The recent tragedies in Chattanooga and Fort Hood have sparked a nationwide conversation on how to best protect servicemen and women stationed at military bases and recruitment centers across the nation.
Last Wednesday, this discussion officially began here in Minnesota as the Veterans Affairs Division held an informational hearing to discuss the safety and defense of Minnesota National Guard recruiting facilities and bases.
I was able to attend this hearing and observe the discussion.
The hearing began with Rep. Josh Heintzeman giving a brief overview of his recently introduced legislation that would allow active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard to conceal and carry personal firearms without first obtaining a permit in Minnesota. The same exemption is already in statute for peace officers.
Major General Rick Nash, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard testified before the committee at the conclusion of Rep. Heintzeman’s presentation. The General gave a brief overview of the steps the Guard is taking to protect military bases, recruitment centers, and the servicemen and women that work at these locations.
In his remarks, General Nash stated that he does not believe there is any need, at this time, to arm servicemen and women at bases and recruiting centers. He indicated that it is the responsibility of law enforcement to protect guardsmen. The General also said that he does not support Rep. Heintzeman’s bill that would allow active servicemen and women to obtain a conceal and carry permit without having to take the state mandated course.
Furthermore, General Nash stated that he does not believe there is any need for new legislation to address safety concerns at bases and recruitment centers.
After General Nash’s opening remarks, he answered a number of questions from legislators ranging from the cost of putting a security fence around Fort Ripley to emergency plans and procedures at National Guard facilities in the unfortunate circumstance of a shooting.
I greatly appreciate the General’s work and service to our state and country. However, I disagree with the sentiment that there is no need for additional legislation or measures to be taken to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our servicemen and women.
The tragedies in Chattanooga and at Fort Hood serve as grim reminders of the sacrifices that our men and women make in serving our nation. We owe them the ability to defend themselves and their families from terrorists and enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Rep. Heintzeman’s legislation and Wednesday’s hearing are starting points, meant to serve as a catalyst for the larger discussion of finding ways to ensure the safety of our men and women in uniform. Frankly put, we live in a different world than the one many of us grew up in and we need to make sure we are meeting the day’s challenges head on as new threats emerge threatening the safety and security of those in uniform.