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Columnist: Jeb Bush wants military recruiters armed, overturning his dad’s policy

By John A. Tures

Contributing columnist

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Presidential candidate Jeb Bush says he wants to overturn the ban on arming military recruiters, a response to the killing of five servicemen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In doing so, he’ll undo a policy enacted under his dad’s administration back in 1992.

In a campaign stop in Nevada, Bush said, “It seems to me that if you have military bases or recruiting offices, these are symbols of American might, they’re targets.” He also called upon Congress to act to overturn the ban.

Ironically, Jeb Bush would be overturning a policy from his father’s presidential administration, adopted when President George H. W. Bush was in the last year of his term in office.

Oliver Darcy with The Blaze, a site founded by conservative talk show host Glen Beck, reported that having the recruiting stations become “gun-free zones” came from Department of Defense Directive 5210.56, signed by Donald J. Atwood, Deputy Defense Secretary under George H. W. Bush.

Fox News guest Chad Jenkins said, “Well, and look at the Fort Hood shootings. We had two shootings now that were mass casualty situations and now the recruiting station. Unfortunately, the executive order put in place by President Bill Clinton back in the nineties took away the rights for service members to carry, conceal and to protect themselves here in the homeland.” The conservative “Patriot Post” makes a similar claim.

In researching all of President Bill Clinton’s Executive Orders (you can look for yourself here: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/1993-clinton.html) from 1993, none of them covered this issue.

I did find this military regulation: Army Regulation 190-14, signed in March of 1993. But all it does is implement the Bush Administration policy from 1992.

Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, who served as the military commander in charge of forces in Iraq during the George W. Bush administration, said he’ll review the policy, but noted that such a policy could cause more problems than it solves. Sure enough, in Gainesville, Georgia, a recruiter accidentally shot himself while on duty.

A lot of the debate after shootings at Ft. Hood – and the less documented shooting at an Arkansas military recruiting station – was about whether the act was terrorism or workplace violence, missing the point about whether the military should protect itself better against either event.

I’m inclined to agree with Republican candidates – others like Scott Walker and Donald Trump agree with Jeb Bush – and like Bobby Jindal’s plan for providing armed guards for these stations. But I don’t agree with attempts to blame the incident on Bill Clinton. Evidence shows the policy was developed before Clinton became president.

And Republicans who want to lift the gun ban should be prepared to explain it to a few of their constituents, the ones who have conspiracy theories about the military concerning exercises like “Jade Helm 15” and the belief that our military is about to put us all in Walmart concentration camps.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He may be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.