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Pence authorizes National Guard soldiers to carry personal handguns

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) – Indiana National Guard soldiers and airmen will begin carrying handguns at armories and recruiting stations Monday to defend themselves following the fatal shootings of four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Gov. Mike Pence and Indiana Adjutant General Corey Carr made the announcement Sunday, a day after Pence signed an executive order directing Maj. Gen. Carr to increase security at all Indiana National Guard facilities, including storefront recruiting offices.

“As Commander-in-Chief quite simply I will not permit our citizens soldiers to remain unable to defend themselves and our citizens at facilities around the state,” said Gov. Pence.

The governor’s executive order allows National Guardsmen and women to bring their personal weapons with them to work, as long as they have the proper state permits.

The new policy applies to the state’s 62 armories, the bases of the two Guard air wings, 12 recruiting stations and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Jennings County, Pence said. Indiana is home to the fourth largest National Guard contingent in the nation.

He says its to prevent another tragedy, like the one in Chattanooga.

“What we saw Thursday morning in Tennessee where four Marines lost their lives, and now one Navy sailor, were military personnel who did not have the ability to defend themselves,” said Gov. Pence.

“While the governor just signed the order, the National Guard has been preparing for an active shooter scenario for months, including a drill at Stout Field on Indianapolis’ south side in April.

“So that we could identify ways to improve security,” said Maj. Gen. Carr. “We’ve taken those lessons and we’re implementing those across the state.”

Pence is among several governors who have ordered Guardsmen to be armed. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has moved his state’s Guard recruiters from storefronts in urban areas to armories.

In March, Illinois Army National Guard member Hasan Edmonds, and his cousin, Jonas Edmonds, were arrested and subsequently indicted on charges of conspiring to help the Islamic State. Jonas Edmonds is accused of planning to attack an Illinois military facility.

“We owe them nothing less than the ability to do their job safely and come home to their families,” said Gov. Pence.

The policy went into effect immediately, but for all practical purposes, it begins tomorrow. Maj. Gen. Carr says his soldiers will also get training on the proper use of force.