Armed residents have taken to guarding military recruitment centers across the nation, including in Gainesville, after a deadly attack on Marines at a recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tenn., earlier this month.
“We have seen the same, local armed individuals standing guard outside the recruiting center,” said Gainesville Police spokesman Kevin Holbrook.
Soldiers are barred from carrying firearms inside the centers. It’s a long-standing policy meant to create a hospitable environment for potential recruits.
But while the armed supporters have received public praise for their efforts to defend recruitment centers, top military officials prefer them to move on.
According to a letter issued this week, the U.S. Army Recruiting Command has advised soldiers to avoid interacting or even acknowledging the presence of anyone offering protection and to report them to local law enforcement if necessary.
The Army also said it does not want to be seen advocating armed citizens to provide security at recruitment centers, even if their intentions are well-meaning.
There are no immediate plans to arm recruiters or increase security patrols at recruiting centers, though policies are under review following the Chattanooga shooting.
Dwayne Rosser, chief recruiter with the Navy Recruiting District Atlanta office, which covers Hall County, confirmed that recruiters in Gainesville have also been advised on how to deal with the situation.
All was quiet Friday morning outside the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Gainesville, located in a strip mall on Dawsonville Highway, but the terrorist assault in Chattanooga has left some on edge.
Last week, just days after the attack, a local Navy recruiter accidently shot himself in the leg with a handgun he brought to work.
The recruiter had reportedly discussed the Tennessee shootings before the gun inadvertently discharged.
Gainesville police were called to the recruitment center, but no one else was injured in the accident.
Holbrook acknowledged that the tense aftermath of the Chattanooga shooting has the potential to cause alarm locally.
“We have responded to calls for service at this location in regards to the armed individuals,” he said. “I believe the calls came in from third parties. Ultimately, these individuals are all acting within ... both state and federal laws.”