Tennessee lawmakers pushing for end to gun-free zones at military facilities

NASHVILLE (WATE) – Several lawmakers from Tennessee are working to push legislation allowing members of the armed forces to carry guns on military bases and at recruitment centers.

State Senator Mike Bell of Riceville announced on Monday that he has filed a resolution for federal action to end gun-free zones at military facilities.

“It was on my heart. Having the family members who served, watching it on the news, seeing all the people go down there and lay balloons, flags, and flowers at the memorial. It affected me,” said State Sen. Bell.

The Republican senator drafted the resolution in wake of the attack on two military sites in Chattanooga on Thursday.

“When it happened, I thought that could have been somebody in my family,” said State Sen. Bell.

Extended coverage: Chattanooga Shootings

“We cannot in good conscience send young men and women abroad to fight our enemy only to disarm them when they serve here at home,” said Bell in a statement. “Our military men and women have the inherent right to carry a firearm and the training to do so effectively and responsibly. It has now been clearly established that our soldiers, sailors, marines and airman are targets of jihadi terror. We must give them the means to defend themselves — and us –when the War on Terror hits home.”

On Sunday, Governor Bill Haslam directed Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s adjutant general, to review current Guard personnel who are authorized to be armed in the performance of their duties and “identify and arm additional Guardsmen where necessary to protect themselves, citizens and Guard facilities.”

Previous story: Haslam calls for review of security policies and procedures 

The resolution filed by Bell states, “we hereby urge Congress and the President of the United States to review and revise law and policy regarding the carrying of firearms by military service members on military installations or facilities so that military personnel can both help prevent and more readily defend themselves from terrorist attacks against such facilities.”

“The tragedy in Chattanooga serves as a grave reminder of the enemy we face,” added Bell. “Hopefully, we will see quick action by Congress or the President to change this policy before the Tennessee General Assembly returns in January. But if they do not, this resolution will be ready expressing the people of Tennessee’s strongest recommendation that we give our soldiers the tools they need to defend themselves if attacked in the future.”

The resolution will be presented to the Tennessee General Assembly when they reconvene. If lawmakers have the chance to vote on it and the resolution passes, Bell said it will be sent to Congress, President Obama, and the Department of Defense.

U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais, Steve Cohen and Jimmy Duncan, meanwhile, are sponsoring a bill requiring the Department of Defense to issue a directive permitting members of the armed forces who have proper training and authorization to carry military-issued firearms on bases and recruitment facilities.

“Far too often we have witnessed horrific acts of violence carried out against members of our armed forces right here in the United States,” said Representative DesJarlais. “Unfortunately, current DOD policy leaves our military personnel unable to defend themselves in many of these situations. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation recognizes that we face a new era where terrorism and extremism exists both abroad and domestically. Therefore our men and women in uniform must have the ability to protect themselves regardless of where they are serving. I am proud to work with Representative Cohen on this issue and I appreciate the support we have received from our Tennessee colleagues.”

More online: Read the full bill [PDF]

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