Chattanooga Times Free Press
Nation’s defenders defenseless, some say
When Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez drove to a military recruitment center Thursday morning, ammunition sat snug in his vest, three guns within reach. Maybe more.
Ed Reinhold, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville Division, said Abdulazeez carried at least two long guns and one handgun when he opened fire at the recruitment center on Lee Highway and the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway. He killed four Marines during the attack. Three others were wounded.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, added during a Friday news
conference that at least one of those guns was an AK-47. Multiple local sources, meanwhile, told the Times Free Press that Abdulazeez carried with him two AK-47s and two handguns.
Officials have declined to clarify how Abdulazeez got his weapons. Reinhold only said Friday that the shooter acquired some of his weapons legally, but authorities didn’t know if he got them all legally.
No matter the number of guns or the path they took to reach the hands of a mass killer, though, Abdulazeez’s attack sparked yet another debate across the country about gun control.
U.S. Rep Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., announced Friday that he will file a bill next week to reverse Department of Defense regulations that restrict who can legally carry guns in military buildings, like the ones targeted Thursday. He said he is heartbroken, that he wants to “prevent another Chattanooga.”
In a statement released Friday, DesJarlais added that he doesn’t know whether more people with guns in those offices would have saved the fallen Marines.
But he said, “our military personnel have become targets, not just abroad, but on American soil, as well. Therefore, they must be given the tools to defend themselves.”
DesJarlais’ bill, which he calls the “Enhancing Safety at Military Installations Act,” aims to repeal an Army regulation and a Department of Defense directive that President George H.W. Bush signed in 1992 saying that only law enforcement and security personnel may carry guns in military buildings.
The directive does not apply in areas of war, hostile fire, training missions or civil disturbance mission areas. Under DesJarlais’ bill, Department of Defense officials and the president could not restrict gun-carry rules on military grounds in the future.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential hopeful, responded to the attacks on Thursday by Tweeting, “Get rid of gun free zones.”
Dakota Meyer, a former Marine and Medal of Honor winner, wrote on Facebook that Americans do not have enough freedom to carry guns, alluding to ISIS: “The threat is here, this is real, and this will not be the end of it.”
Locally, Wayne Rich Jr. said Abdulazeez might have been stopped if employees at the military recruitment center had been armed and could have attacked the shooter. Rich is a retired Marine Corps reserve colonel.
“I believe these deaths were preventable,” he said.
Maj. Paul Greenberg, spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps., said the branch of the armed forces does not plan to change its policies at recruitment offices.
“There is no plan to arm recruiting personnel,” he said. “The incident has not changed the Marine Corps’ resolve to maintain a presence in our American communities. Our reserve centers will remain open, and continue with the mission of augmenting and reinforcing the active component Marine Corps. with trained units and individual Marines as a sustainable and ready operational reserve.”
A YouTube account for Abdulazeez shows he was interested in assault rifles. He created a playlist with just one video on it, created by a user named IraqVeteran8888. The video was called “What you need to know when shopping for an AK47 variant.”
In the video, the person on camera explains specific details: how to spot rivets that the manufacturer pressed in too hard, so hard that the receiver will cave in, or how to tell if the maker did not properly cut the magazine lock up or align the scope rails straight enough.
“These particular guns are put together pretty hastily,” the host says while pointing out mistakes.
After Thursday’s attack, members of Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns called for Congress to tighten the country’s gun control laws.
On Friday, former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said city residents should have difficult conversations about gun control. Eventually. But now, he said, is not the time.
“It’s too fresh and too close to home,” he told the Times Free Press. “Here in Chattanooga, we need a period of mourning.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@times freepress.com or at 423757-6476.