Lawmakers call for arming troops at home after Chattanooga shooting

Chattanooga, shooting, navy
Michael Ball / Twitter

A growing number of lawmakers are calling for allowing troops serving at military facilities in the United States to be armed, after a lone-wolf attacker killed four Marines at a reserve center on Thursday. 

The shooter, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born citizen, opened fire at a Navy recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tenn., and then at a Navy and Marines Reserve Center, killing four Marines. 

“We can and must do more to protect our troops. Yesterday’s murder of four United States Marines is a heartbreaking reminder that our men and women in uniform can be targets here at home, as they often are abroad,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) in a joint statement Friday. 

{mosads}The Armed Services Committee chairmen said that long before the attack, they had been working to clarify an Army post commander’s authority to allow carrying of personal firearms. 

They said a defense policy bill they are working on would direct the Pentagon to “end the disconnect between the threats our warfighters face and their families face and the tools they have to defend themselves.” 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016 presidential candidate, also called for hearings on allowing troops to carry arms in military facilities. 

“We can immediately hold hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee on the need for our enlisted men and women to have the right to be armed in military facilities,” he said. 

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a Marine Corps veteran, said Friday that he also plans to introduce legislation that would allow military recruiters to carry weapons. 

“Until we get our hands wrapped around this, we have to allow the people who represent the United States military to defend themselves, at the least,” he said in a statement. 

“If you go on any base, you have armed security there … recruiting centers in a strip mall, they have no defense against people who just hate America and hate our military. They’ve got nothing,” he added. 

However, it is not just Republicans calling for the military to allow the arming of its troops at home. 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), an Army National Guard captain, also called for the Pentagon to consider allowing officers at service recruiting centers to be armed. 

“I recognize what the recruiters are saying, that, you know, they want to have an open and inviting and welcoming environment to be able to talk to those who are interested in serving our country in uniform,” Gabbard said Thursday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

But, she added, the Pentagon should “look into the possibility of having some kind of armed guard there, whether it’s a military service member or some other type of guard, so that you at least have a way for our trained warriors to be able to defend themselves against these types of attacks.”  

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), whose district is home to the largest concentration of service members, called on Defense Secretary Ash Carter to allow commanders at military installations to authorize certain personnel to carry personal firearms. 

Rigell also introduced an amendment to 2016 defense policy bill to authorize that change, but said the Carter “has the discretion and authority to make that change now.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno told reporters Friday morning that the Army was reviewing how to better secure its recruiting centers. 

“We will conduct an assessment once we get more information on what happened, and we’ll see if there’s anything else we need to do in order to better secure our young men and women who are serving,” he said. 

Odierno said there are also legal issues involved in arming soldiers in civilian areas and that possible workarounds could be using armed security guards or local police, but the Army has to look at what happened first. 

“We will assess what happened, and then we will decide what else we need to do,” he said. 

– Updated at 3:31 p.m.

Tags Armed Attack John McCain Military recruitment Raymond T. Odierno Scott Rigell Ted Cruz Tulsi Gabbard United States Marine Corps

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