Two guys are standing outside the Army recruiting office in Sioux Falls with guns. These vigilantes are responding to an unestablished threat and using guns to promote their preferred policy change:
Twenty-three-year-old Zachary Gallegos and 26-year-old Landon Nohava were among those that have begun stationing themselves outside the Armed Forces Recruiting Center. Both men carried handguns Thursday morning in front of the recruiting center in a Sioux Falls strip mall.
…Both Gallegos and Nohava said they hope state and federal authorities would move to add protections for recruiting offices.
“I plan on coming out as much as possible until it changes,” said Nohava, an army veteran from Chancellor who had a concealed handgun. “Because honestly, it’s pathetic” [Kevin Burbach, “Armed Civilians Stand Guard Outside SD Recruiting Center,” AP via Deseret News, 2015.07.22].
Novaha’s “it” that he finds “pathetic” is apparently the very sensible Posse Comitatus Act of 1878:
While arming recruiters might seem correct, it’s just not the American way. The Posse Comitatus Act signed in 1878 by Rutherford B. Hayes was specifically enacted to “limit the powers of the federal government in using its military personnel to act as domestic law enforcement personnel” — in other words, to prevent a militarized police state [Linda Stasi, “Arming Troops at Military Recruiting Centers Isn’t Just an Overreaction — It May Be Downright Dangerous,” New York Daily News, 2015.0718].
(Gee, what happened to all the Jade Helm paranoia?)
Dustin Lau, who brought his gun to the Sioux Falls recruiting center on Wednesday, says the Army needs guys like him:
For Lau and Gallegos they have no plans to leave outside the building until the government decides to bring in authorized personnel.
“We’re out here until they can get the security that they need,” added Lau [Ricky Cody, “Civilians Stand Guard at Armed Forces Center,” KDLT-TV, 2015.07.22].
The Army doesn’t think vigilantes are the security they need; the military thinks that guns at domestic military facilities create more risk than they avert:
Military officials said security at recruiting and reserve centers will be reviewed, but the Army’s top officer said it’s too early to say whether the facilities should have security guards or other increased protection.
“I think we have to be careful about over-arming ourselves, and I’m not talking about where you end up attacking each other,” Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told reporters. Instead, he said, it’s more about “accidental discharges and everything else that goes along with having weapons that are loaded that causes injuries.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter late Friday asked the military services to determine if additional steps can be taken to ensure people are safe at military installations, and said he wants a report back by the end of next week.
The comments came as Navy officials confirmed a separate incident outside Atlanta, where a recruiter accidently shot himself in the leg with his personal .45-caliber pistol while discussing the Tennessee shootings with one of his recruits. Officials said he showed the sailor the unloaded gun, then reloaded it and inadvertently discharged it as he was putting it back in his holster [Lolita C. Baldor, “Chattanooga Shootings Leave Questions Unanswered,” AP via U.S. News and World Report, 2015.07.17].
Worsening the security situation in Sioux Falls is that the vigilantes “aren’t coordinating their efforts with any military branch.” I would think that a key part of securing a perimeter would be coordinating with everybody within the perimeter.
If Gallegos and Nohava really respected the military, they’d take their peashooters home. The Army sees civilians standing around outside their offices with guns as a threat to, not a promise of, security:
The Army has warned its recruiters to treat the gun-toting civilians gathering at centers across the country in the wake of the Chattanooga, Tenn., shooting as a security threat.
Soldiers should avoid anyone standing outside the recruiting centers attempting to offer protection and report them to local law enforcement and the command if they feel threatened, according to a U.S. Army Recruiting Command policy letter issued Monday [Travis J. Tritten, “Army to Recruiters: Treat Armed Citizens as Security Threat,” Stars and Stripes, 2015.07.22].
The Army tells its recruiters to do what I’d do if someone were loitering in front of my house with a firearm: call the cops!
“I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior,” according to the Army Command Operations Center-Security Division letter, which was authenticated by the service.
Recruiters were ordered not to interact or acknowledge the armed civilians, who have been greeted by a mix of concern, indifference and gratitude by the public.
“If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens, be polite, professional and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement …,” the command advised.
As the incidents crop up around the country, police could be asked to confront the civilians with guns on the Army’s behalf.
“Ensure your recruiters clearly articulate to local police the civilian may be armed and in possession of a conceal/carry permit,” it told the centers.
The command said recruiters should also immediately fill out an Army security report [Tritten, 2015.07.22].
When South Dakota legislators used the Sandy Hook school shooting as a pretext for its school gunslinger law, I argued that turning schools into armed fortresses makes no one safer. School boards appear to agree with me, as none have used the law to place gunslingers in the classroom.
Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno also agrees that guns at recruiting stations harm the Army’s mission:
Should troops manning military recruiting centers be armed? Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno doesn’t think so. He told reporters one day after the Chattanooga slaughter that doing so may actually cause more problems than we already have.
…Gen. Odierno even warned, “I think we have to be careful about over-arming ourselves,” and told The Military Times, “We can’t have places where we recruit young men and women that look like a fortress. We have to have a connection to the American people” [Stasi, 2015.07.18].
This vigilante movement, stirred by the Oath Keepers, is a dangerous mix of ammosexualism and Islamophobia. These gun nuts didn’t come out to federal buildings in 1995 to protect federal employees from the next Timothy McVeigh. They didn’t come to the Silver Dollar in Aberdeen after a man was killed on the sidewalk last May. They aren’t lining up to protect black citizens in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Waller County, Texas from unjust detention and death. They are doped up on the hype that the biggest threat to America is dudes who don’t look or pray like us, so hot damn! let’s load up and get us a chance to shoot us some Muslims!
The Army doesn’t need Gooney McBuckshot to protect its recruiting centers. Vigilantes, you are the danger. Go home.
Related Listening: NPR’s Morning Edition discusses mass killing in America: 284 incidents, just about 1,400 people who have died since 2006, about 70% involving firearms.