Pentagon to clarify arms regulations for military personnel

A child dressed in a police uniform costume visits the memorial dedicated to the ones who was killed in the recent shooting incident in Dallas, on July 11.
A child dressed in a police uniform costume visits the memorial dedicated to the ones who was killed in the recent shooting incident in Dallas, on July 11. PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Pentagon unveiled plans Monday to grant military commanders more authority to arm servicemembers, one year after a deadly attack on military facilities in the southern United States.

The rampage at military installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee, prompted Congress to ask President Barack Obama's administration to loosen current regulations that bar US soldiers from carrying arms off of their bases unless specifically assigned to do so for security reasons.

The Defense Department plans to publish a revision to the arms policy "within a couple of months," said Major Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

"The policy will implement the intent of Congress and give commanders the authority to arm Department of Defense personnel at off-installation facilities when deemed necessary." The attack last year on July 16 on a Chattanooga, Tennessee recruitment center and a Navy and Marine Corps reserve center left four marines and one sailor dead at the hands of a lone gunman, who according to the FBI was inspired by radical Islamist propaganda.

The attack reignited the debate on weapons restrictions that some see as contradictory to the right to bear arms enshrined in the US Constitution.

Under the new policy, commanders "will have new options at their disposal," Davis said.

"It's going to give them flexibility." The new regulations will also "further specify commander's authority to include use of privately owned and government weapons" on military bases, where the arms policy is currently strict, Davis said.

The Pentagon's announcement follows a spate of fatal gun violence that has placed arms regulation once again in the national spotlight.

Last week, a gunman ambushed police officers in Dallas, killing five and wounding nine others as well as two civilians, during protests over the shootings deaths of two black men by police.