SPANAWAY, Wash. -- Reacting to the deadly shootings in Tennessee, armed civilians stood guard Tuesday outside a military recruiting office in a shopping center in Spanaway. Their presence appeared well-received.
That was in contrast to a similar situation Monday in Silverdale, where Kitsap County sheriff's deputies asked an armed man standing guard outside a recruiting office to put his rifle and shotgun in his vehicle because he was worrying shoppers. See that story here.
But in Spanaway, members of the military and others stopped by to shake the hands of the armed civilians outside the recruiting office.
"I'm not use to seeing people patrolling like this, but I think it's really great what they are doing," said Zach Bussmeir, of Spanaway.
"We're just here on our own volition. Just came down and decided it was something we wanted to be part of," said one of the volunteer 'guards.'
Reacting to the shooting deaths of four Marines and a Navy sailor in recruiting offices in Chattanooga, Tenn., by a lone gunman on July 16, a Washington-based group calling itself the Great American Patriots said its volunteers are standing guard over military recruitment centers across Western Washington.
"After what happened in Tennessee, anything short of making certain our men and women in uniform have the utmost protection they deserve, anything short of that is unacceptable," said the guard.
Local shoppers in the Spanaway strip mall say the civilian guards are a comforting sight.
"They are patriotic Americans; they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do," said David Blauvelt, of Midland.
Tola Chhim, of Cooly's Donut House, a former member of the Air Force, said, "Being a prior service member myself, I think they are doing a good job. The majority of my customers are retirees so all of them really enjoy that they are doing something to support the recruiters."
The Defense Department and the Army prohibit weapons from being inside recruiting offices. The Army Recruiting Battalion said via email, "In light of the attack, the Army will increase vigilance and review security measures, in particular at stand alone sites."
"I know that there's groups all across the country taking part in this and to them I say, bravo, thank you, for standing up for what's right and until our men and women in uniform are allowed to be safe, we will be here providing safety for them," said the civilian guard.
The group's representative says they vet their members to ensure they are permitted to carry firearms.