After the shootings at two military recruiting stations in Tennessee there has been an outcry from the woefully uninformed civilian population. They are shocked that the recruiters were not carrying firearms with which to defend themselves. What is even stranger is that many of them seem to be blaming President Obama for this lack of firepower. Of course the hard-right, anti-Obama pundits are doing their best to bolster this sentiment. Let’s take a moment to clarify the two complaints here.
- It is impractical and unnecessary for recruiters to carry weapons
Most of the time, just about everyone in the military is un-armed. Think about it logically for a second. Rarely are soldiers in combat situations or any type of situation where a gun is a useful thing to be carrying. In the case of recruiters, they would never be in combat. Their job is to interact with the civilian population to convince people to become soldiers. They deal specifically with unarmed, non-military human beings. Recruiters spend most of their time hanging around shopping centers and schools. Do you really want the guy chatting up high school kids on Career Day to be strapped with a loaded 9mm?
The fact that recruiters spend most of their time outside of military installations is a big reason they don’t carry guns. Military weapons are a huge security issue that Uncle Sam takes very seriously. Weapons and ammunition are strictly controlled and constantly inventoried. This is a good thing. You want to know the whereabouts of all your guns and bullets at all times. Therefore they are kept under lock and key at weapons depots with posted (and armed) guards. Recruiting stations are often located in places like strip malls; where are the weapons supposed to kept? Will the unit now have to post a guard every night or do they entrust some mall cops to watch over a locker full of M16s?
It’s helpful to think of the military like a giant corporation. The function of General Motors is to build cars, yet a small portion of their employees actually work on an assembly line. Most of the company works in support of the factory, not at it. Our military’s purpose is to fight wars but a very small percentage of personnel ever enter a combat zone; there is no need for most of them to even handle a weapon. This corporation concept is also useful for our second point.
- The President does not decide where and when soldiers carry weapons
The Commander-in-Chief designation confuses a lot of people; they think it means that the President literally gives commands to the military. He does but not they way you think. The President is like a CEO; he issues large scale orders but isn’t really involved in the minutiae. In terms of military decisions, he basically says “yes, we attack” or “no, we don’t attack” after that the chain of command takes over. The day-to-day operations are left to the Generals, Admirals and their subordinates. Each commander at each level has a lot of discretion to set policy that fits their specific situation. Think of it like this: If your local Starbucks keeps running out of Sugar in the Raw, don’t demand that the board of directors remove Howard Shultz; he doesn’t really handle condiment orders.
Even if you feel our soldiers need to be armed at all times, you can’t reserve judgment just for Obama. This minimal armament idea has been going on quite a long time. I happen to be very close with a veteran who was deployed to the Middle East many years ago to help out with a dispute involving a gentleman by the name of Saddam Hussein. When this soldier’s unit arrived in the Persian Gulf they had no firearms of any kind for almost a week. When they were issued weapons, they we not given any ammunition for several weeks. Eventually once they received bullets, they were forbidden by the powers-that-be from actually putting them in their guns. All told these soldiers spent almost two months walking around an active war zone essentially un-armed – and this was with a Republican in the White House. So if you honestly feel like military recruiters need the ability to “defend themselves”, by all means write your congressperson and tell them to bring it up with the Department of Defense. I doubt they will listen because, frankly, it is a stupid idea. But don’t think for a minute that Barack Obama is responsible for the lack of firepower down at the recruiting station, or that it somehow equates to the President being “soft” on terrorism. Also, you should probably lighten up on the whole Jade Helm thing because units involved in military exercises don’t carry loaded weapons either.