After Chattanooga Shooting, Congress Pushes Against Military Recruitment Centers As ‘Gun-Free Zones’

An FBI investigator works to gather evidence outside a military recruiting center. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN BAZEMORE
An FBI investigator works to gather evidence outside a military recruiting center. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN BAZEMORE

Lawmakers say they plan to introduce legislation to allow guns at military recruiting centers following the shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee this week where Marines in military recruitment centers were shot at the hands of Kuwait-born U.S. citizen Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA), both military veterans, say they plan to introduce legislation that would allow military recruiters to carry weapons, regardless of local gun regulations, and potentially beef up other security measures. But the new security measures could also create barriers to the public and hinder the military’s efforts to reach out to potential service members.

“I recognize what the recruiters are saying, that, you know, they want to have an open and inviting and welcoming environment to be able to talk to those who are interested in serving our country in uniform,” Gabbard said on CNN Thursday. But she insisted the legislation is crucial to the protection of members of the military. She went on to suggest military centers should be outfitted with bulletproof glass and potentially “some kind of armed guard.”

Department of Homeland security officials say Abdulazeez’s motivations for the shooting are still unclear but that the FBI is investigating the incident as an “act of domestic terrorism.” Investigators say that Abdulazeez fired more than 30 rounds into the first facility in Chattanooga and no one was harmed, but then he drove to a second location where he shot and killed four Marines on site, with a fifth later dying in the hospital.

Even though the shooter’s motives are unclear, military recruitment centers — which are generally regulated as “gun-free zones” — have long been targets for violence, including a drive-by shooting in Arkansas in 2009.

“Recruiting centers in a strip mall, they have no defense against people who just hate America and hate our military,” Hunter said in an interview with Politico Pro. “They’ve got nothing.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who famously served in Vietnam, released a statement on Friday agreeing that the regulations surrounding military recruitment centers needed to be changed.

“We can and must do more to protect our troops,” he said. “Yesterday’s murder of four United States Marines is a heartbreaking reminder that our men and women in uniform can be targets here at home, as they often are abroad. Long before the Chattanooga attack, we had been working to clarify a post commander’s authority to allow carrying of personal firearms. 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.”