DES MOINES, Iowa -- Heavily armed volunteers with the Iowa Militia say they will be guarding local military recruitment centers in the wake of an attack on two centers in Chattanooga last week that left five service members dead.
Kim Paulsen of the Iowa Militia says it doesn't make sense that the U.S. government won't let members of the armed services be armed. So he and his members are now patrolling, fully armed, in front of metro recruitment offices.
"Making sure that our military members are safe," Paulsen said. "Since our government won't allow us, or them to carry to protect themselves here on American soil. I have the ability. I have the right. And that's why I'm here."
Paulsen won't say how many members of his militia will be standing guard. He says some, like himself, will be visible. Others hidden. "Because our government doesn't want to do it. And they don't want to let our guys do it on their own," Paulsen said. "I mean, just give them the opportunity to carry their own weapons then, if you don't want to let them have issued weapons. Or you're worried about the liability. These guys have been trained."
Paulsen says he's trained too. He says he was career military until an injury serving in Iraq cut that career short, forcing him into retirement. Now, he says, he is protecting the service men and women who protect us.
We did talk with an army recruiter at the Armed Forces Career Center on Southeast 14th Street. He says while he doesn't want to go on camera, he's very much in favor of having the Iowa Militia there.
Theresa Cunningham of Des Moines says she is glad to see the Iowa Militia there too. Her son serves in the army. "I think it's great. It makes me feel better," Cunningham said. "And especially if my son was in the building. It would make me feel good. So I think that it's great that he wants to do it for us."
Some merchants in the strip mall where the recruitment offices are located say they didn't feel comfortable with armed militiamen in front of their stores, but they didn't want to go on camera.
Still, Paulsen says the Iowa Militia will continue guarding these facilities until the law changes, allowing military personnel to carry weapons. "If nothing happens than I'll go home and thank God everything was peaceful," Paulsen said, "But if something does happen, then I'll be here."
A spokesman for Governor Branstad says the governor is asking the commander of the Iowa National Guard to assess the need to arm soldiers at military facilities and recruiting stations. The governor, meanwhile, will also be asking for a federal review of policies during the Council of Governors meeting in Washington this week.