- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2015

Lawmakers are calling for troops to be able to carry firearms on military bases in the wake of a shooting Thursday in Chattanooga that left four Marines dead, though the idea has previously been denied by military leaders.

Leaders of the armed services committees are so intent on making a change that they announced Friday that they will include language on allowing troops to arm themselves in this year’s defense policy bill.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican, said Friday that they are working to update the annual defense policy bill to include language that clarifies when service members are allowed to carry firearms for personal defense at military facilities.

“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,” the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees said in a joint statement. “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,” they added.

Mr. McCain said earlier this week that he expected negotiators on the conference committee to wrap up a final version of the bill soon to be voted on by lawmakers in both chambers before Congress’ next monthlong break in August.

Four Marines were killed on Thursday when a shooter opened fire on two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. Three other people, including one police officer and one Marine, were also injured in the attack that left the alleged shooter, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, dead.

Rep. Duncan Hunter said that he is also planning to introduce a bill that increase security at military recruitment offices by either allowing recruiters to carry firearms for protection or providing outside security for these facilities.

“Until we get our hands wrapped around this, we have to allow the people who represent the United States military to defend themselves, at the least,” Mr. Hunter said. “If you go on any base, you have armed security there. … Recruiting centers in a strip mall, they have no defense against people who just hate America and hate our military.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, has also previously supported the issue, asking Mr. McCain to hold a hearing on allowing troops to carry firearms on military bases in April.

While advocates of the idea say arming troops could have stopped gunmen in incidents like the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood and the 2013 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, the military has long said that it does not support allowing service members to carry weapons on base.

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