Seven states arm National Guard members in wake of Chatanooga shootings

Gov. Scott Walker added Wisconsin to the group on Tuesday saying 'safety must be our top priority.'

Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP
Members of the Michigan National Guard take part in Operation Northern Exposure at the Butterworth Yard Waste Facility in Grand Rapids, Mich., Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

After shots rang out in Chattanooga, Tenn. last week, the political debate began. As of Tuesday, governors in seven states – Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin – had decided to arm their National Guard members.

What’s driving the trend? Gov. Scott Walker, who authorized arms for on-duty National Guard members on Tuesday, believes it comes down to protection: “Allowing our National Guard members to carry weapons while on duty gives them the tools they need to serve and protect our citizens as well as themselves,” he said in a statement.

Chris Cox, the leader of the National Rifle Association’s legislative and political shop, told CNN, “It’s outrageous that members of our armed services have lost their lives because the government has forced them to be disarmed in the workplace.”

Many conservatives have echoed Mr. Cox’s narrative in their arguments. Some feel like the shooting in Chattanooga proved that neither citizens nor military personnel are safe and need guns in order to protect themselves

According to Fox News, National Guard members are the rare exception of military personnel who can be armed off-base. Troops at recruiting centers are not allowed to carry weapons. As the Associated Press reported, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement – a law that makes it illegal to arm all other military personnel outside of training and combat.

General Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told reporters, “I think we have to be careful about over-arming ourselves, and I’m not talking about where you end up attacking each other,” it’s more about “accidental discharges and everything that goes along with having weapons that loaded that causes injuries,” the AP reported.

The report adds that a recruiter in Atlanta accidentally shot himself in the leg with his personal .45-caliber pistol while discussing the Tennessee shootings with one of his recruits.

As the Monitor’s Peter Grier reported, it’s difficult to know how many Americans use guns in self-defense because the existing data vary so widely. The NRA and other gun rights groups insist that the numbers are in their favor – that guns save people. While gun opponents say that the proliferation of firearms has led to increased homicide rates based on their own data. The issue is a complex one.

A senior defense official told CNN that the Pentagon had made no immediate recommendation to raise security levels and added, “It’s very tough to figure out.” 

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