Lawmakers introduce 'SEMPER FI' bill to arm troops at recruitment centers

Lawmakers introduce 'SEMPER FI' bill to arm troops at recruitment centers
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Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Marine veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would give troops the ability to carry weapons at military recruitment centers, following fatal attacks on service members last week in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The bill is called the Securing Military Personnel Response Firearm Initiative Act, or "SEMPER FI" — a shortened version of the Latin phrase for "Always Faithful," the motto of the Marine Corps. 

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It would allow military officers, including non-commissioned officers, to be armed when at recruitment centers, or to improve structural security at the centers. 

“The fastest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It’s time to allow our men and women in uniform — including our military recruiters — to have all the resources they need to protect and defend themselves,” Daines said in a statement. 

Hunter, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, added, "We need to make it tough for anyone who might think of busting into a recruiting office with the intent to harm." 

"Any person or group of people who make that mistake should know that there are a few Marines, soldiers or other service members on the other side of that door who’ve heard the sound of gunfire, who’ve had all the right firearms experience and training, and who aren’t defenseless," he said.  

Last Thursday, a lone gunman opened fire at an armed forces recruitment center and then a center for Navy and Marine reservists in Chattanooga, killing four Marines and one sailor. 

None were armed, although the FBI is looking into the possibility that one of the Marines was carrying a side arm, according to the Washington Post. 

On Sunday, Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command, issued other measures to tighten security at recruiting offices and other military facilities, The New York Times reported.

“All the talk about security upgrades to recruiting offices is fine, but the simple act of arming qualified personnel in these spaces presents the most effective line of defense," Hunter said. 

A joint statement from Daines and Hunter said the bill is supported by the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America.  

Daines and Hunter are the latest of a handful of lawmakers introducing legislation or calling for the president to allow troops to carry weapons on military facilities, in the face of a growing threat from Islamic extremists who have encouraged attacks on those in uniform. 

The FBI said it was treating the attack, by 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, as a "terrorism" but said so far, there is no link to a terrorist group. However, officials are looking into a trip he took to Jordan last year. 

"It’s a reality of the post 9-11 world that terrorists and radicals will look to strike soft targets and we shouldn’t pretend that incidents similar to what happened in Tennessee couldn’t happen elsewhere," said Hunter. 

"Military recruiters embody the spirit, patriotism and values that not only make our military great, but our nation too. They are targets, as are others in uniform, and they should be afforded the type of protection that is adequate for the threat they face," he said.