Last week’s fatal shooting at a military recruiting center in Tennessee is renewing calls for allowing armed personnel at those facilities, with members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation joining in on the charge.
The shootings, which killed five people, have drawn attention to a long-standing ban on allowing service members to carry weapons inside military recruitment and reserve centers. U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) both introduced separate legislation this week that would address safety at those facilities.
Johnson’s bill, titled the “Armed Forces Self-Defense Act,” would lift restrictions currently stopping armed forces members from carrying a firearm at military installations, and would require Department of Defense policies to reflect the change. The Wisconsin Republican argued it would allow soldiers to protect themselves from being targeted by terrorists. He said “our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines…they’re vulnerable and we need to end that vulnerability.”
Baldwin’s bill would allow military police or other qualified armed personnel to be posted at recruiting offices and reserve facilities for protection purposes. The Wisconsin Democrat said that “recruiting centers and reserve facilities do not have the types of force protection measures-like armed military police and secure locations-that major military bases do. This is unacceptable and needs to change immediately.”
Several other proposals have been introduced. While Johnson described his legislation as a “thoughtful bill,” he ultimately just wants to see some sort of change made. He believes the best way to address the issue is through the reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act, which he argues would be the quickest way to resolve the matter. “Other members have proposals in mind. I plan to collaborate and ensure we get a bill with all the best ideas that a bipartisan group of senators can rally around to deter future terrorist attacks on military personnel,” Johnson said.
Military officials have pushed back against previous efforts to repeal the ban, citing the potential impact allowing soldiers to carry firearms could have on the chain of command. Johnson agrees it’s a concern that needs to be respected, but also believes respect needs to be paid to the fact that groups such as ISIS have specifically targeted members of the military for attacks. “We have got to work towards a common sense policy…the finest among us have got to be able to defend themselves.”