Groups of armed citizens across the country have begun stationing themselves outside military recruitment centers in an effort to protect staffers there after last week's deadly shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee. People have come out in states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia to guard the centers, which were designated as gun-free zones under a Department of Defense directive, the Associated Press reported. But authorities aren't sure they need the help.
Kim Paulsen, a member of the Iowa Militia standing near a recruitment center in a strip mall in Des Moines this week, told that city's KCCI-TV he felt he needed to "be here, doing this." Paulsen said he hoped his presence could deter attacks like the one in Chattanooga. If not, he's prepared to fight back.
"To have someone throw lead at you and you not be able to throw it back just seems victim," Paulsen said. "These guys should be able to be comfortable and not have to worry about what's behind the next car, and that is why I am here. Until the governor or the president changes some regulations and these guys can have a weapon."
— Londa Patter (@londapatter1) July 22, 2015
— Allie Hinds (@Allie_WJHL) July 21, 2015
Paulsen and others were responding to the July 16 shootings by suspect Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, who police say opened fire at the Armed Forces Career Center and a nearby naval reserve center. Abdulazeez killed four Marines and one sailor and was fatally shot by police at the scene. An investigation is ongoing.
At least seven states have taken action to allow National Guard members to carry weapons on duty, but some people have taken the situation into their own hands. On Monday, the national group Oath Keepers issued a call to its members to "step up in their community and stand guard at their local recruiting stations and Reserve centers (anywhere our military personnel are forced to be unarmed while exposed to attack)." It called the policy forbidding recruiters from carrying guns "idiotic."
"They put the uniform on to protect our liberties … that makes them a target," defense supply store owner Brian Blackden told the Concord Patch in New Hampshire. "It’s unfair and disgusting that they aren’t protected.”
— Brittany Schock (@BrittanySchock) July 21, 2015
— WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) July 21, 2015
But Capt. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps recruiting public affairs officer for seven states in the Midwest, told the AP the troops wanted the armed civilians to stand down. "While we greatly appreciate the support of the American public during this tragedy, we ask that citizens do not stand guard at our recruiting offices," Stenger added. "Our continued public trust lies among our trained first responders for the safety of the communities where we live and work."