JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Members of the Republican Caucus asked Gov. Jay Nixon to sign an executive order that would allow Missouri National Guardsmen to carry weapons Saturday.
The request comes after a gunman shot and killed five people at a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week. The gunman is being investigated for any possible connection to terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, better known as ISIS.
“We are fighting a global war on terrorism,” Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla), who is spearheading the effort, said in a statement. “It is inconceivable to me why the President refuses to allow our men and women in uniform to have the tools necessary to defend themselves against clear acts of terrorism on American soil.”
“We call on our state’s chief executive to make sure that every person who wears the uniform of the Missouri National Guard, including those who work in tactically vulnerable locations such as recruiting offices statewide, be … authorized to carry weapons in self-defense,” Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) said in a statement.
Other states have already responded to the attack by implementing executive orders like the one proposed by Brown and Munzlinger. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an order authorizing troops to carry weapons Saturday, and other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas followed suit.
The current law preventing armed forces from carrying is the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. This law restricts the military from acting as domestic law enforcement and makes military leaders wary of arming soldiers that interact with the American public, such as army recruiters. It also prevents potentially mentally unstable people from having easy access to firearms. Currently only military police may carry weapons on bases.
However, Brown says that law only applies to the Department of Defense and federal forces, not state-held forces, such as the National Guard. The National Guard has its own set of restrictions, but those can be overturned by executive order.
Brown said he acknowledges and understands why Posse Comitatus is in effect, but that the need for the armed forces to be armed at home has grown over the past few years with more attacks on military bases and recruiting stations. Leaving vulnerable targets unarmed worries Brown.
“This is probably not a very intelligent way to put our folks out there,” Brown said in an interview Monday. “In light of what happened in Tennessee, it seems like recruiting stations are an easy target. “For someone that intends to do damage, that’s an invite. You’re inviting someone who is a radical or just crazy…To me it makes common sense.”
Brown also added that the reception to this proposal from his district has been overwhelmingly positive. Brown’s district includes Fort Leonard Wood.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has been in contact with Gen. Steve Danner of the National Guard. He says Danner has already begun implementing additional security measures at recruiting stations and that the general is putting together a cost analysis plan for additional measures, including the possibility of authorizing recruiters to bear arms.
Schaefer says that added measures have widespread support in the Missouri legislature.
“Many of us have made that request to both Gen. Danner and the governor,” Schaefer said. “Obviously, they’re taking it seriously… if legislation is necessary, then I will be in full support of that.”
Gov. Nixon’s office did not respond to inquiries before deadline.