Massacre at Washington Navy Yard raises questions about Fort Gordon security

Sneaking weapons onto Fort Gordon is possible, but officials said Tuesday in the wake of a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard that such an act depends on how far a gunman wishes to press his luck.

Fort Gordon guards clear about 40,000 vehicles each day to pass through its gates. All are subject to random search, and only gun owners who have obtained permission in advance may take a weapon onto the Army post, spokesman J.C. Mathews said.

Despite the security measures, Mathews said a small number of weapons are found and seized at Fort Gordon from people entering the post each year.

Mathews declined to speculate on how someone might illegally take a weapon on the post or what adjustments it has made to its security policies in response to Monday’s shooting spree that killed 12 people and the gunman, but he said in a statement that “nothing is more important than preserving the safety and security of our military community.”

“We do not publicly discuss the measures that we take to secure our installation,” Mathews said. He offered Fort Gordon’s condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the shooting victims. “However, the public should know that we are constantly assessing our security posture, and we make adjustments as circumstances warrant.”

Mathews’ comments came as President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of physical security at all federal agencies and military installations after investigators revealed that shooting suspect Aaron Alexis obtained clearance despite two arrests for gun-related charges.

If security policies are changed at Fort Gordon, Mathews said, some of the adjustments might be obvious, while others may be unseen.

Fort Gordon has 35 security guards who patrol its five gates around the clock through surveillance that depends on the post’s security levels, which in ascending order are designated as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta.

As the threat level rises, gates can be closed, traffic halted and motorists searched, according to Fort Gordon’s anti-terrorism procedures, which allow officials to monitor gate activity from up close and at a distance.

“We randomly determine when cars are checked,” Mathews said. “Sometimes there is a formula involved, and sometimes more are checked and sometimes fewer are checked.

Visitors to Fort Gordon are required to get a temporary pass that provides one to three days of clearance at any of the five gates, according to online policy.

The one-time check requires drivers to present proof of insurance, vehicle registration and either a passport, driver’s license or Defense Department ID card.

Adult passengers need only a government-issued identification card, provided it contains a photograph and biographical information, such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color and address. Visitors younger than 18 are not required to show ID.

Mathews said weapons found at gates usually are in cars whose occupants are not familiar with the post’s registration requirements.

“But occasionally we confiscate weapons that are being illegally transported or would not be allowed on the installation in any case,” Mathews said.

If a weapon is seized, Fort Gordon security checks national and state crime information centers to see whether it has been stolen.

If it hasn’t been stolen, the security officer can issue a citation and deny the owner access until it is registered and the carrier gets a Personal Firearms and Weapons Registration Form.

If the weapon is stolen, the bearer – military or civilian – will be arrested and charged and an investigation conducted.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

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