The warnings were out there, ISIS called for strikes and several attempts on the homeland were foiled. The axiom that ‘we have to be right 100% of the time and they only have to be right once’ came to fruition during the brutal attacks in Chattanooga, TN that claimed the lives of four U.S. Marines and one sailor. Both sites were soft targets, a Naval Reserves center and a recruiting center. The question we have to ask is, given the nature of the threat and the warnings given, why were they ‘soft’ targets at all? One of the scenes even had a sign on the door proudly proclaiming it was a ‘gun-free zone’. It is ridiculous that any military installation, no matter how small, should be a gun free zone.
Even though the gunman was killed, the attack was a success by the enemy’s standards. They can add this attack to their propaganda reels. They now have a workable operation template that they can use to plot further attacks. It is all but guaranteed that more recruiting offices, Guard/Reserve centers, and small bases will be targets.
President Clinton signed an executive order stripping our service members of their Second Amendment rights when they set foot on any federal military reserve on U.S. soil. There may have been a good reason at the time—prevention of workplace violence, suicides, accidents and the like. Our country was not at war at the time, or at least that’s what we told ourselves. Now we are, and the enemy seeks to attack us in our homeland. Times have changed and we need to change with them. We need to arm our armed service members at home. We would not even think to send our troops into a war zone without their arms. Like it or not, America is now a battlefield. It’s a low intensity conflict to be sure, but it’s a war zone nonetheless.
Of course there are concerns, those stated above, plus just the appearance of weapon-carrying soldiers in public. Chattanooga should have proved that it may now be costly not to arm our troops, or at least a portion of them while at home. Even those concerns mentioned should be reexamined. Some worry about soldiers having loaded weapons in public places such as malls and strip malls. Police regularly patrol these places armed with loaded side arms and no one seems to worry about them. Some shopping malls even have police stations inside them. The terrorists don’t attack police stations, and for a good reason, why not extend that to recruiting stations?
Our military members have been highly trained in the use of firearms. What’s more they are hard wired to follow Rules of Engagement “ROE” in combat areas. Strict, sensible ROE can be emplaced for our military serving in America. The service members and public can be protected much as non combatants on a foreign battlefield can be protected. Basically, only fire your weapon when protecting yourself and others, and only when the chance of hitting innocent bystanders is at a minimum.
Allowing all our servicemen and women to carry weapons would admittedly be a logistical challenge, but no more so than keeping our police forces armed. At a minimum, unit commanders should be given the discretion whether or not to allow those under their command to carry either legally owned personal or government issued weapons while on duty at U.S. Military installations. Another concern is that the sudden appearance of heavily armed troops in this country might give the impression of an occupying force. This is not necessary in order to keep our troops safe at home. A good starting point would be to arm the commanding officer and ranking NCO of each installation and recruiting station with sidearms. It would be no more noticeable than a similarly equipped law enforcement officer.
Our military is allowed to protect themselves on foreign battlefields. It would be absurd if they weren’t. What America is only just figuring out in the wake of the Chattanooga tragedy is that our homeland is also a battlefield on the war on terror. They need to be armed sufficiently to protect themselves and the non combatants around them. It is ridiculous to think that any military installation, no matter how small should be looked upon by terrorists as a soft target. Allowing at least a select portion of our armed service members to be armed can be done in a safe, low profile way is not only necessary, it recognizes the current reality that all military installations are high value targets for terrorists. If we don’t we risk more casualties in the ever more domestic war on terror.