Chattanooga shootings: Why should we make it easy for killers to attack our military?

Thursday saw yet another tragic attack in a gun-free zone. Four Marines were murdered. Others were injured.

Watching the coverage on television Thursday, it was hard to ignore the gun-free zone sign on the front door of the recruiting station. It was surrounded by bullet holes.

Officials hold news conference on Chattanooga shootings

Army regulations are very clear stating that personnel cannot have firearms during their official duties. Last year the Obama administration instituted interim rules that clearly prohibit privately owned weapons from all federally leased office and land, including recruiters’ offices.

We trust soldiers to carry guns all the time when they are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but somehow when they come home we no longer trust them.

We trust soldiers to carry guns all the time when they are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but somehow when they come home we no longer trust them.

The Obama administration hasn’t learned anything from the massacres at Fort Hood in 2009 and 2014 or the Washington Navy Yard in 2013.

After the Navy Yard shooting, the Obama administration focused solely on mental health issues. Mental illness is important, but only about half the mass public shooters in the U.S. are meeting with mental illness experts and none of these killers was identified as a danger to others.

But if the dangers from mental illness aren’t identified or if the cause turns out to be terrorism, what is the back up plan?

With the exceptions of military police, military personnel are banned from having weapons on base, in federally leased buildings, or while they are carrying out official duties.

For would-be terrorists among us there is an abundance of possible targets. In fact, there are simply too many possible targets. Allowing military personnel to at least defend themselves reduces the number of easy targets that terrorists/killers can attack.

Today some have argued that guns should be banned from military recruiting offices because weapons would make potential recruits uncomfortable. Yet, as a new report released Thursday shows, there are already well over 12.8 million concealed handgun permit holders in the US.

In much of the country, theatergoers or restaurant customers is likely to be legally carrying a permitted concealed handgun. In addition, we are talking about people joining the military. If they are really that uncomfortable around guns, possibly they should consider another line of work.

By coincidence, on Thursday a jury delivered its verdict in the James Holmes trial.

The diary of the Aurora, Colorado, Batman movie-theater killer was just released a month ago. He was considering attacking either an airport or a movie theater, but he turned down the airport option because of their “substantial security.”

Out of the seven theaters showing the Batman movie premiere within 20 minutes of Holmes’s apartment, only one banned permitted concealed handguns. He didn’t go to the closest nor the largest, but to the one that banned self-defense.

While we don’t yet know if the person who killed the people in Tennessee consciously chose targets where victims were unarmed, time after time we see killers make that exact decision. Take other recent the Charleston AME church, the Santa Barbara; and New Brunswick, Canada attacks over the last year where the killers clearly purposely targeted unarmed victims.

Why should we make it easy for these killers to attack our military?

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including “More Guns, Less Crime.” His latest book is “Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench” Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.