The horrific murder of four Marines and one Navy petty officer in Chattanooga showed the vulnerability of military recruitment centers. They are in public locations, and by law, they are “gun free zones” -- meaning the military that are there are not allowed to carry their weapons.
As the country realized the Marines that were killed were unarmed at the recruiting center, people have started showing up to provide security.
At 8 a.m. Friday morning, Rick Hewitt decided to spend his day off standing guard outside of a military recruitment center in Winchester, Virginia.
Hewitt is not worried about another attack like Chattanooga here. But he is making a statement.
VIDEO EXTRA: CLICK THE SECOND VIDEO ABOVE TO HEAR FROM THIS MAN IN HIS OWN WORDS, THROUGH THE LENS OF FOX 5 PHOTOJOURNALIST CHIP BAYSDEN.
“People need to call their congressman, they need to call their senators and they need to change these laws that are on the books so these guys can protect themselves so a regular old citizen doesn't have to go out and do it,” the Winchester citizen told us.
When Hewitt heard about the four Marines killed by a terrorist in Tennessee, he thought, “Here we go again.”
“It’s fundamental Muslim extremism,” he said. “They declared war on us and we seem to not put it in perspective and realizing that the war is here.”
The military has been grateful for the symbolic support.
“I went into each office, the ones that were open, and I was received with handshakes and thank yous,” said Hewitt. “They constantly came by, and not only them, but their wives came by in tears thanking me for just being out here. They baked cookies for me and brought lunch by.”
You don't need a permit to openly carry guns in public places in Virginia.
“The police already came by and checked me out, cleared my guns, doing their duty,” said Hewitt. “It was all good.”
We went to two other Virginia Marine recruiting centers and found no change in security since the Chattanooga shootings.
A Marine recruiting center in Chantilly was shot at through the windows one night back in 2010. No one was injured. It was not open when we got there on Friday. It sits openly on a strip mall just like the one in Chattanooga.
But the two warning signs on the door showed the conflict the military faces now.
Bravo -- that is the warning about a heightened threat against military in the United States by the terrorist ISIS group.
Right next to it was a warning sign stating no firearms or weapons allowed inside.
A Marine recruiting center in Fairfax is not visible from the street. But you can’t miss the weapons prohibited sign on the door. The Marines working here are not allowed to have their weapons at work.
“We need to know what our rights are and not let anyone take them away,” said the man in front of the Winchester recruiting center. “Too people died for these freedoms. I’ve never been in the military. I never served as law enforcement, but I certainly am grateful for those men and women who have died in past to secure those freedoms.
UPDATE: After this story was originally published, the Navy petty officer who was shot in the incident passed away Saturday morning.