- - Monday, July 20, 2015


The attacks on military recruiting offices continue because they’re attractive targets for terrorists and they are, by necessity, located in vulnerable places. They’re placed in high traffic areas so they will be highly visible — they’re intended to attract attention — and they’re staffed by soldiers, sailors and Marines shorn of the weapons they’re trained to use.

Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who shot up the recruiting office in Chattanooga, knew that. He was not the first terrorist to target a recruiting office. Since the Vietnam War and the extremism of the 1960s through the emergence of homegrown terrorism, the recruiting stations have been targets for demonstrators, bombers and shooters, and they remain as vulnerable today as they were a half-century ago. Most of the vulnerabilities cannot be removed, but one crucial vulnerability can, quickly and easily. Recruiting stations, like domestic military installations, are what are known as “gun free zones.” The men and women who staff them have been trained in firearms, but they aren’t allowed to have them on the premises when they’re at work. The result, naturally, is that when they’re under attack they are unable to defend themselves.

Once upon a time there was little need for armed soldiers on duty among civilians, but events in “the Sixties” changed that and since a date in September joined December 7 in infamy, the danger has only increased. The prohibition has been official policy since 1992, with a directive issued by the Army during the administration of George H.W. Bush, and renewed by the military under presidents since.

Congressional attempts to rescind the policy failed after the terrorist shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and at the Washington Navy Yard. But for heroism at Chattanooga the casualties there would have been greater. “There were heroic acts by our Marines on that day,” Maj. Clark Carpenter, a spokesman, says. “They did exactly what we expect Marines to do. They got their Marines to safety. They took care of their Marines first, and then those Marine leaders went back into the fray to make sure that others were protected. They went back into the fray to stop [Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez].”

Military service demands dedication, bravery and sacrifice, and in return the nation cannot rightly demand such sacrifice while disarming the men and women of whom the sacrifice is demanded and expected. Disarming recruiters was adopted because military officials, like their civilian counterparts, were required by the politicians to believe that firearms in the hands of highly trained soldiers and Marines would lead to accidents and shootouts; there was no need for that kind of security. An Army spokesman even argued then that firearms training is expensive and dispensing with it would save money.

This is bunk. Men and women who dedicated their lives to defending the nation are dead today because they were denied the ability to defend themselves against the very enemies they have been trained to oppose. It’s a ludicrous and dangerous policy. The president and the Congress must make things right.

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