Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday ordered the closing of six storefront National Guard recruiting centers, including one in Miami, and relocated Guardsmen to state armories for their own safety.
Scott’s executive order, believed to be the first of its kind of any state, came in response to the shooting rampage Thursday at two military facilities in Tennessee that claimed the lives of four Marines and a Navy petty officer. The gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, a native of Kuwait, was shot dead by police.
Scott also directed the head of the Florida National Guard, Adjutant General Michael Calhoun, to work with police to make regular security checks of armories, and said the state will make it easier for Guard personnel to get concealed weapons licenses so they can carry guns for protection while working at recruiting centers, a major shift from current policy that federal authorities have questioned.
“We have people in our country that want to harm the military, the ones that are defending our freedom. They need to be safe and they need to be armed,” Scott told CNN Saturday. “We will not reopen our storefronts until we are very comfortable that our guardsmen are safe.”
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Scott also said the state will consider installing bulletproof glass and video cameras at recruiting centers.
Florida’s 55 National Guard armories are state buildings, and only people with concealed weapons permits are allowed to have weapons there. But they have tighter security.
The storefront centers Scott ordered closed includes 1321 SW 107th Ave., in Miami and five other sites in Temple Terrace, Brandon, Orlando, Jacksonville and Orange Park.
About 25 Guard personnel would be affected by Scott’s order, said Col. Glenn Sutphin, director of legislative affairs for the Florida Department of Military Affairs. He said recruiting centers have two to four employees each.
Since 1992, federal policy has prohibited the use of firearms on military installations. Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff for the Army, said after the Chattanooga killings that he was skeptical about changing the policy.
“I think we have to be careful about over-arming ourselves, and I’m not talking about where you end up attacking each other,” Odierno said. He cited concerns about “accidental discharges and everything else that goes along with having weapons that are loaded that cause injuries.”
At least five other states — Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas — have ordered National Guardsmen at recruitment centers to be armed. Tennessee has yet to take any action, but pressure is building for officials to protect members of the military from acts of terrorism.
Scott’s order came a day after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered Guard personnel to carry weapons, but a spokesman for Scott said the actions were not related. Scott’s chief of staff and a deputy chief of staff are former aides to Jindal.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office issues concealed weapons permits, said Saturday that “we look forward to expediting” the applications of National Guard personnel.
Guardsmen who previously worked at the six storefronts will report to armories starting Monday and will be there until further notice, said Lt. Justin Phillips, a Guard spokesman.
The Florida National Guard has about 12,000 full-time members. They have been most visible in times of emergency, such as hurricanes and wildfires, but also play a vital role in supporting law enforcement, as in the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012.
Times staff writers Katie Mettler and Michael Majchrowicz and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report, and information from the Associated Press was used. Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @stevebousquet.