Chattanooga Massacre Reignites the Debate Over Arming Military Personnel

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On July 16, 2015, a lone gunman opened fire on two military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, Tenn. killing four marines that day. A fifth man, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, passed away from injuries received during the shooting a few days later. The victims were unarmed and ambushed by their assailant. This Chattanooga massacre has reignited the debate, which suggest that all military personnel should be armed at all times on military premises.

ABC News reported, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazzeez drove up to the first recruiting office in Chattanooga on Thursday, and according to witnesses, riddled the building with bullets. During this attack, the people inside could only run for cover before being struck by the barrage of bullets. ABC News further recounted that once the shooter had finished at the first location he sped off to another scene and began shooting until he was shot and killed by a civilian police officer.

Reports noted that the people killed inside the recruiting office were all trained military personnel. Many of them had actually served overseas in the current war. Nevertheless, because this location is considered a gun-free zone, victims had no weapons on them at the time of the occurrence. Many people claim this would not have been a massacre if the marines had been armed and able to defend themselves.

New York Daily News explains how the issue was also up for debate after the tragic events of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting. Nidal Hassan had opened fire on a military base in its gun-free zones. Several were killed and injured in the attack. Hassan kept firing until he was finally taken down by a civilian police officer. They further reported that the 2013 Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C. was a similar event. The attack was at another gun-free zone where the victims were defenseless against a rabid shooter.

The New York Daily News confirms how under President Clinton, recruiting centers and military bases had become gun-free in 1993. This was after Clinton modified the directive set forth by the first President Bush in 1992. Since then, the only personnel allowed to carry firearms at these locations were the military police.

However, with the reported rise of ISIS and its commands for attacks on U.S. soil, the question as to whether military men and women should be armed on all military properties at all times has become a priority to address. This latest massacre in Chattanooga has reignited the debate over arming service men and women. This time around, the question has already motivated officials in many states to make changes to these laws.

NBC News reports that as of Saturday, the governors in six states have authorized active National Guard personnel to carry firearms. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Florida’s Rick Scott were two of the governors to make this quick decision in the face of the latest tragedy. They further state that the Army Chief of Staff is addressing the issue, but claims they have to be careful when arming service men and women because of the Posse Comitatus Act. This is in place to ensure military personnel are not involved in civilian law enforcement matters.

After this latest shooting and with the growing ISIS threat, many agree these laws need to be reconsidered. The Washington Post reports that Senator John McCain and Rep. Mac Thornberry have been working on an act to allow U.S. service members to protect themselves as threats against them rise. They also claim that there is mounting pressure on congress to arm the military on American soil. The Chattanooga massacre has reigniting this debate.

By Megan Hellmann

New York Daily News-Chattanooga Shooting Renews Debate Over Military Gun-Free Zones
NBC News-Governors Authorize National Guard to be Armed After Chattanooga Attack
The Washington Post-The Unarmed Forces: Will the Pentagon let Troops Carry Weapons After Chattanooga
ABC News-How the Chattanooga Shooting Unfolded

Photo Courtesy of Gilbert Mercier’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License