Pentagon officials say armed citizens guarding military recruitment centers is not only unsafe, it’s scaring off potential recruits.
On Wednesday, media outlets reported that armed citizens descended on military recruiting centers in several cities in order to protect them from armed assailants. The citizens were motivated by the killing of 5 members of the U.S. military near a recruiting center that was also attacked. These “citizen guards” are organized via the Facebook page, Operation Hero Guard. USA Today detailed the cities affected so far:
“In Bellevue, Wash., near Seattle, three men and a woman stationed themselves outside the recruiting station.
In Cleburne, Texas, Terry Jackson was recruiting additional guardians after he started his vigil Monday: “If you don’t have a rifle, that is fine, that is fine,” he said. “Just bring you.”
In Gallatin, Tenn., three men, including one with a semi-automatic rifle, stood guard Tuesday at the recruitment center and said they will return periodically as their schedules permit.
In Howell, Mich., members of Michigan Open Carry said they are standing guard to keep recruiting offices safe.
In Louisville, Ky., Navy veteran Tim Keown was standing guard Wednesday outside a recruiting center and wants to organize a group of veterans to relieve each other.
In Monroe, N.C., Air Force veteran Kevin Collins was moved to do something after the tragedy.”
One armed citizen “protecting” a recruiting center in Lancaster, Ohio, accidentally fired a round from his gun while in front of the building, setting of flurry of criticism online.
It is worth noting that military recruiting centers personnel are not allowed to carry firearms in the office unless they are performing police duties on the scene. This regulation—not law—has been in place since 1992, when George H.W. Bush was president. As Politifact details,
“In 1992, when Bush was president, the Department of Defense issued a directive related to firearms for military personnel. That directive replaced an earlier one from 1986. The directive doesn’t specifically address recruiting offices, but it applies broadly to military sites. The 1992 directive…said that only certain employees could carry weapons, including those who worked in law enforcement, security and prisons. The directive also did not apply in certain situations, such as in war zones.”
The overall policy remained the same, even after the regulation was modified in a 2011 directive after a mass shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas. Basically, if you are not part of the military police or civilian law enforcement, you are not allowed to carry a gun on a military installation, including recruiting centers.
Part of the reason why the recruiting centers are gun-free is the need to keep the civilians who visit the centers to sign up at ease. It is hard to recruit a reluctant civilian when that person is surrounded with armed recruiters. As NPR reported,
“[T]here are so many of these recruitment centers across the country, and I think when you walk into a recruitment center, you want to be at ease. It’s a bit intimidating to see armed soldiers or Marines walking around. So I think, you know, by definition these are places that are meant to put the public at ease and welcome them so they can have conversations and sign up.”
Today, the Army announced that recruiters ought to treat armed civilians around recruiting facilities as a security threat. As Stars and Stripes summarized,
“Soldiers should avoid anyone standing outside the recruiting centers attempting to offer protection and report them to local law enforcement and the command if they feel threatened, according to a U.S. Army Recruiting Command policy letter issued Monday…`If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens, be polite, professional and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement,…’ the [military] command advised…’Ensure your recruiters clearly articulate to local police the civilian may be armed and in possession of a conceal/carry permit.’ “ [emphasis added]
While the military recognizes that these armed civilians are well-intentioned, it also understands that such a presence might be mistaken as another shooting attempt and could therefore have a chilling effect on the process of recruiting members of the public into the military. The military has also opposed arming recruiters and rank-and-file military members who are not specifically trained to carry a weapon for policing duties. According to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman,
“We do not support arming all military personnel for a variety of reasons…(There are) safety concerns, the prohibitive cost for use-of-force and weapons training, qualification costs as well as compliance with multiple weapons-training laws.”
A former special forces officer who refused to be identified confirmed part of what Navy Captain Jeff Davis said. As he observed,
“ ‘If you’re going to be involved at recruiting centers or protecting the public, you should be able to fire at least 84 percent of your rounds into a life-size target at 25 yards,’ the officer told McClatchy. He said most military personnel are not at that level of weapons proficiency.”
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Naji Dahi joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in June of 2015. His topics of interest include American politics, Middle East politics, foreign policy, electric cars, electric gadgets, and yoga. Born in Syria, he currently resides in Long Beach, California. Learn more about Dahi here!
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