Every Marine a Rifleman

They say that every Marine is a rifleman.  Except…apparently…on Marine bases and in Marine offices.

In the 36 hours or so since a jihadi murderer shot four unarmed Marines to death in Chattanooga, Tennessee, my TV has been filled with politicians and TV talking heads putting on sad faces while expressing “sadness” and “heartbreak.”


Kevin Liles/The New York Times
Kevin Liles/The New York Times


Sadness is not the emotion I am feeling.  It is anger.  I am angry, of course, that some monster murdered four of our very best in cold blood.  But it’s more than that.

It angers me that Marines died behind the obscenely stupid idea of a “gun free zone,” not just in the strip mall recruiting office, but in their very own reserve center.  It angers me that almost every single time that some monster decides to kill as many people as possible, it is in a “gun free zone.”  The creation of gun prohibitionists seeking to disarm as many citizens as possible, the “gun free zone” does not stop killers…it attracts them.  If you say different I invite you to take my “gun free zone” challenge.

But it angers me even more that these Marines died because their leaders are too cowardly to let them be Marines.  I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating here.  (And I am not picking on the Marines…none of the services are exempt.)

I have been a military officer, and a commander.  As such, I do understand the reluctance of military leaders to entrust troops with firearms.  As a commander, you are responsible for everything your unit does or fails to do.  If a troop has a negligent discharge and hurts himself or someone else, you are going into your boss’s office to explain it.  In today’s ultra safety conscious, risk averse military, such an event is quite likely to get you relieved of command and ultimately tossed out of the military.  Any press coverage of the incident will be negative, and your judgement called into question publicly.  Your entire career could be forfeit.

On the other hand, if you ban firearms on military bases, the worst that could happen is…oh, a terrorist could show up and shoot a bunch of your people.  In such a case, all you have to do is give a solemn press conference.  Make a sad but stern face and talk about what great Marines they were, how honorably they served, and how you will review security measures and do everything possible to ensure this never happens again.  You will receive sympathetic press coverage, and your career will be safe.  The troops entrusted to you by our nation will be cold and dead, but your career will be safe.

I understand.  It is the understanding that makes me so angry.

It is cowardly and dishonorable to place United States Marines (or any of our servicemen and women, for that matter) in such a vulnerable position, to place them at risk of murder for the sake of career security.  In 1983, we did the same thing in Beirut, Lebanon.  Commanders feared allowing Marines there to keep their rifles loaded.  When a massive truck bomb careened towards the gates outside the barracks, the gate guards were unable to respond quickly enough to stop it.  The resulting explosion destroyed the barracks and killed 241 servicemen…mostly Marines.  Almost 32 years later, it appears we have learned nothing.


Mideast Lebanon Marine Bombing Photo Essay
Aftermath of the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Gate guards had rifles, but were required to keep them unloaded. This is the result.


Make no mistake, I am not absolving the Chattanooga killer of responsibility.  He pulled the trigger and committed those murders, and no one else.  But we didn’t have to make it so easy.  When the system encourages this sort of “leadership” from its commanders; when an officer risks less by disarming his troops than from letting them fight…well, we’re doing it wrong.

Two things need to happen.  First, “gun free zones” on military installations need to go away, period.  Second, the senior leadership of our armed forces needs to create a command environment which places force protection first and career protection…much farther down the list.

Every Marine should indeed be a rifleman.  Not a target.



— Dave Cole


As a postscript, I’d like to point out one other thing.  It is clear that the nature of the jihad against us is changing.  The internet allows terrorists to be cultivated anywhere, from anywhere.  No longer does a prospective terrorist need to travel to the official terrorist headquarters, meet the official terrorist boss, and get an official terrorist group membership card.

The threat is decentralized, and requires a decentralized response.  So if we are uninterested in mounting a serious offense, we at least need to start playing defense American style.  We need to sack up as a nation and eliminate the “gun free zones” that attract this sort of vermin.  We need to make sure that every time one of these jihadis pops his head up that there is a gun in his face.

They do not fear death, but they do fear failure.  They need to be afraid that while they are drawing a bead on one of us, another of our countrymen is drawing a bead on them.  They need to be afraid that their attack will end before it even gets started.  We need to ensure that there is “a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

If you don’t have a concealed carry permit, get one.  If you do have a permit, then carry your gun every day.

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2 thoughts on “Every Marine a Rifleman”

  1. Hello, Dave.
    What do you think of the civilians who are mounting armed guard outside of recruiting stations?
    It appears to answer the age-old question, “Who will guard the guardians”…

    1. Sorry I didn’t see this comment sooner. I think most of the people guarding the recruiting offices have their hearts in the right place, but the manner in which some of them provide this “service” is a little lacking. Regardless, it is a poor substitute for allowing service members to defend themselves. Thanks for reading.

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