Armed civilians are standing guard outside military recruitment centers across the United States — even if the military doesn’t necessarily want them there — in the wake of last week’s killing of five service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Joe Arpaio, the notorious sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, said Tuesday that he was mobilizing his armed posse to protect a local U.S. Army reserve facility at the written request of an unidentified official there.
“An Army Terrorism Liaison Officer says due to a noticeable increase in surveillance and the photographing of this facility, the Army Reserve Captain requested Arpaio provide an increased presence with marked vehicles and posse volunteers at the Buckeye Reserve facilities as a deterrent until ‘the threat level of our soldiers declines,'” a press release from Arpaio’s office read.
Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, allegedly opened fire Thursday on two military sites in Chattanooga, killing four Marines; a sailor who was wounded in the attack died over the weekend. U.S. service members are not allowed to arm themselves while at military recruiting and reserve stations.
But Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Friday in response to the shooting that the military must be careful of “over-arming” itself, according to the Associated Press. The military has since directed recruiting centers nationwide to take greater security precautions, including closing office blinds, while groups like the National Rifle Association have called for a legislative fix that would allow troops to arm themselves at recruiting stations.
In the meantime, Stuart Rhodes, the founder of a group called The Oath Keepers, put out a nationwide call Monday for volunteers to guard recruitment stations. Rhodes’ loose-knit, national organization is made up of current and former law enforcement and military personnel who pledge to defend the Constitution against government overreach.
Rhodes told The Columbus Dispatch that it was worse for service members to be posted inside a recruitment center than overseas.
“They may as well order the service members to walk unarmed down the streets of Baghdad,” Rhodes said, as quoted by the newspaper. “In fact, it may be worse to be a recruiting station. … if they were walking down the streets of Baghdad, at least they would be moving.”
Other local news media spotted armed civilians guarding recruitment centers this week in places as disparate as West Virginia, Georgia, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
But the military wasn’t embracing all of those volunteers.
Marine Corps headquarters told Texas-based TV station KLTV that while they appreciate the volunteers’ support, they ask that civilians not stand guard outside their facilities.
And an unidentified official told Savannah, Georgia TV station WSAV that there is “always some concern about safety for our soldiers and civilians when someone is walking around with weapons.”