Bob Goodlatte: Protecting those who serve

goodlattefourinServing in the line of danger is not foreign to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. They bravely serve throughout the globe, facing threats each and every day. But when acts of horrific violence happen here at home against our men and women in uniform, it is a stark reminder that the threats they face are ever-present and have no clear boundaries.

On July 16th, a shooter attacked a Marine Corps recruiting center and U.S. Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga, killing five service members. My heart and prayers go out to the victims and their families as well as the entire military community. This attack demonstrates that domestic terrorism is a real, ongoing threat with lethal consequences. It also raises serious concerns regarding current Department of Defense policy that restricts most of our military personnel from carrying firearms while on duty within the United States.

Our service members have vowed to defend and protect our nation and the freedoms we hold dear. We owe it to them to ensure they have the right to defend and protect themselves on American soil. That is why I have signed on in support of the Securing Military Personnel Response Firearm Initiative Act, or SEMPER FI Act, which would authorize military recruiters to carry a service-issued sidearm as a personal or force-protection measure while on duty, as well as the bipartisan Enhancing Safety at Military Installations Act.

Though Congress is working to reverse this policy, the Department of Defense has the authority to act immediately. For that reason, I also joined several of my colleagues in sending two letters to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter urging the Department to allow service members to be armed at U.S. military facilities. I was encouraged to learn that just a few days ago Secretary Carter asked each military branch for recommendations to improve security at their installations, including the option of increased armed personnel. This is an important step in securing the safety of our men and women in uniform.

I am forever grateful for the service of our Armed Forces. As we see the threats against our service members evolve, it is common sense that the Department of Defense should act now to allow the members of our Armed Forces the necessary means of protection.

Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth District in Congress.

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