The military has a problem with guns.

Following last week's murder of five service members in a violent and still-unexplained shooting spree in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Defense Department once again has found itself in the midst of a broader national feud about gun control, gun rights and public safety.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered a full review of facility security policies due by the end of this week.

Meanwhile, inside the military, many leaders remain skeptical that the solution to safety concerns involves more troops carrying more weapons.

Outside the military, the issue has become a political lightning rod.

Several governors already have pre-empted the Pentagon's Pentagon' own assessment by rushing to allow National Guard personnel to carry weapons on bases and in recruiting stations.

On Capitol Hill, several top lawmakers are looking at similar measures for active-duty members, in effect allowing more troops to carry personal firearms around military property.

Several Republican presidential candidates are voicing support for those measures after the Chattanooga tragedy. For months, tTea pParty favorite Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been pressing congressional leaders to hold hearings on loosening restrictions regarding arming troops on domestic military bases.

And on Monday, a top National Rifle Association leader released a statement blaming the deaths of the five service members on misguided gun control policies.

"It's outrageous that members of our armed services have lost their lives because the government has forced them to be disarmed in the workplace," said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "Congress should pursue a legislative fix to ensure that our service men and women are allowed to defend themselves on U.S. soil."

But so far, the Defense Department has not expressed concern about existing laws.

Pentagon resistance

The July 16 Chattanooga attack is the latest in a series of tragic incidents that has prompted Pentagon reviews, in particular after the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and again after the 2013 shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington.

Each review has underscored the military's caution about the inherent risk of carrying firearms.

"DoD does not support arming all personnel. We hold this position for many reasons," Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday.

Those reasons include safety concerns and the risk of accidental discharges, she said.

Moreover, providing law enforcement-style training and qualification tests for additional parts of the force could be extraordinarily costly, she said.

Other costs of expanding firearms use would include complying with various screening laws, for example the Lautenberg Amendment that restricts access to weapons for people with domestic violence convictions, Henderson said.

And any change in military procedures or federal law must comport with a dizzying patchwork of state-level gun control laws.

In addition, concerns about weapons in the military community has intensified in recent years amid the soaring rate of military suicides, the majority of them involving firearms.

Some top defense officials have criticized some lawmakers' efforts to limit the authority of commanders to restrict firearms access for troops identified as being at high risk for suicide.

Gun control or gun rights?

Intelligence reports during the past year have repeatedly suggested that Islamic State militants are encouraging their followers to attack U.S. troops at home.

It remains unclear whether the Chattanooga shooter, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a Tennessee resident reportedly born in Kuwait, was linked to Islamic State militants or whether his shooting spree was inspired by extremists.

Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to stop Gun Violence, said his group is waiting to get more details on how the Chattanooga shooter obtained his guns before launching their next lobbying push. Reports from local law enforcement so far indicate that some of the weapons may have been obtained illegally.

But Everitt also said he is not surprised that the incident is quickly turning into a rallying point for groups that support more guns in public spaces.

"Putting the onus for security on the military is insane," he said. "Telling them they have to arm their own guys for security is a pretty perverse idea of freedom."

Everitt's coalition instead will push for better regulation and monitoring of gun purchases, something for which it has advocated in the wake of a host of other mass shootings unrelated to the military.

"On base, it's the same safety concerns as anywhere else when you arm more and more people," he said.

But Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. — who this week will introduce new legislation to mandate arming at least one service member at all military recruiting stations — has argued that troops have more familiarity with firearms than the average citizen, and increasing their ability to defend themselves will increase everyone's security.

Legislation from Hunter and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., also would require training those armed individuals in proper security response techniques for a non-battlefield setting.

On Sunday, U.S. Northern Command issued new force protection measures directed at reserve centers, recruiting centers and Reserve Officer Training Corps units, said NORTHCOM spokesman Michael Kucharek. He declined to disclose the additional measures, citing operational security.

The command did not change the force protection level that governs installation security nationwide, which remains at a level known as Force Protection Condition Bravo.

That level last changed in May, when Northern Command raised it from Force Protection Condition Alpha. The last time the command raised the level to Bravo was in September 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Kucharek said.

Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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