weed out everyone who does something bad, but we should be able to have some bells that go off. It makes us all more aware,” said Engle, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Chairman of the Veterans Affairs committee, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), said that he hopes Congress can use the Fort Hood shootings to spur itself to action in fixing the broken veterans health system.

“These folks are under tremendous stress: the soldiers, doctors, everybody,” he told The Hill. “And we have not dealt with it properly as a nation…Something is going on besides just this one guy. Everybody is at a breaking point. You can’t do a war like this without the proper mental health resources and we just don’t have them.”

“People don’t understand the breaking point here. You’ve got hundreds of thousands of young people and they come home and they murder each other or their spouses. It’s horrible and we’ve refused to look it square in the eye, and this incident shows it, but I think we knew it long before this.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, stopped short of requesting a congressional investigation but said that the body would try to get to the bottom of Hasan’s motivations.

“We will get all of the information,” she said. “We have to be patient and find out.”

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