Are we are at war?
Congress seems to think so.
In 2004 they passed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act allowing off duty officers to carry concealed weapons not just in their jurisdictions but in all 50 states and United States territories as long as they meet certain conditions.
The rationale was simple. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 changed the world. For all practical purposes we are a nation engaged in a never ending war on global terrorism that is being brought to our shores by individuals as well as those working in concert with others.
The Fort Hood massacre.
The Boston Marathon bombing.
Last week’s shootings at a recruiting center and military installation in Tennessee.
They are part of a growing list of attacks on American soil by individuals tied to or encouraged by those that want to wage war on this country by killing Americans in and out of uniform.
The question now is why aren’t on-duty military personnel stationed in this country allowed to defend themselves and/or serve at secure outposts on American soil?
We should not expect the men and women who serve and protect us whether they are law enforcement officers or in the military to be collateral damage simply because they wear a uniform.
The world for the United States did indeed change on Sept. 11, 2001. It is clear terrorism against Americans can and will be carried out whenever possible in this country. This should not justify a police state status, far from it. But it should require at the very least that those serving be allowed to defend themselves.
We are told by some that arming military personnel at recruitment centers is problematic at best. They point to an incident last week where a Navy recruiter in Florida accidentally shot himself in his leg at an Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Gainesville, Fla. The incident is being investigated by authorities since the recruiter wasn’t supposed to be carrying a gun.
One would think that at least one person assigned to a recruiting center would be allowed to carry a weapon. After all, the most accessible target for a lone terrorist or even one acting under the direction of others are the multitude of military recruiting stations from coast-to-coast. They are completely vulnerable symbols of America’s military might and therefore a natural target.
At the very least on-duty military personnel should have the same ability as off-duty law enforcement officers to defend themselves and other people.
But that isn’t going to happen as long as the government is two faced. The Fort Hood massacre of 13 American soldiers clearly had terrorist overtones from the background of the shooter and things he shouted. Yet it wasn’t considered an act of war. The government considered it workplace violence. How is killing American soldiers in Texas different than killing American soldiers in barracks in Lebanon?
The targets were both American military personnel. And they were both in a war zone.
That’s right. Fort Hood and Lebanon are both in war zones.
Just because we don’t treat the Unified States as a war zone it doesn’t mean our enemies don’t. We have been told repeatedly by the best military and government minds that the war on terror is a different animal. Yet when it comes to simple security of military personnel in this country we act like it’s the good old days of wars taking place in clear and defined battlefields thousands of miles away.
Obviously we can’t turn every military installation from remote desert radar sites and National Guard armories to recruiting centers into armed fortresses nor should we want to do so. But we should want to give such military installations some sense of security by making sure that those assigned to them are no better off than ducks in a shooting gallery.
Five states so far have allowed National Guard troops at armories and their reserve bases to arm themselves. The states are Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
Why not California? If you think the reserve operation at Stockton Metro Airport is the furthest possible place on a list of terrorism targets then ask yourself this— then why is the FBI treating the slicing of fiber optic cables in his county and the Bay Area as terrorist attacks?
No one is asking for people to overreact but on the other hand not to react at all by not providing even minimal security in the event of an armed attack is pretty darn foolish.
It says a lot when the Fort Hood shooter and the Tennessee gunman were not taken out by military personnel but rather responding law enforcement officers.
It’s time to give the men and women who protect us 24/7 a fighting chance in the face of terrorism.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.