Murray asks for armed Guard

Published on Thu, Apr 4, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Murray asks for armed Guard

By Meg Olson

Following her visit to the Blaine borders last week, U.S. Senator Patty Murray is asking the department of defense to allow National Guard at the borders to be armed.

“These troops are providing valuable support to local law enforcement officials, often at great personal sacrifice. Arming our service men and women at the border is the appropriate course of action. They too should be safe,” Murray stated in a press release following her visit.

Since mid-March, 59 National Guard soldiers have been working with U.S. immigration, customs and the border patrol. The guard members have searched trunks, helped with paperwork and provided air support with one of their helicopters but, unlike guard members in airports since September 11, they have been unarmed, as specified in the agreement between the defense department and those agencies.

Murray has sent a request to the department of defense, the attorney general and the Pentagon that national guard members be allowed to carry weapons.

“If the Guardsmen are patrolling a remote border area, they might need to take defensive or enforcement action,” Murray said. “Since they are wearing battle dress uniforms, they could become targets themselves.” She added an unarmed National Guard could be a burden on the border agencies they are there to assist. “Since they are not armed, then the customs and INS agents will be responsible for protecting the soldiers in addition to securing the border.”

Murray has sent her request to the deputy defense secretary, the Attorney General and the Pentagon to reverse their decision and allow guard soldiers to carry guns.

In a March 28 news briefing U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld said the matter was under review. In response to a question regarding the impact on relations with Canada of what might be seen as militarization of the border, Rumsfeld said Canada would be kept in the loop. “Certainly, whatever we do along that border we do in close cooperation with
Canada,” he said. “We have a wonderful working relationship with them, and I’m sure that they would be fully knowledgeable of whatever it is that’s decided.” .

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