Armed citizens guard recruiting centers in central Ohio, across country

Given the absurd reality that our (dis)Armed Service members are prohibited from doing so by military directive, armed citizens are showing up at military recruiting centers around the country, saying they plan to protect recruiters following last week's killing of four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Larry Fitzpatrick, wearing an Old Navy T-shirt with an American flag on the front, sat in a metal folding chair in the parking lot of a W. Broad Street strip mall today and cradled his loaded .22-caliber rifle.

He had a .380-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol strapped to his calf.

Sitting there all day, practically baking in the unrelenting heat and humidity, outside the Armed Forces Career Center recruiting center was simply his civic duty, he said. The men and women from each branch of service who work in any military recruitment center — this one is west of I-270 in Prairie Township — aren’t allowed under government rules to be armed, so Fitzpatrick has decided to protect them himself.

“I can’t see why any red-blooded American wouldn’t want to be out here,” said Fitzpatrick, a member of the 3% Irregulars Ohio Militia who lives near the recruitment center. “Our troops go overseas and fight to protect us and then they can come home and get butchered on our U.S. soil? That’s unacceptable. So until these places get their own protection, I’ll be it for them....

“I’ll be here tomorrow. And the day after that and the day after that and every day I need to be,” he said. “I can’t imagine what would stop me.”

Even though one business manager at a store next to the recruiting center expressed concern, most of the feedback Fitzpatrick has received has been supportive.

While personnel from the W. Broad Street center told the Dispatch they weren’t authorized to make public statements, one man brought Fitzpatrick cold water this afternoon, and Fitzpatrick said others in uniform have brought him food and said they appreciate what he’s doing. He is also quoted as saying a few passersby offered their thanks, and one woman delivered some snacks and a gallon of iced tea in an insulated cooler.

Again, from the Dispatch:

Franklin County deputy sheriff did roll through the parking lot and talk to Fitzpatrick this morning, just as Lancaster police went to that recruitment center and chatted with the man standing guard there. But officials said the men are within their rights to do what they’re doing.

“Ohio is an open-carry state, and these men can have their guns,” Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott said. In the case of the strip-mall, the property owner could ask Fitzpatrick to leave but hasn’t done so.

“You have to use some discretion, sure, so that you don’t cause a panic, but it sounds to me like the neighborhood doesn’t have a problem with what this gentleman is doing by standing guard,” Scott said.

Frank Karshner, a customer inside Advanced Medical Supply, agreed with the sheriff. Karshner had his three young granddaughters with him today and walked right past Fitzpatrick in the parking lot without a worry.

“A lot of people don’t get too concerned about seeing a gun,” said Karshner, an Army veteran. “People can tell that he isn’t there to cause trouble, and people surely want our troops to be protected at home.”

According to the article, a man also stood guard outside the recruitment center on River Valley Circle in Lancaster, Ohio on Tuesday, and since Thursday the report says there has, at various times, been someone voluntarily guarding recruitment offices in Westerville. On Friday, there were a handful of reports of a couple of others in central Ohio.

Lancaster police said the man on watch there identified himself as a member of Oath Keepers, a national organization that, according to its website is “an association of current and formerly serving military, police and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”

Stewart Rhodes, found of Oath Keepers, said in an email that the organization has been guarding some recruitment stations since Friday but that today he sent out a nationwide call-to-arms to put someone at post at every one.

He called recruiters “sitting ducks,” working unarmed in uniform in clearly-marked offices that anyone can easily enter.

“They may as well order the service members to walk unarmed down the streets of Baghdad,” Rhodes said. “In fact, it may be worse to be a recruiting station. … if they were walking down the streets of Baghdad, at least they would be moving.”

According to the Associated Press, a 1992 Department of Defense directive restricts weapons to law enforcement or military police on federal property, which would include recruiting centers. Brian Lepley, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command told the AP it doesn't have a position on the citizens' actions as long as they aren't disrupting the recruiting centers.

Lepley said most recruiters are Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans well trained in dealing with shooters. And of course that ARE well trained in using firearms to deal with an armed enemy. However, no service member is being trained, nor should they be asked, to engage in a gunfight with no gun. Thus the term Armed Services.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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