WASHINGTON — The general tapped to be the next Army chief of staff said Tuesday that if legal issues could be resolved he thinks it would be appropriate, in some cases, to arm soldiers manning recruiting stations.
At his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Mark Milley responded to questions about the deaths of four Marines and a sailor who were killed Thursday in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Authorities said Kuwait-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, of Hixson, Tennessee, unleashed a barrage of fire at a recruiting center in Chattanooga, then drove several miles away to a Navy and Marine reserve center, where he shot and killed the Marines, and wounded the sailor, who later died. Abdulazeez was shot to death by police.
“I think under certain conditions on both military installations and … recruiting stations … we should seriously consider it,” Milley said. “In some cases, I think, it’s appropriate.”
Tucked in strip malls in rural and suburban communities and in high-traffic city spots like New York’s Times Square, military recruiting and reserve stations are designed to be open and welcoming to the public. The troops inside aren’t allowed to carry weapons.
The ban is largely due to legal issues, such as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. U.S. forces don’t routinely carry guns when they are not in combat or on military bases. And Pentagon officials are sensitive to any appearance of armed troops within the United States.
The U.S. military has outlined security upgrades for recruiting stations, reserve centers and other facilities.
Military officials said security at recruiting and reserve centers will be reviewed, but Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s current chief of staff, has said it’s too early to say whether the facilities should have security guards or other increased protection. He said there are concerns about accidental discharges and other security issues related to carrying loaded weapons.
Just outside Atlanta, a recruiter accidently shot himself in the leg with his personal .45-caliber pistol while discussing the Tennessee shootings with one of his recruits. Officials said he showed the sailor the unloaded gun, then reloaded it and inadvertently discharged it as he was putting it back in his holster.
Milley currently is head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Prior to taking the Forces Command job in August 2014, Milley was the commander at Fort Hood, Texas. He was in charge when a soldier being treated for mental illness gunned down three people and wounded 16 others before shooting himself.