Members of the Tennessee Army & Air National Guard who meet certain requirements are now able to carry handguns with them to state armories and facilities, according to a new decision issued Thursday by the head of the Tennessee National Guard.
The decision to allow service members with valid handgun permits to carry weapons at work comes weeks after an attack at several recruiting facilities in Chattanooga left five service members dead and many in the public calling for action.
“We have been very deliberate in making the decision to arm our Tennessee National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, in a news release.
“This is not a step that we take lightly, but it is apparent that military personnel have been targeted and the protection of our soldiers and airmen is of utmost importance. Physical security and risk assessment is something that we continually do as part of our day to day obligations.”
Haston’s decision was made in accordance with a directive from Gov. Bill Haslam. Haslam asked state safety officials to examine safety at all Tennessee National Guard and recruitment facilities.
Federal military personnel are banned, by federal law, from taking any weapons onto U.S. military property. However, the shootings in Chattanooga prompted several Tennessee members of Congress to propose a measure to change federal law.
This decision does not change federal law. However, Haston said the decision will allow certain National Guard employees who work at federal facilities to carry federally issued weapons.
“Federal law prohibits carrying a personally owned weapon on a federal facility,” Haston said. “Therefore, selected personnel working on federal property will draw and carry a federally issued firearm for protection.”
Tennessee lawmakers continue to informally discuss potential changes to state law in the wake of the Chattanooga shooting and a incident Wednesday in Nashville, where a man with a fake gun, hatchet and pepper spray attacked several people at a movie theater.