Yael T. Abouhalkah

Reckless gun-toting civilians should stay away from military recruiting centers

A small group of armed citizens stood guard outside a Colorado Springs, Colo., Armed Forces Career Center on Wednesday.
A small group of armed citizens stood guard outside a Colorado Springs, Colo., Armed Forces Career Center on Wednesday. AP

Men and a few women toting assault rifles, shotguns and handguns are showing up this week at military recruiting centers around the nation after the killings of four Marines and a sailor last week in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Supporters say the armed civilians are there to protect the centers, where service members usually aren’t allowed to be armed.

But more correctly, detractors look at them as gun nuts irresponsibly acting out their fantasies. They foolishly appear to be almost hoping to get involved in some kind of shootout with a terrorist.

Photos show men who look more like extras in a commando movie than part of a “well-trained militia.”

Police forces in these communities have no way of immediately knowing the intents of these people armed to the hilt, whether they have the proper permits to carry their weapons and — especially — if they have any kind of training to actually shoot accurately enough to ward off a supposed terrorist.

It’s good to see that the U.S. Army is not encouraging the new approach to “defending” its recruiting stations. The Navy also is not welcoming the unsolicited armed civilians.

“I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior,” according to the Army Command Operations Center-Security Division letter.

From Stars and Stripes reporting:

“Soldiers should avoid anyone standing outside the recruiting centers attempting to offer protection and report them to local law enforcement and the command if they feel threatened,” the command advised. “...“If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens, be polite, professional and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement ….”

So what are better solutions than putting possibly poorly trained, gun-carrying civilians outside recruiting centers?

Recruiters could be allowed to be armed, which would take a change of military regulations.

And the recruiting centers could be moved, as some already have been, to more secure locations than strip shopping centers.

But encouraging armed civilians willy-nilly to show up around the country outside recruiting stations because one idiot shot up a building in Chattanooga is not the answer.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.