MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order Tuesday authorizing Wisconsin National Guard personnel to carry firearms while on duty in the wake of an attack on a pair of military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The governor’s order directed Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, who oversees the Wisconsin National Guard, to arm guard personnel “as reasonably necessary.” Walker also said in a news release that he ordered Dunbar to review the long-term security plans for all of the guard’s facilities.
“Safety must be our top priority, especially in light of the horrific attack in Chattanooga,” Walker said in the release.
Dunbar immediately ordered the posting of armed guardsmen at the guard’s four storefront recruiting stations in Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee, said Maj. Paul Rickert, the guard’s spokesman. Visitors to those locations should be prepared to have their bags searched, Rickert said. The guard began a security review Monday evening after learning the order was about to come down, he added.
Walker’s order comes after a gunman killed four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor at two Chattanooga military facilities on Thursday. Authorities say the shooter was 24-year-old Muhammed Youssef Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Kuwait. Police killed him.
Abdulazeez’s motives remain unclear, although authorities are treating it as a domestic terrorism investigation.
Walker’s order would not affect non-Wisconsin National Guard military offices in the state, which are federally run.
Walker, who is seeking the 2016 presidential nomination, on Friday called for an end on a ban on service members carrying guns in federally operated military recruiting offices. Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, two other Republicans seeking the presidential nomination, called for an end to the ban on the same day as Walker.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, yet another GOP presidential hopeful, issued an executive order on Friday authorizing his state’s National Guard leader to arm personnel. A number of other governors have issued similar orders as well.
Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais said he has drafted legislation that would repeal bans on military personnel carrying firearms at military recruitment facilities and bases. Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he plans to introduce a similar bill.
Meanwhile, a group of veterans has taken to gathering in front of a joint Marine-Navy recruiting station in Madison. They told WKOW-TV they’re protesting the weapons ban, saying it leaves recruiters vulnerable to attack.
David Walters, 30, and Chip Beduhn, 44, both of Baraboo, leaned against their motorcycles outside the station on Tuesday while an American flag the recruiters brought out to them flapped in the breeze. For them, it was more about showing support for the military than the weapons ban.
“If it could happen in Chattanooga, it could happen here,” said Beduhn, who works as a security guard. “If I can do anything to prevent it, I would.”
Walters, an Army veteran with thickly-muscled forearms, a beard and sunglasses, said he served in Iraq and Afghanistan and he wanted to show people that the country cares about the military.
“People in general as a nation still need to see we’re capable of good things, of coming together,” Walters said. “It’s about showing support as a veteran to guys who are still serving. They’re always going to be your brothers and sisters.”
Walkers and Beduhn said they didn’t know how long the group would keep showing up.
And if someone decides to attack the station? Walters said he has a concealed carry permit and was packing.
“I’m comfortable with violence,” he said.
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