Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he’s asked service leaders to review weapons policy in the wake of the Chattanooga attacks on recruitment and reserve centers, but some in Congress said he needs to act faster to ensure men and women in uniform can protect themselves.
Carter noted on the way to the Middle East that he was “saddened by the loss,” of four Marines and one sailor, “but also really angered at the senselessness of it.”
“I asked — on Friday afternoon directed the services to take some additional force protection measures at our bases and installations,” he said. “And I also asked our services to look at further steps that they might advise be taken, and to get back to me in the next few days with their recommendations. Obviously force protection everywhere around the world, abroad and now at home, is a big priority for us at the department, and will continue to be.”
Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) allowed National Guard in his state to start carrying sidearms today, and Carter was pressed on the Pentagon’s perspective.
“Certain steps have taken steps — certain states, rather, have taken steps that are within their authorities. But for the Department of Defense as a whole, I’m waiting to hear from the services until they’ve had a chance to do an assessment and give me the facts and their recommendations, which, as I said, I’ve directed them to give me within a few days,” Carter said. “And I’ll take them into consideration then.”
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who represents the country’s largest military district, told the Virginian-Pilot that he’s lobbying colleagues for their signatures on a letter to Carter urging that commanders be granted the authority to approve weapons on bases.
“My gut sense is the American people want to know what we are doing to give their sons and daughters at least the highest probability… that they can go to work in uniform and come home safe,” Rigell said Friday. “We aren’t doing enough right now.”
“We have many Guard and Reserve units across the commonwealth that are no more protected than a 7-11,” he added. “You can ride right up to them, walk in the door and be greeted by men and women in uniform.”
This week, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) will introduce legislation to eliminate “gun-free zones” at military installations and recruitment offices.
“What happened in Chattanooga can never happen again,” Moran said. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees the ‘right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’ yet our men and women in uniform are being prevented from exercising this constitutional right when fulfilling their duties on American soil. Just because a member of our Armed Forces is not deployed to an active war zone does not mean they are safe from those who wish to do harm.”
“Members of our military are targets for those who do not share our values – both at home and abroad,” Moran added. “If the members of our Armed Forces at the Chattanooga military recruitment centers had been allowed to exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights, the outcome of the attacks could have been very different. These brave individuals must be empowered to defend themselves and others from violence and acts of domestic terrorism.”
Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on ABC Sunday that military “should have the means to defend themselves.”
“And this is dramatically changed since 9/11. And there’s a basic logic here: if we don’t know who these shooters are going to be, and we do know that one of their targets that they’re focusing on are military people in uniform, then it’s just logical that we should provide them a means to defend themselves if they become under any sort of attack like this,” Webb said.
“We don’t take firearms away from police officers. There should be some means for these people to defend themselves.”
Webb added that he “had a long talk with the chief of staff for the army after the Ft. Hood incident, which also was on a military base.”
“There was not one military person in that gathering that had a firearm. I grew up in the military. Firearms were normal in the situations when I was growing up. By the time they called the police to get in there to help them, they had 13 dead people.”