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Our View: For safety, arm our military

In the week since a gunman opened fire at military recruiting stations in Chattanooga, Tenn., killing four Marines and a Navy sailor, governors in at least nine states have authorized allowing National Guard members to carry weapons while on duty...

In the week since a gunman opened fire at military recruiting stations in Chattanooga, Tenn., killing four Marines and a Navy sailor, governors in at least nine states have authorized allowing National Guard members to carry weapons while on duty. More states are poised to follow.
Gov. Scott Walker, also a GOP presidential candidate, added Wisconsin to the growing list Tuesday, saying in a statement that, “Safety must be our top priority.” Agree with his politics or don’t - and around here it seems many don’t - Walker, like leaders in other states, has his priority well-placed.
“Give our military people a fighting chance against home-grown extremists,” as Bob Owens, an advocate for responsible gun use and the author of “So You Want to Own a Gun,” wrote in a commentary in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times. “All of the so-called domestic terrorism attacks at military sites have happened on President Barack Obama’s watch. It’s past time for the president to direct the Department of Defense to allow our servicemen and women to defend themselves on base while they serve.”
The Defense Department flatly rejected that notion this week even as more states took action and even as more defenseless military members are being targeted. Since 2009, attacks on military facilities in the U.S., including in Little Rock and Fort Hood, have left 33 servicemen and servicewomen dead and another 55 wounded.
Many military members are unarmed in accordance with a 1992 directive from President George H.W. Bush, a directive that made sense at the end of the Cold War when, as Owens wrote, “the risks of sabotage to nuclear missile sites and command-and-control facilities were thought to be lower.”
But the world is a far different place now with the reality of domestic terrorism and with global war ongoing against terrorism and against ISIS and other Islamic extremism.
How odd it seems for U.S. military members with extensive weapons training to be unarmed and unable to be a deterrent to a threat or attack.
“One of the easiest safeguards would be for the Obama administration to revise the gun rule that has made military targets such easy prey to armed attackers,” Owens wrote. “As a matter of practical safety, the issued pistols could be carried on an empty chamber with a loaded magazine in the gun. The risk of an accidental or negligent discharge in that case would be zero, but 15 rounds could be chambered in a matter of seconds to respond to attacks.”
In Minnesota, a National Guard spokesman said this week there were no plans here to arm soldiers and airmen who aren’t providing security. However, even before the shootings in Chattanooga, a comprehensive review of how prepared Minnesota’s guard members are for a possible attack already had been launched, the spokesman told the Star Tribune.
“We certainly want to provide the kind of security that allows servicemen and women to do their work safely,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in response to questions from reporters this week. “We certainly want our military men and women here to be safe and protected.”
In that regard, and perhaps for the first time, Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s governors wholeheartedly agree. But Minnesota has yet to join its neighbor to the east or the growing number of other states taking action to help assure that safety and protection.

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