Virginia Beach, Va. - Everywhere you look in Hampton Roads, you see uniforms. More than 100,000 active duty members live and work in Hampton Roads. But here is the truth about our armed forces. Very few are actually armed. And some are wondering if that should change.
“Our soldiers, our military, our veterans, are targets,” says Del. Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL.
He says terrorists know most men and women in uniform are not allowed to carry guns. That, he says, makes them vulnerable to a terror attack like the one in Chattanooga.
“I think any reasonable Virginian, and certainly any soldier, would think that they are better off during an attack with a weapon on them, with the ability to carry a weapon,” says Taylor.
But on Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told NewsChannel 3 he will not join the growing list of governors issuing orders to arm their national guards.
“What the governor is saying is that it`s OK for him to be protected with men with concealed weapons, concealed pistols on their person, for him and his family to be protected, but it`s not OK for soldiers to be able to protect themselves, or their families, or other military members,” says Taylor.
Taylor's plan is simple: If a Virginia National Guard member can qualify as a private citizen to carry a concealed weapon, then he will be allowed to discretely carry that gun in uniform. But Taylor's idea is not embraced by the head of the state's National Guard. Gov. McAuliffe says Maj. Gen. Timothy Williams decided local police can protect his soldiers.
“I invited the general into my office with several of his team, asked for his recommendation. If he wanted me to arm the National Guard, I would have authorized it. He said, no. At this point, I believe the civil law enforcement can handle it. I don`t want you to give us the order to go arm our folks,” says Gov. McAuliffe.
“With all due respect to the general, because I have much respect for him, but he works at the pleasure of the governor. So he is not going to come out and say anything, or advise anything, that is against the governor`s position,” says Taylor.
The National Guard in Virginia takes orders from the governor. All other military members report to the Pentagon and the President. Congressman Scott Rigell just sent a letter, urging the Secretary of Defense to drop the military's ban on members carrying personal pistols. Dozens of other representatives also signed the letter that declares "the risk of more attacks on our troops is increasing."
Taylor says he'll offer a bill in January when the General Assembly convenes. That, he says, will give interested Guard members plenty of time to get training.
“I`m happy to teach them myself. I am sure some private-sector ranges would be more than willing to donate their ranges to teach concealed weapons competency for National Guard soldiers,” says Taylor.
To be clear, the former SEAL says he doesn't want military members parading around with machine guns, like they're in a battle zone. But he does want to give them the option pack pistols discretely, just like the police do for the governor.
“They just want equality of protection, if you will,” says Taylor.