Congress is pushing forward legislation to allow guns at military recruiting centers following the recent shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where four Marines were shot dead by Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a naturalized American citizen from Kuwait.
Although officials are still investigating the 24-year-old gunman’s motive, Republican lawmakers think it is clear now the existing law needs change and the military should finally arm the personnel because “military gun-free zones”, including recruiting and reserve centers, make soldiers easy targets for what some authorities call “an act of terrorism.”
According to the Department of Defense Directive 5210.56, enacted in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush and partly based on a century-old law, only certain employees are allowed to carry weapons over the threat of accidental discharges and other issues attributed to alcohol and drug use factors.
Military representatives on the whole are reluctant to back this amendment with the US army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, saying that “we have to be careful about over-arming ourselves” as changing the law may “cause more problems than it solves,” AP reports.
The reason why the troops inside military recruiting and reserve stations don’t have weapons is rather simple – these centres are supposed to be welcoming to attract more young people.
“We’re always going to be somewhat vulnerable to a lone wolf, or whatever you want to call it, a surprise shooter, because we are out there with the population and that’s where we have to be,” added Odierno.
Ironically, the remarks coincided with Navy officials’ confirmation of an incident in Atlanta, where a recruiter accidently fired a gun at his leg while discussing the Tennessee shootings. Officials said he showed his unloaded personal 45-caliber pistol to a sailor, reloaded it and then discharged it while putting back in the holster.
Anti-gun violence activists also say that amending the law shouldn’t be a politician’s call – it’s for the military to decide how best to proceed in this matter.
One problem with giving servicemen weapons is soldier-on-soldier violence, an ex-prosecutor at the Fort Hood military post, Texas and Florida representative Tom Rooney believes. “We had a lot of bar fights,” The Guardian quotes him as saying, adding that it “wasn’t political or religious – it was just 18-year-olds being 18-year-olds.” In his opinion, the ban was imposed for their own good.
In the interview with The Guardian, Brian Lepley, a spokesman for the US army recruiting command (USARC) said the security at military bases is a part of recruiters’ responsibility.
“These guys, a great many of them, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, so they’re familiar with places where there’s danger lurking all the time,” Lepley told The Guardian. “We’re fine with the status of our security measures right now,” he added.
He also shares common opinion on the location of recruiting centers.
“We can’t have recruiting stations be like a fortress, we can’t have them be barricaded,” he said. “It’s not very welcoming. People need to be able to find us and come talk to us.” However, some opposing opinions have been voiced as well.
I think under certain conditions, both on military bases and in outstations – recruiting stations, reserve centers – that we should seriously consider it, and in some cases I think it’s appropriate,” told Gen Mark A Milley to the Senate armed services committee.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has initiated a probe into the matter to see what can be done for stepping up the security at military facilities. Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain agreed Friday that the existing regulations needed change.
“It makes no sense that recruiters are not allowed to carry at least a sidearm,” said Craig Cook of Brookfield, Connecticut, who runs a car repair shop not far from a military recruiting center. “They are trained. Most of them are trained infantrymen. That definitely would make it a lot more safe,” as cited by GOPUSA.