Seeing weapons in a military environment is nothing new. Part of all military instruction includes training with firearms. Rules and regulations are paramount for safety and the security of military armories is taken extremely seriously. And life on and around military installations post 9/11 has seen armed security become part of the norm, for service members, civilians and family members alike.
But even with heightened security, gun violence and tragedy has impacted our military communities.
We will never forget the horror and aftermath of the shooting at Fort Hood in 2009 or forget the lives lost at the recruiting station in Tennessee in 2015. When these kinds of tragedies strike, it is human nature to immediately look for ways to prevent them from happening again.
Many called for the option for all active duty personnel to be able to carry weapons. And so, it seems, the DoD has listened to these calls for concealed weapon carrying on military installations.
After a review of the shootings in Texas and Tennessee, and with the acknowledgement that all duty locations do not the same level of security, the DoD authorized both its civilian and military personnel to carry private, concealed weapons onto DoD property. This includes military installations, DoD buildings and facilities, and recruiting stations.
In a 26-page directive issued on November 18, 2016, the DoD clarified guidelines for personnel authorized to carry weapons and use deadly force in the course of official duty. The directive also provides for the command’s ability to authorize private, concealed weapon carry onto DoD property for DoD personal who do not require a weapon for the execution of their daily duties.
No Blanket Permission Policy
Permission to carry weapons is not an absolute. Permission must be granted by an O-5 level officer or higher and must be provided in writing. Authorization to carry cannot exceed 90 days, but permission may be re-authorized for additional 90-day periods.
Authorization to carry private weapons does not extend to members of the National Guard, as rules and regulations pertaining to the use and carry of weapons is governed by each individual state government.
Private, Concealed Gun Carry Has Many Restrictions
DoD personnel who wish to carry private weapons onto DoD property must:
- Be at least 21 years of age and licensed in the state or host-nation they wish to carry in.
- Must not have had previous USMJ disciplinary action or be under investigation for any offenses that would bring their “fitness to carry” into question.
- Must not have been previously convicted or be currently charged in a civilian court for substance abuse, stalking, harassment, or domestic violence.
- Must not be under the influence of alcohol or hallucinatory drugs while carrying the weapon.
- Must provide proof of “competence with a firearm” from a certified training course offered by the U.S. government, a police agency, DoD, state, local or tribal government-approved safety or training course. Or a course offered by a law-enforcement agency or college.
- Must notify the authorizing authority immediately should their ability to follow these guidelines change.
A concealed weapon must be completely covered by clothing or uniform at all times and it must not impair a carrier’s normal job function. State laws must be followed with regard to “caliber, ammunition, capacity, and design,” and while the weapon is on-person, it must kept in holster, even if carried in “purse, backpack, handbag, or case.”
When a weapon is not being carried, it must be stored unloaded in a secure gun-storage device and if it is stored in a vehicle, that storage device must be hidden from view. Carriers transporting a concealed weapon off of DoD property must follow all state, local, and/or host-nation laws pertaining to the carry of that weapon.
And last, but certainly not least, personnel wishing to carry a concealed weapon must understand that they are personally liable for any injury, death or damage to property that occurs due to negligence “in connection with the possession or use of privately owned firearms that are not within the scope of their federal employment.”
Will Concealed Weapons Carry Permits for Service Members Keep Our Military Bases Safer?
It is hard not to see the logic in charging more members of our community with its safekeeping. However, there are questions to be asked and legitimate causes for concern.
Will arming additional personnel help to prevent or end shooting incidents faster?
Or will it create another layer of confusion and slow security personnel and first responders when reacting to a firearm incident?
Are the safety risks associated with gun carrying acceptable and reasonable for stateside and non-combat duty locations? Or are we willing to accept that level of risk if it could possibly prevent injury or harm on a larger scale?