Congressional leaders said Friday they will direct the Pentagon to allow troops to carry guns on base for personal protection following a deadly shooting rampage in Tennessee that killed four Marines and seriously wounded a sailor at a recruiting center.The directive will be included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets defense policy for the coming year and may be finalized by the House and Senate this month, according to a joint statement from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who are heading negotiations over the bill.
Gun proponents have been calling for the Defense Department to lift its current policy, which allows only security and law enforcement to carry loaded guns on military facilities outside of war zones, since Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
“Long before the Chattanooga attack, we had been working to clarify a post commander’s authority to allow carrying of personal firearms,” the statement from McCain and Thornberry said. “This year’s National Defense Authorization Act will reflect that work. Together, we will direct the Pentagon to end the disconnect between the threats our warfighters and their families face and the tools they have to defend themselves.”
But Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, warned Friday about “over-arming” personnel. He said that security at recruiting centers will be reviewed but that it was too early to say whether the service will boost protection, according to The Associated Press.
DOD spokesman Mark Wright said commanders already have some flexibility to arm troops if they see a security need.
The current department policy says that arming personnel would be “limited and controlled” to avoid accidents or misuse, and the arming of any servicemembers outside of security and law enforcement “shall be limited to missions or threats.” The policy was first issued in 1992 by Donald Atwood, the deputy secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Read more at Stripes