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Armed civilians guard military recruiting centers: Is this what the Army wants?

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Eric Schultz/AL.com/AP

(Read caption) A civilian from Huntsville, Ala., who did not wish to be identified, holds a gun while standing watch in front of the Armed Forces Career Center in Huntsville, Ala. Armed civilians patrolled the sidewalk and parking lot in front of the storefront recruiting center after five service members were killed by a lone assailant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Less than one week ago, Kuwait-born, naturalized American Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on military recruiting centers in Tennessee, killing four Marines and a Navy sailor. While the Pentagon and Congress consider whether to arm military members on bases and at recruitment centers, armed civilians have begun to patrol military sites.

"I'm here to protect our military because they're not allowed to protect themselves," said Orlando Perez to KRGV-TV, in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Like many others around the country, the Texan has decided to stand guard at a military recruiting center. 

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Many are asking if and where military service members should be allowed to carry weapons, and two legislators have already introduced a bill to address it. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) of California Sen. Steve Daines (R) of Montana introduced the SEMPER FI Act on Tuesday, to allow recruiters to be armed and to improve security at the centers where they work.

In the meantime, the Department of Defense prefers that the civilians not guard the military centers.

"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. Our continued public trust lies among our trained first responders for the safety of the communities where we live and work," said a statement from the US Marine Corps of San Diego.

A Navy official told CNN that if armed civilians appear at recruitment centers, recruiters will try to work from other locations.

"We are taking precautions to ensure everyone's safety and security, and we don't want the general public to come in and put themselves in any kind of danger," said Sgt. Erica B. Kirsop to CBS in San Diego.

In light of the shootings, military recruiting has temporarily moved to local National Guard armories in Tennessee, under Governor Bill Haslam's orders. The state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security has also "streamlined the handgun permit application process for members of the military," according to the governor's press release.  

On Thursday, the Pentagon is briefing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on recommendations for how to improve security at military centers, reports CNN. He will then take these recommendations to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter by Friday in order to inform national policy.

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Meanwhile in Tennessee, "We are doing everything within our power to ensure that we maintain a safe working environment for these men and women, but it is imperative that we don't rush our analysis and do something that could possibly cause more problems," said the state's Adjutant General Max Haston.


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