NASHVILLE -- While the state's handgun-carry permitting process is being accelerated for Tennessee National Guard members following last week's slaying of five U.S. servicemen, Gov. Bill Haslam's office acknowledges the directive does not yet address whether Guard personnel can bring their firearms to work.
"It's an issue still being worked on at this point," Haslam spokeswoman Laura Herzog said Thursday in an email.
Haslam on Wednesday announced he had moved the state's seven storefront recruiting centers to more secure facilities in National Guard armories.
But because at least some are co-located with federal military installations or on federally owned property, there are legal issues involved. The U.S. military does not allow firearms except for designated personnel, administration officials have previously said.
The Tennessee Firearms Association said the governor's plans say "nothing about arming the Tennessee military facilities to repel future terrorist attacks on those facilities. It does not indicate any plans to prepare the Tennessee military to respond to possible terrorist attacks at non-military civilian targets" and eliminate what the group calls "gun-free zones" vulnerable to "terrorist attacks."
Meanwhile, Tennessee lawmakers plan to hold an Aug. 19 hearing to "assess the state's security status" and get an update on the steps taken by Haslam, who directs the National Guard but has no authority over the U.S. Military.
Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager, R-Kingston, and Senate Transportation and Safety Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, will hold the joint hearing.
"We wanted to have a committee hearing to see how well the governor's directive is being carried out and if there's any way to complement that," Yager said. "We all share the same concern, the security of our men and women in our recruiting centers and in our military."
Led by U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., the state's congressional delegation has introduced legislation that would do away with a 1992-1993 Pentagon directive that sharply limits U.S. troops' ability to carry firearms on U.S. military installations, including recruiting and training centers. It would require the Pentagon to set policy determining which trained personnel be allowed to carry military-issue weapons.
However, there are concerns about allowing military personnel to carry weapons, including in civilian areas such as shopping malls.
A day after the Chattanooga shooting, a Navy recruiter in Gainesville, Ga., accidentally shot himself in the leg at a recruiting center, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported.
"We're not certain why this member of the armed forces brought this gun to the office. We are currently looking into that with the armed forces," a police spokesman told the station.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.