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CNN "Newsroom" - Transcript: Fort Hood Shooting


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REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Carol. Thank you very much.

COSTELLO: Thank you for being with us.

Have investigators totally ruled out domestic terrorism in this case? Do you know?

KING: Terrorism has not been ruled out. Right now there are no indications of terrorism. But I can tell you that all avenues are being explored. And until it's officially ruled out, it's still, you know, technically possible. But I have to say, right now there are no indicators of terrorism at all. But it's still probably too early to rule it out entirely. But right now it looks as if it's not going to be terrorism.

COSTELLO: It was interesting that we, and I'm generalizing here, tend to jump to terrorism when it probably, most likely, was mental illness that prompted this attack. Specialist Lopez was being evaluated for PTSD. He was suffering from depression and anxiety. He was taking anti-depressants. Should we be paying more attention to mental illness when it comes to these attacks?

KING: yes, there's two issues. One, we should still be very concerned about terrorism. Fort Hood was attacked once before and there was an attempted attack in July of 2011 that was stopped by Private First Class Abdel (ph). So terrorism is a real threat. And I did a hearing into the threat within the military.

Having said that, mental illness among our veterans, returning warriors, is very significant. There's hundreds of thousands suffering from PTSD. There's a significant number of suicides committed every day by veterans.

It's an issue I've been working on with (INAUDIBLE) bipartisanly (ph) with Congressman Steve Israel and even some elements of Major League Baseball to try to coordinate the Veterans Administration and private foundations, private groups, private hospitals who want to work with these returning veterans because I don't think we're putting enough effort into it. We have to look at it much more carefully. Even though Specialist Lopez was only in Iraq apparently for four months, you don't know what a person sees when you're there. You don't know what that triggers.

And we have to, I think, find a way to speed up the process. I heard General Honore was on CNN earlier today talking about how long it takes someone to actually be classified as having PTSD. So I think we have to make it - again, we're way ahead of where we were in World War II and Vietnam, but more has to be done as far as mental health of our military.

COSTELLO: And, Congressman, I want to bring Brooke Baldwin back in. She's at Fort Hood.

KING: Sure.

COSTELLO: And suicide is a big issue at this post, Brooke. And it's part of the reason that soldiers aren't allowed to carry their personal weapons on post, right?

BALDWIN: That's exactly right. And, Congressman King, nice to talk to you as well.

KING: Hi, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You know, here at Fort Hood - here at Fort Hood and elsewhere in the country, suicide is most definitely, as we've been reporting in so many years, an issue among members of our military. But, you know, and I was explaining earlier, and Congressman King, I'd love to hear your thoughts, you know as we talk about this, we know it happened at the Naval yard in Washington, D.C., last year.

You know, part of the issue here on base is and on post is that you are not allowed to bring your weapon on post. You have to keep it at home. If you have that, you have to register with a commander. I know that, you know, security folks are allowed to have it and law enforcement here on post are allowed to have it, but that's it.

Do you think that that is fair because I'm sure there are members of the military that say, I'm going and I'm serving my country in Iraq and Afghanistan. You know, is it fair that I cannot be armed on post?

KING: Well first, I think we should look into increasing security both at checkpoints and also at, you know, is more security needed within the base itself. As far as carrying weapons, I think we should look at that. But I remember just from my days in the Army, there's a certain element of discipline involved, people living in close quarters. You have a situation where in the barracks on a Saturday night you may have arguments, fights, whatever.

And I just - I would like to talk to the sergeants, the NCOs, the officers and people on the ground to see if they feel that would interfere with the discipline that they need, with the control they need. But I agree with you, I mean, if you have such a large base and people can walk in apparently with weapons, should those on the base be allowed to defend themselves? But before we go that far, I would really want to look at it. Again, I'm just going back, because this was a long time ago, but just on base, I don't know if I would have felt comfortable if the guy in the bunk next to me had a gun and we just had an argument or a discussion.

So -- and also with NCOs and sergeants, they have to be pretty tough on their troops at times. Again, do they want those men and women to be having weapons with them at night after something like that occurs? But again, to me, it's something we have to look at. We have to open it up. This has to be reopened because there's all the factors I just gave which could be negative. On the other hand, if someone had had a weapon yesterday, you know, they could have stopped this perhaps, you know, right away. So, but, again, we have to open it up and look at it, yes.

COSTELLO: You know, last night, congressman, you said in an interview that if military personnel really wanted to commit violence, they probably have the capacity to do it. So that said, how are we left to keep our men and women on base safe?

KING: Well, I think we have to do better screening as far as psychological testing. We have to make sure that the people on the ground, the platoon sergeants, the company commanders, that they are watching very carefully for any signs of mental illness or any type of psychological disturbance, any cases of anger management.

And that is being treated, I think, more seriously than it has up till now. And also I think as far as getting on to the base, we have to, while probably someone can always get a weapon on, we should make it as difficult as possible. If we are going to restrict weapons, then we have to make it as strict as possible that they not be allowed to bring them on the way, obviously, Specialist Lopez did. But this is a complicated issue, and that's all the more reason why we have to address it and address it openly and take nothing off the table.

COSTELLO: It -- one last thing, congressman -

KING: Sure.

COSTELLO: Because I think it frustrates many Americans. We always talk about dealing with the issue of mental illness in this country and nothing happens. There have been so many instances of a mentally ill person who somehow got a hold of a gun and then participated in a mass shooting and no law changes, nothing happens, nothing changes.

KING: Well, in the military, we are getting more money appropriated for more programs for mental health, suicide prevention, for PTSD. That is being done. But not enough. I think much more has to be done. We also have the issue of the National Guard and Reservists who don't get the same level of treatment as far as mental health that the regular Army does. So that has to be increased.

And that's what -- I've been working on that. But, no, this is an issue which it's hard to get people excited about it, or enthused about it - I hate using that term, focused on it until something like this happens, then they realize the importance of it. So if something good can come out of this tragedy, let's use this as incentive for much more (INAUDIBLE) mental illness, especially within our military.

COSTELLO: Well, I hope that happens this time.

KING: Yes, I agree.

COSTELLO: Congressman Peter King, Brooke Baldwin, thanks to both of you.

KING: OK. Carol, Brooke, thank you.


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