WASHINGTON – The general tapped to be the next Army chief of staff said Tuesday that arming soldiers at recruiting stations could be a consideration if all the legal challenges were met.
At his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Mark Milley responded to questions about the deaths of four Marines and a sailor who were killed Thursday in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The U.S. military on Monday confirmed to Fox News it directed recruiting centers across the country to step up security measures in the wake of the deadly rampage at two Tennessee installations that claimed the lives of four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor.
At the same time, a handful of governors have taken steps to beef up security measures at National Guard recruitment centers.
Governors in seven states – Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Wisconsin – ordered their Guardsmen to be armed.
National Guard are the rare exception of military personnel who can be armed off-base. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has cited legal issues with arming other servicemembers, including a 19th century law restricting the ability to arm Army soldiers off-base in the interest of limiting their law enforcement role.
Odierno, however, told Fox News that “when it comes to recruiting stations, we are looking at it now, what we are doing now to best protect them.”
“We will look at every avenue – arming them, there is some authority issues with that so we have to look all the way through that.”
Outside of military operations, Defense Department policy limits the carrying of firearms to personnel engaged in law enforcement duties and "qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried."
Adm. Bill Gortney, head of the U.S. Northern Command, which oversees security for military facilities in the United States, issued a directive Sunday night calling on centers to implement modest measures while the Department of Defense hammers out more substantial steps to reduce the risk to recruiters.
Recruiters typically set up shop in highly visible areas, like strip malls or storefronts to attract the most amount of people. Most are unarmed – and it’s this combination that some security analysts say creates the perfect conditions for an attack.
Not only are recruiters under pressure to deliver candidates who can clear basic mental and physical tests, they are doing so with ongoing budget cuts. The Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps are being asked in fiscal year 2016 to recruit 2,000 to 9,500 more active-duty members.
After the governors' decision to arm Guardsmen, Florida Gov. Rick Scott took it a step further when he signed an executive order to relocate six recruiting centers to armories.
As governor, Scott oversees the Florida National Guard and can act without federal involvement. He also ordered officers to make sure all full-time members of the guard are armed “in the interest of immediately securing Florida National Guardsmen who are being targeted by ISIS.”
Authorities say Mohammod Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire at a military recruiting office in Chattanooga on Thursday. Thirty minutes and a police chase later, five military members and the gunman were dead.
While the shootings are being investigated as domestic terrorism, there has been no hard link between the attack and ISIS, authorities said.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson authorized the Arkansas National Guard Adjutant Gen. Mark Berry to arm full-time military personnel.
“I want to join in those who are calling for greater security at our recruiting centers and military installations,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve had numerous instances of attacks. Clearly, they are a target, and for us to have unarmed military personnel makes no sense.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Saturday he will authorize Adjutant Gen.John Nicholas of the Texas National Guard to arm National Guard personnel at military facilities across Texas.
“After the recent shooting in Chattanooga, it has become clear that our military personnel must have the ability to defend themselves against these types of attacks on our own soil,” he said. “Arming the National Guard at these bases will not only serve as a deterrent to anyone wishing to do harm to our service men and women, but will enable them to protect those living and working on the base.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence issued similar orders.
Governors in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina have not issued specific orders to arm but have started the process to step up security.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s press secretary David Smith told the local paper the “governor has reached out to (Tennessee Adjutant) Genb. Haston, and we’re looking at appropriate next steps.”
Brian Robinson, spokesman for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, said the governor would not order National Guardsmen to arm themselves, “because current state law allows members of the Guard to arm themselves if they choose to.”
North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory instructed the Department of Public Safety and the North Carolina National Guard to step up security measures at recruiting centers, armories and readiness centers statewide but did not issue an order forcing them to arm.
“We will be vigilant in protecting those who protect us,” McCrory said in a statement. “These men and women are putting their lives on the line to serve our country and it’s our responsibility to ensure everything that is within our power to do for their safety is done.”
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.