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Should We Arm Military Recruiters After What Happened In Chattanooga?

BuzzFeed News spoke to two former military recruiters and got their thoughts on whether or not lifting the ban on weapons at recruiting centers is a good idea.

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Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team looks at the bullet riddled doors as she investigates the shooting at the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In the wake of the Chattanooga shooting which cost four U.S Marines and one Navy sailor their lives, some politicians and military officials are pushing for the Department of Defense to lift its limitations on military personnel carrying weapons for personal protection.

The day after the shooting, Sen. John McCain said in a statement, “I have long supported the right of military personnel to carry firearms for personal and force protection.”

McCain added, “In the coming days, I will work to take immediate steps in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen security at U.S. military installations, as well as other military facilities including recruiting stations, and ensure that military service members are able to defend themselves.”

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, initially told the Associated Press that he had concerns about acting too quickly after the Chattanooga shooting and “over-arming” personnel.

But Odierno later clarified his remarks in an interview with Fox News, saying, "When it comes to recruiting stations, we are looking at it now -- what are we doing now to best protect them? We will look at every avenue — arming them, there is some authority issues with that so we have to look all the way through that."

On Tuesday, Republican congressmen Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, introduced a bill that would allow for armed military personnel at recruiting centers.

On Wednesday, Department of Defense spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis spoke to CNN, saying that they were sticking by the existing department policy.

"We do not support arming all military personnel," Davis said.

In fact, according to a 1992 Department of Defense directive, military personnel are already authorized to carry weapons in several scenarios other than combat zones:

BuzzFeed News spoke to two former recruiters for the Navy and Army to get their opinions on whether or not it would be the appropriate action to arm military personnel at recruitment centers.

Robert Parker, a former 2nd Class Petty Officer and Navy recruiter, said, “it just makes sense” to arm our military working at recruitment centers.

“It’s not an easy debate, though if I were still doing it, I’d want to be armed,” said Parker, who worked recruitment from 2003 to 2005 in East Providence, Rhode Island.

Parker said that if it were him, his preference would be to be armed with a “sidearm all day, every day, preferably concealed.”

While he’s for expanding access to weapons, at the recruitment centers, he believes recruiters should show discretion on when to carry a gun.

“When you’re going to meet with a potential applicant, if you’re meeting Mommy and Daddy you don’t want the M9 on your waist,” Parker said.

As far as the training for dealing with perceived threats that recruiters receive, Parker said, “In terms of terror things, there’s not much terror training. There may be more now, but up until I was finished, there was no training on that at all.”

Scott Rogers, who worked as a US Army recruiter in Wisconsin from 2008 to 2011, has a different take on the subject.

“Soldiers are the best at what they do, but not all are trained to handle weapons on a daily basis,” Rogers said.

“What many people fail to realize that not all soldiers are combat soldiers. In fact I would venture to say a majority of them are not,” Rogers said.

“What many people fail to realize is that unless you are in a combat arms occupational specialty...you only qualify with your weapon once a year and for many soldiers they do not even do that. I retired in 2012 and had not fired a M-16 since 2007 because of my time as a recruiter.”

This week, Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued an executive order allowing National Guardsmen in Rogers’ home state to carry weapons on duty.

As far as the politics surrounding this debate of arming military in noncombat situations, Rogers said that he believed the decision should lie with the Department of the Defense.

“I think this is a knee jerk reaction to an unfortunate situation and it is compounded by the fact that we are nearing the political primary season,” Rogers said. “I believe we need to give [U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter] and his team the opportunity to make any changes they feel necessary before we start arming recruiters.”

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Marine Veteran Joshua Blea pays his respect at a memorial setup in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 18, 2015.

Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Mike Hayes at mike@buzzfeed.com.

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