Reader Larry Smith writes:
With the murders of four Marines and a Navy Corpsman in Chattanooga, there has been a lot of hue and cry to allow the arming of military personnel to protect themselves in similar situations. On February 25, 1992, Donald J. Atwood, deputy secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush, signed a DoD directive that modified three previous DoD directives. An abridged version states . . .
“SUBJECT: Use of Deadly Force and the Carrying of Firearms by DoD Personnel Engaged in Law Enforcement and Security Duties References:
(a) DoD Directive 5210.56, “Use of Force by Personnel Engaged in Law Enforcement and Security Duties,” May 10, 1969 (hereby canceled)
(b) DoD Directive 5210.66, “Carrying of Firearms by DoD Personnel,” March 17, 1986 (hereby canceled)
(c) Section 1585 of title 10, United States Code1A (d) Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Part A 108.11, ‘Carriage of Weapons,” current edition”
This new policy stated:
“It is DoD Policy: 1. To limit and control the carrying of firearms by DoD military and civilian personnel. The authorization to carry firearms shall be issued only to qualified personnel when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried.”
Since then firearms possession on military installations has been effectively prohibited.
In the wake of the Chattanooga shootings, numerous Senators and members of Congress have called for the arming of “military members.” Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has specifically introduced legislation aimed at ending the restriction on “service members” carrying firearms on military installations in the U.S. The Armed Forces Self-Defense Act includes ensuring trained military personnel would be able to carry their privately owned firearms.
An abridged version of Senator Johnson’s proposed bill states:
(b) DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE POLICY – It shall be the policy of the Department of Defense to permit trained military personnel to carry, open or concealed, certain personal firearms while on military installations in the United States. … SEC. 3. REPEAL OF PORTIONS OF REGULATIONS AND DIRECTIVES PROHIBITING SERVICE MEMBERS TRAINE IN THE USE OF FIREARMS FROM CARRYING A PERSONAL FIREARM ON A MILITARY INSTALLATION.
However, what about the DoD civilians? A 2009 census of the combined military services’ civilian personnel in the Continental United States (CONUS) totals 709,265 while all active military in CONUS numbered 1,088,465. While some reductions have been made by Sequestration and BRAC, I estimate the number of DoD civilians to remain within 80-90% of that number.
Again, what about the civilians? Senator Johnson’s proposed bill makes no mention of allowing DoD civilians to regain the ability to lawfully carry firearms to protect themselves against potential threats. I work at a facility that has had an active shooter situation. Our “protection”: shelter in place or evacuate. If the scenario at my facility had been a little different, we may have had multiple casualties from personnel being targeted in the stairwells during the evacuation.
While members of the military receive rudimentary firearms training, with more specific combat training in theater, many of my civilian cohorts are concealed carry licensees who were required at least eight hours of hands-on training to qualify. Several civilians I know are 3-Gun shooters with many hours of practice and competition. Others are NRA certified instructions and/or NRA competitive shooters.
I’m not trying to imply the general civilian population is better qualified than the average soldier, sailor, or Marine, but there are those who potentially could respond in a situation similar to Chattanooga and reduce or eliminate the threat posed by an active shooter. And yes, I realize there are certain installations and facilities that should retain the restriction of firearms possession such as the Pentagon.
I would respectfully ask you to question Senator Johnson as to why DoD civilians seem to be specifically excluded from his bill. I have.