Concerning Arming the Military in America

Since the tragic terrorist attack and the murders of our servicepeople in Chattanooga, there has been a lot of talk in the state I live in, Minnesota, about arming ‘the troops’.

The discussion itself highlights the growing feeling among some civilians that we here at home in America are under an active, ongoing threat of attack. Talking about arming active duty military servicepeople is a response to the feeling that we are engaged in a war on our home territory. A terrorist threat, a guerilla war, however you’d like to phrase it.

As a former Marine that writes about video games for people who mostly don’t have anything to do with active duty military stuff, or who aren’t familiar with America (waves to Rel and Hunni!) I wanted to give you a little more insight into some of the issues involved here. Stuff that I just don’t see included in the discussion.

The first big thing is, this discussion is mainly being driven by civilian citizens that want to do something to try to address what they feel is a vulnerability for our armed forces. The argument goes, “We allow them to be armed and defend themselves when we send them in harms way, but here at home we disarm them but require them to wear their uniforms or be in clearly marked areas, painting targets on them and making them helpless victims.”

As an example of where this comes from, take a look at this relevant picture from the news coverage of the recent Chattanooga terrorist attack. That picture is of the front door of the recruiting station that took quite a few rounds through the glass.

gunfreezone

That’s right, a sign proudly stating that “this is a helpless victim zone, fire at will, we can’t shoot back.”

Oh, no, sorry that was my editorializing. It’s a typical sign declaring an area to be a gun free zone, so please don’t bring your guns in here.

How that is any different from posting a sign saying, “Hey whackjob, helpless victims inside, have fun” I have no idea.

So civilians want to do something. And something probably should be done.

But you can’t just say, “Oh well let’s arm them all and then we’re all safe.”

The armed forces won’t do that, because THEY’RE in charge of how the internal firearms policies work, and those policies are based on long and careful considerations of lots of stuff. No, really.

See, the first issue is the conversation is happening in the wrong place. Civilians aren’t going to get SHIT done about this.

Armed forces aren’t democracies. It’s a top down hierarchy that is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not a civilian legal code. There are specific rules about firearms use by active duty military.

Changes in the civilian legal system, especially at the state level, can’t dictate how a federal armed force will choose to arm or equipment individual mission classifications or MOS dutues. The National Guard may work differently, but sure as hell Governor Dayton in Minnesota ain’t gonna get the Marines all issued pistols and ammo. So talking about it is just a barometer of the concern we all have about wanting to do something.

Any action will come from the military themselves.

A valid question would be, “Is there anything in the civilian legal system preventing the various branches of the military from arming recruiters or other service personnel?”

NO.

They can absolutely do this. The armed forces can indeed, at any time, choose to make internal changes up to and including assigning weapons to, issuing weapons to, and instructing active duty servicemen to carry them while going to and from and about their duties here and anywhere else they are assigned.

The main issues as to whether they will or not are armory and supply logistics, firearms safety, weapons inventory control and mission requirements.

Let’s talk about mission requirements first.

All it takes for this change to begin is for the upper ranks of military leadership to re-examine what the mission requirements are for, say, active duty servicepeople assigned to recruiter duty.

If they re-examine the requirements for that mission and determine that the capability of an armed response to a potential threat is required, then they can determine what type of the equipment needs to be issued to a serviceperson fulfilling that mission. That includes the issuing of a firearm, what type of firearm, and deciding at what times that firearm is to be carried and how.

Regulations and standards get written. It’s called your T/O equipment, or table of organization equipment. Every rank, every role has a place within the Table of Organization, and if your role requires you to carry a Beretta 9mm pistol as your T/O weapon, then there you go.

It does not require any interference by an outside agency or civilian legal system.

I can tell you flat out that before that happens, before the T/O gets re-evaluated for recruiters to be required to carry firearms, then someone will have to admit that our armed forces in the United States of America are under credible and consistent threat on domestic soil by armed terrorists, whether foreign or domestic.

Despite all the talk in the media, ain’t nobody official from the federal government gone anywhere NEAR saying that, or admitting to it.

But let’s say our military leadership does change the mission requirements, they determine our military forces assigned to recruiter duty, or living off base, all need to be armed.

The next step are all those rules and regulations and standards that have to follow.

First off, it won’t be a case of just letting military personnel carry their personally owned firearms. Not in this lifetime.

This may surprise you, but most active duty military don’t OWN personal firearms. Not while they’re active and living on base. If they do have them, they mostly have them at their parent’s or relatives home, or at a friend’s house off base.

Why?

Because if you have a personally owned firearm on base, you have to keep it stored in the on-base armory, where it is controlled, maintained and issued by the armorers just like any government owned firearm, and if you want to check your personally owned weapon out to go hunting, then you have to go there and request it, fill out the inventory control card, and after shooting it you have to clean it before they let you check it back in.

Most people don’t want to deal with the hassle.

Also, there will not be a requirement that active duty military must spend personal funds to purchase a firearm for official use. So no, no they won’t make active duty recruiters carry personal firearms. And I cannot see them allowing the possession and carry of personally owned firearms while on duty in uniform. I just cannot see that happening, because holsters and rifle slings and safety and OMG just no.

No, if the mission changes so our recruiters need to carry a firearm for personal defense, it will have to be an official firearm identified and supplied by the military, controlled under armory conditions and inventory rules, and the service member will have to train with it and qualify on the range with it.

So, on to the next one. Armory and logistics.

The military will have to get enough inventory of these firearms to issue out to meet this new requirement. Also ammunition. Also all associated equipment like holsters, etc.

Training in the rules and regulations on grooming and cleanliness standards will have to be provided, since  aside from Military Police and officers, few active duty servicepeople are ever issued a pistol for their T/O weapon. Your average Marine sure as heck knows how to march with and salute with a rifle in his possession, but a pistol?

Yes, these are important considerations. You don’t just hand a pistol and holster to a Sergeant on recruiter duty and tell him to figure it out.

And finally, one of the biggest considerations; safety and public opinion.

Before the recruiters are assigned weapons and ammo and directed when and how to carry them, someone in the military leadership will have to decide that the benefits of arming the recruiters outweigh the potential negatives of loss of life, bad press and other fallout that would come from an active duty service person firing on and wounding or killing a civilian when it wasn’t in response to an actual terrorist assault.

If you arm a shitload of recruiters, you HAVE to address the conditions that permit those recruiters to use those weapons.

Only in defense of themselves? What about in defense of others? All service people swear an oath to protect and defend the citizens of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

That’s pretty fucking cut and dried. it doesn’t get much plainer than that.

Yes, there is training provided on when it is appropriate to apply lethal force. Yes, that training can and would be freshened up for everyone involved. But it is a consideration that would have to be rexamined in light of arming active duty people and sending them out to interact with civilians all the time. The training is normally focused on what to do while on active guard duty and witnessing a security breach, or in the field, not when walking across a mini-mall parking lot to your POV.

But this is the real world, and if you’ve never been in the active military you have no freaking idea how much your base and unit commanders fear and dread having their Marines or whatever get into trouble with civilians off base.

No, really. You really have no idea.

Just for a moment try to imagine that the unit commander is the father of 200 or more smelly, messy testoterone-addled teenagers whose only desire is to get out of the house, get drunk and get laid at any opportunity.

What is worse is none of those kids are yours, they come from your wife’s former marriage. So you’ve got all the responsibility, but you aren’t related to those pains in the ass by blood.

And finally, realize that these kids are off base, out of your control, and when or if they get into trouble it will be with civilian authorities that are going to resent having your charges out of their legal control because they fall under the UCMJ for most things.

That base or unit commander, therefore, rarely feels much mercy towards someone that fucks up to the point that the civilian law ges involved, from say a DUI off base.

You cannot imagine the reaming you endure and the punitive actions that can be taken when a dry cleaning store owner calls your base commander to tell him, personally, that Private Dumbschmuck wrote him a bad check for the uniform dry cleaning bill.

Think about it.

Now we’re talking about those military leaders having to address how to deal with having all those recruiters, working out of small offices all over the country, being armed and living exclusively among civilians all the time, with the increased potential for incidents that would come with it.

So there you go. Those are just some of the real issues involved behind the scenes right now while people are yelling about how OF COURSE our active duty military should be armed and why hasn’t it happened already, jerk that knee.

Could be those folks are right. Maybe our recruiters should be armed. Maybe ALL active duty military should be armed while not actively on base or at a secured facility.

But those decisions need to be made after careful consideration of all the many aspects of this change, and as part of an overall analysis of how to respond to the situation as a whole.

I can assure you that if our military leaders are looking at the pros and cons of increasing defensive capabilities on an individual basis among recruiters and off-base active duty military, they are also looking at ways to be proactive and go on the offensive, identifying the threats in each community and taking action against them to neutralize them before it gets to a shooting at a strip mall.

That would require increased military intelligence and cooperation with local and federal law enforcement, but those are the kinds of things they WILL be examining.

This isn’t going to be about a sudden popular fad in the media asking why they’re not arming recruiters.

It’s going to be about analyzing the overall threat, and how best to address it. And just tossing guns to recruiters isn’t going to be the only solution discussed, or the only layer to the solution, if any, that they eventually go with.

Never lose sight of the fact that before any of this happens, there will have to be an official recognition by the government and the armed forces that this is a serious ongoing threat that needs to be faced. I’ll be honest, our current sitting President does not seem capable of using the term ‘terrorist’ or of acknowledging that anything out of the ordinary is happening in America. Can’t fix it if you’re too proud to admit it’s broke.

In the short term, I’d expect many, many, many safety briefings and terrorism counteraction classes are being given and an overall “let’s be careful out there” message is being delivered to the troops.

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One thought on “Concerning Arming the Military in America

  1. My 2 copper:

    We can’t over-react to every incident. These are statistical anomalies. Tragic, yes, of course. Any time someone loses their life unnecessarily, it’s a bad thing. But, just what exactly can we do? And, what are the unintended consequences of said reaction?

    If we were to arm recruiters so they could defend themselves, what is the reaction when one of those recruiters goes postal and shoots people with the gun he has been allowed to carry? Unlikely? sure. But, just as unlikely as most shooting situations.

    Bottom line for me: an arms race is not the solution to the perceived problem.
    Secondary bottom line: it’s not as big a problem as it’s being made to be by sensationalistic media coverage and emotional reactions.

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