Local officials respond to military security threats

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 27, 2015


METRO DETROIT — Local legislators and law enforcement officials are calling for increased security measures for military members following ongoing threats against the nation’s military and law enforcement.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, co-sponsored legislation to repeal the firearms ban at federal military bases and recruitment facilities, and Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard is offering a free concealed pistol licensing class for active military members from Oakland County.

“Our military has such highly trained men and women for the safe and effective use of firearms for our protection and for our nation’s protection, so banning them from carrying at bases and recruitment centers actually puts them in danger,” Miller said.

She said the July 16 attacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed four U.S. Marines and one Navy sailor showed that, with global terrorist organizations’ increased recruitment efforts, domestic terrorism is a real and growing threat.

Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, Michigan’s adjutant general, lifted the ban on those with CPLs from carrying firearms at Michigan National Guard facilities in March, but the ban at federal installments, including Selfridge Air National Guard Base, remains.

“You already have six states that require National Guardsmen and women to carry their weapons,” Miller said. “I think it’s just common sense.”

Penny Carroll, a spokeswoman for Selfridge, said only a few members of security details and military police can carry service weapons on the base, but personnel are not allowed to carry personal weapons.

“Nothing’s changed here,” Carroll said. “Federal rules still state that we’re not carrying.”

Miller said many legislators, including herself, were surprised to learn that a U.S. Department of Defense directive signed into effect by former President George H. W. Bush in 1992 put the ban in place.

The Enhancing Safety at Military Installations Act is the name of the bill Miller co-sponsored with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tennessee, on July 22. Upon enactment, it would repeal any law, rule, regulation or executive order that prohibits military personnel trained in firearms from carrying officially issued or personally owned firearms on military bases or U.S. military recruitment facilities.

“Our bill basically said that it may have made some sense back then, but the world has changed significantly since 1992. It certainly changed for everyone since 9/11,” Miller said. “We need to be able to have the military defend themselves, whether on a military base or recruitment area out in a strip mall.”

Threats to military members are taking place locally. At approximately 7:45 p.m. July 22, an unidentified man called the Michigan National Guard Armory near Eight Mile and Ryan roads in Detroit with a bomb threat.

Michigan State Police Lt. Calvin Hart said the man also said he had a sniper rifle and would kill any police officers responding to the call. Responding agencies, including law enforcement personnel from Wayne State University and the FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force, brought in a bomb squad and a K-9 unit. They found neither an explosive nor the suspect, Hart said.

“He hung up before the person that took the call was able to get a phone number,” said Dan Donakowski, an officer in the Detroit Police Department’s public information office. “He could’ve been unstable. It could’ve been a prank. We don’t know.”

On Aug. 2, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard will hold a free CPL class for Oakland County military members at the Detroit Sportsmen’s Congress in Shelby Township. He said that he decided the day after the Chattanooga shootings that he wanted to hold the class.

“It’s a two-pronged effort to encourage the (federal) government to allow and encourage (military members) to carry weapons to defend themselves and, secondarily, to create a process that would help them get that license if they so sought,” he said.

At press time, Bouchard said the first class was nearly full, but the partnership would allow for additional classes should the need arise. For more information or to register for the class, call (248) 858-9799 or email sweerst@oakgov.com.

“I sure hope that the Department of Defense and Pentagon take action, but in the interim, we are going to push this legislation,” Miller said. “I’m hopeful the Department of Defense takes a look at what is happening and revisits this ban, because there’s been a number of incidents.”