US gun enthusiasts protect 'defenseless' military after Chattanooga attack

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In the wake of a terror attack that claimed the lives of five military personnel at two recruitment centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, armed citizens have started guarding military who aren’t allowed to defend themselves.

It’s called the Military Protection Assistance Program, which is encouraging volunteers and gun enthusiasts in open-carry states to come out. Brian Blackden, one of the volunteers and the owner of a gun shop in Concord, New Hampshire, said in an interview with the Concord Patch“It’s to support the military and to let the governor know that she needs to take action, like at least two other governors have done, and let them have firearms, so they can protect our liberties.”

This latest show of American vigilantism spans a number of military recruitment and reserve centers in different states, including Texas, South Carolina, Idaho, Missouri and New Hampshire, to name a few. It was spawned by the recent shootings at two recruitment centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in which Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a son of immigrants from the Middle East, opened fire on two recruiting stations, killing four marines and one naval officer.

The incident highlighted a peculiarity of US law, namely that American military personnel, although allowed to go to other countries to kill America’s enemies, are not permitted to carry weapons while at military facilities inside the United States.

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"They should be armed because they make themselves a target and it’s unfair and disgusting that they aren’t protected,” said Blackden.

“They can go overseas, and they can fight for us, and they can say that they're fighting to protect America, but they can't protect themselves at home?” volunteer and a former Marine Mouse Prosen from Greenville, South Carolina told WYFF News 4.

So far, however, the US government’s response has been mixed. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently ordered extra security at recruiting centers, but ultimately stopped short of arming the troops.

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This lack of governmental response has opened the door for armed citizens and militias to step and fill the gap left by law enforcement. Among some of the more noteworthy paramilitary groups are the “Oath Keepers”, a national nonprofit dedicated to defending the Constitution.

Some law enforcement officials, such as South Carolina Police Chief Keith Grounsell in Simpsonville, welcomed the paramilitary support: “That's the most important thing to me. That they're doing it as law-abiding citizens, taking the proper approach, communicating with the local police departments to assure that they don't overstep their boundaries."

However, some recruiting stations, such as one in San Diego, asked city residents not to follow the example of the armed groups now popping up around the country.