DesJarlais' bill to allow military to carry firearms at recruiting centers passes Senate

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., speaks to supporters in this 2014 file photo.

Legislation allowing military members to carry firearms at military recruitment centers is one step closer to becoming law, even if top brass doesn't see the need.

In response to the July 16 shootings in Chattanooga that killed five military service members, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., introduced a bill with U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., called Enhancing Safety at Military Installations Act. It was included as a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, DesJarlais's office said. That act has now passed both the Senate and the House.

"Before, under this directive, no member of the military could carry weapons at recruitment facilities," said Robert Jameson, communications director for DesJarlais. "Our legislation doesn't mandate it. All it says is now commanders can make the determination whether or not certain individuals in certain locations should be allowed to carry weapons."

But even before the shooting in Chattanooga, recruitment centers have been targets. One military member was killed during a shooting at a recruitment center in Little Rock, Ark., in 2009. A bomb exploded near a recruitment office in Times Square in New York City in 2008 - no one was injured. And a man shot at a Coast Guard recruiting center and Marine recruitment center in separate occasions in Virginia in 2010. No one was hurt in those attacks either.

Because of that targeting, DesJarlais said action must be taken to give military members adequate safety measures.

photo Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., speaks to supporters in this 2014 file photo.

"Our men and women in uniform must have the ability to protect themselves regardless of where they are serving," he said in a news release.

DesJarlais's and Cohen's bill earned bipartisan support. Every Tennessee representative co-sponsored the bill. There has been some opposition though. The Marine Corps Recruiting Command did not respond for comment, but did tell the Times Free Press earlier it would not advise arming officers in recruiting centers.

"Arming Marine recruiters would interfere with recruiter interaction with the public in many places, such as on school campuses and in the homes of prospective applicants," Jim Edwards, Marine Corps Recruiting Command deputy director of public affairs, wrote in a September email. "Recruiters showing up armed is not going to make either educators or parents comfortable."

The legislation might be moot, however. To become law, President Barack Obama must sign the bill. The White House has repeatedly said he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 because of budgetary issues he has with the proposed legislation.

The provision would repeal a Department of Defense directive from 1992, which barred service members from carrying firearms at U.S. facilities.

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.