“As far as arming recruiters go, I think that’s complicated legally and there [are] issues involved… it certainly should be something we should consider,” Milley said.
McCain quickly countered by asking what should be done “if the legal part of it can be resolved.”
“I think under certain conditions, both on military bases and in out stations — recruiting stations, reserve centers — that we should seriously consider it, and in some cases I think it’s appropriate,” Milley said.
Milley’s comments come amid a national debate about whether more U.S. service members should be allowed to carry weapons at U.S. military facilities.
Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a recruiting station, and then ambushed service members at a naval reserve center several miles away. Killed at the reserve center were Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40; Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, 35; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist; Lance Cpl. Squire D. “Skip” Wells, 21; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26.
Law enforcement officials said Monday that they recovered a privately-owned pistol at the reserve center following the shootout and it may have belonged to one of the deceased Marines. Regulations would not have allowed a Marine to carry a privately owned weapon at the facility.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter called on Friday for “immediate steps” to be taken to enhance force protection following the Chattanooga shooting, but arming troops was not one of them. Mark Wright, a spokesman at the Pentagon, said that the Marine Corps chose to close all recruiting offices within 40 miles temporarily, instruct some recruiters not to wear uniforms and to boost security at recruiting stations to force protection level Charlie, indicating an increased terrorist threat exists.
The Army also increased its security at recruiting centers to force protection level Charlie, and the Navy opted to have more random searches at facilities and coordinate more closely with law enforcement.
Carter, asked about the review Sunday, did not say whether he is considering arming U.S. troops while on base Stateside.
“We took some steps on Friday that seemed immediately advisable,” the secretary told reporters while traveling to Israel, without elaborating. “I’ve asked the services to quickly, but in a comprehensive way, assess additional things that they might recommend.”
The Pentagon has restricted which troops can carry firearms while Stateside since at least the early 1990s. A 1992 Defense Department directive issued during President George H.W. Bush’s administration addressed the issue and provided the Pentagon’s rationale for limiting who carried firearms in the United States.
“The authorization to carry firearms shall be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried,” the directive said. “Evaluation of the necessity to carry a firearm shall be made considering this expectation weighed against the possible consequences of accidental or indiscriminate use of firearms. DoD personnel regularly engaged in law enforcement or security duties shall be armed.”