A California lawmaker wants to allow military recruiters to carry firearms to help protect them from extremist attacks like the one in Tennessee on Thursday.
Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who served in the Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, plans to introduce legislation as early as Friday that would allow troops manning recruiting stations to carry weapons, or to mandate other military security arrangements for those facilities.
The move follows the wounding of two service members and the deaths of four Marines at military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Thursday.
The gunman, a 24-year-old Kuwaiti immigrant, fired about 30 rounds into the glass doors and windows of the the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in a strip mall, according to law enforcement reports. He then apparently drove to a Navy-Marine training center seven miles away and killed the four Marines, police said. Investigators have not released a known motive for the attacks.
In an interview with Politico’s Morning Defense, Hunter called his proposal a common-sense move to ensure the safety of an increasingly vulnerable segment of the military.
“Recruiting centers in a strip mall, they have no defense against people who just hate America and hate our military,” he said. “They've got nothing.”
Six years ago, one soldier was killed and another wounded when an Islamic extremist gunned them down outside a recruiting station in Arkansas. A year later, a former Marine was arrested after firing indiscriminately at several military installations, including several recruiting stations. In 2011, two men were arrested for planning attacks on a military recruiting station in Seattle, and a Maryland man was arrested a year later for a similar planned ambush on a recruiting station in that state.
Aides to Hunter said they are working with military officials on specific language for the legislation, in order to provide them with the best security options possible.
Thursday’s attack sparked similar calls for improved security for military recruiters from a host of gun rights and conservative groups. The advocacy organization Move America Forward released a statement that read: “We should end the foolish policy of keeping American men and women in uniform from being armed so they can protect themselves.”
But the legislation could run up against local firearms laws and gun control advocates who have already criticized similar proposals as potentially dangerous to the public.
In coming days, Hunter’s office plans to push the idea of military recruiters as highly trained, model troops who can be trusted as responsible weapons experts.
The congressman also noted that other military facilities have armed personnel to provide security, and said leaving recruiting stations without similar protections represents an unneeded threat to those personnel.
Several lawmakers already have endorsed the idea. In an appearance on Fox News on Friday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said he thinks recruiters should be armed, and that Congress should look into changing regulations regarding their security.
Reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this story.