Four US Marines were killed at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., by a gunman Thursday morning. Police identified the attacker as Kuwaiti-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who was also killed at the scene. The attack occurred in a “gun-free zone,” which has led 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump to question why the Marines were unable to carry weapons at a military center.
"These are four great Marines ... and that they're not allowed to carry guns is absolutely ridiculous," Trump told Fox News's Bill O’Reilly Thursday.
The US Department of Defense's current regulations on carrying firearms stipulate, “The authorization to carry firearms shall be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried.”
A 2014 Gallup poll indicates that American sentiment toward gun ownership has changed since 2000. Last year, 63 percent of Americans believed that owning a gun at home made the home safer, while in 2000 only 35 percent of those surveyed agreed that gun ownership led to increased home safety.
The debate over the effectiveness of gun-free zones in the United States often comes to the fore after high-profile shooting incidents. After a 2013 Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., gun advocates claimed that the limited availability of firearms in the yard's gun-free zone enabled the killer to take more lives. A recent incident in Garland, Texas, in which two armed men were killed at a "draw Mohammed" contest prompted criticisms from defenders of gun rights about gun-free zones.
But according to Mark Follman, writing in Mother Jones, there is no evidence that gun-free zones create opportunities for violent attacks.
Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns.
And according to gun control advocates Everytown, only 17% of mass shootings take place in gun-free zones.
"We have our recruiting centers set up in places easily accessible to the public. For example, a strip mall. So security there is not what you'd see at a Ft. Bragg, a Norfolk Naval Air Station or at Quantico,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren in a statement.
“So this is something we have to face. Security is not as extensive as it would be at a major installation. This is because we have to be in contact with the American public. We're continuing to look into this incident, working very closely with both federal and local law enforcement agencies to determine exactly what happened and if we need to make any adjustments."