By Mark Oliva
It takes a certain amount of brazenness to put the responsibility of defending the nation on a young American and then, in the next breath, demand they forfeit those freedoms they are literally willing to die to protect.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is never one to disappoint, though. His latest legislative move is to put a target on the back of every service member as someone who cannot be entrusted to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Military members already sacrifice many of their freedoms to protect the United States. Sen. Murphy, who has never served a day in uniform, doesn’t think that’s enough.
Sen. Murphy thinks Second Amendment freedoms for those in uniform is, well, too much freedom.
Gun control isn’t anything new to Sen. Murphy. He’s made a career of attacking the Second Amendment and the firearm industry. That’s made him the darling of gun control groups but now he’s putting the Second Amendment rights of military gun owners in his crosshairs.
Think about that for a minute. These are the men and women our nation trusts to put a firearm in their hand and stand between our nation and those who wish to do us harm. Sen. Murphy has no problem with that but is proposing these same individuals can’t be trusted with firearms in their personal possession.
Sen. Murphy introduced an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which empowers our government to fund and support our nation’s military. As a “must-pass” bill, it naturally attracts thousands of amendments for pet projects every year. Most of those are ruled out of order, or not defense related, so they can’t be attached to the bill.
Sen. Murphy, though, is making gun control a military issue. It starts off innocuously, requiring the Secretary of Defense to set minimum training standards for anyone required to carry a firearm on duty. That would include marksmanship training standards, as well as suicide awareness and safe storage. These are already standardized requirements for each branch.
After that, it falls out of step with Constitutional rights. Sen. Murphy’s proposal would require training before anyone in the Department of Defense purchases a firearm for private ownership. He would also require anyone possessing a firearm on a military installation to register that firearm with the base commander, require that firearm be locked in the home and all ammunition stored separately.
Military commanders already require any firearm that’s privately owned and used on a base be registered with installation authorities, usually the base’s Provost Marshal. This was the case when I was still on active duty. Those lists are never scrubbed and maintained in perpetuity across the service branch. Firearms that I registered to shoot recreationally and hunt with on base while stationed in California appeared on registries years later in South Carolina.
The issue is dictating how those firearms are to be stored. This legislation would run counter to what the U.S. Supreme Court held in the Heller decision. Along with telling the District of Columbia it couldn’t ban handguns, the court also said the District couldn’t prescribe how a firearm is stored in the home.
This poses larger problems, though. The amendment’s text would require all privately-owned firearms to be registered with base authorities. That would include firearms legally purchased off-base and never brought on the base. This is problematic. A base commander has the authority to prescribe regulations within the fence but that authority ends at the front gate.
Sen. Murphy would seek to empower a national firearm registry to begin with all gun owners in the military, whether they purchase a gun on base and regardless of whether that firearm is ever brought on the base for recreational shooting or hunting.
It Gets Worse
Sen. Murphy isn’t done trying to foist his gun control agenda on those who are required to salute smartly and obey. He submitted another amendment that would unnecessarily delay rights to service members too. He wants to force a federal seven-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm and a four-day waiting period for ammunition purchases on military installations.
No such legislation would stand a chance of surviving Congressional scrutiny if proposed as a stand-alone bill. That’s why Sen. Murphy is trying to slip this one into a defense spending bill.
Firearm and ammunition sales on military installations follow the same federal and state laws where the military base is located. Every firearm sale is completed with a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) Form 4473 and verification from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that the service member isn’t a prohibited individual. Any state requirements would also be incorporated.
After that, it goes from worse to downright Orwellian. Sen. Murphy’s NDAA amendment would allow the Defense Secretary to collect all gun owner information for both military and civilian employees “about the lawful possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm or ammunition… if such information is necessary for the purposes of injury and mortality prevention.”
That’s the start of a national firearm registry, which is expressly forbidden by federal law. Sen. Murphy wraps it in a thin veneer of a life-saving measure but that’s dubious at best. The supposition is that military authorities must know what firearms are in the home to prevent suicide and domestic violence. I had a Marine general officer tell me this to my face nearly a decade ago when I questioned why he needed to know what guns were in my home located off base. However, there is no criteria as to what the threshold should be when it comes to seizing firearms from those in uniform.
If you think it couldn’t get ugly, it does. Sen. Murphy offered another amendment to the NDAA that “prohibits the possession of privately owned firearms that are not related to the performance of official duties on property of the Department by anyone who does not live on property of the Department.”
That would disenfranchise military members who don’t live on base and retirees who patronize on-base recreational shooting ranges to maintain firearm proficiency. It would also deny those same individuals the opportunity to hunt on military installations.
Large military installations have U.S. Fish & Wildlife wardens assigned to those bases and they work with federal biologists for wildlife conservation. Cutting out this population of hunters not only denies them the ability to keep up their safe firearm handling skills but also puts a dent in the ability to use hunting as a wildlife management tool, a bedrock principle of the North American model of wildlife conservation.
This isn’t accidental. Sen. Murphy knows that if he’s successful in getting this legislation passed, it gives him the next stepping stone to force the same requirements on the rest of American society. The argument would be that if it is good enough for the military, it’s good enough for everyone else.
No one in America should fall for this ruse. It is detestable that a sitting U.S. senator who has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States would abuse his legislative authority to snatch away the Second Amendment rights from those responsible for defending this nation.
The only thing this attempt at a federal gun rights grab isn’t – is surprising.
Mark Oliva is Managing Director of Public Affairs for NSSF, The Firearm Industry Trade Association. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.