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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.

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  1. Yep-my kid(who’s over 40) works for DoD. He doesn’t seem to be concerned despite carrying a GLOCK 21 several years ago in Iraq’s green zone. And a bunch of other guns in the army. Whattayougonnado?

  2. I’d caution against this addition at this time.

    Right now, with Chattanooga, against a backdrop of other incidents at Ft. Hood and previous recruiting centers, we have the public’s ear. The absurdity of DIS-arming our “Armed” forces is clearly in-focus.

    We can put our Congress-critters on-the-spot to explain why this DoD policy makes sense. We can command them to do what is obvious.

    Now, with the wind from our backs and our sails full, we should ask ourselves: How can we F**k this up for ourselves?

    How about adding lots of really good ideas which – naturally – have their own respective counter-points. Why, then, we can give our Congress-critters lots of opportunities to chatter about the collateral proposals and why they might need lots and lots of study before moving on the bill already submitted. Why, this is a pretty certain way of getting the carry-on-base bill buried.

    We are much better off keeping the public’s eye on the one big obvious absurd ball and making our Congress-critters pass the change. Then, many – perhaps most – of the active-duty personnel on each base will be armed.

    It is NOT necessary for EVERYBODY in a vulnerable place to be armed. Not necessary for 90% or 80% or even 50% to be armed. If 30% were armed then the problem would be substantially solved.

    The perfect is the enemy of the good-enough.

    • Exactly. The question is, what proposal to allow more people on base to carry firearms for self defense is most likely to pass. It seems likely that limiting these changes to service members provides our best chance of a win, even though WE (but not the media or public at large) all know that many civilians have much more training than many service members.

      Think: small steps, long game.

      • Agreed. Let the military carry first. Get CCW reciprocity and such soon afterwards. I completely agree that civilians should carry, but we need to be strategic and play the long game.

        • I agree with you three guys above.

          I could be wrong but weren’t the military banned from carrying firearms on base was due to the suicide rate.
          The picture for the PTSD guys might not have changed or gotten worse.
          Because you know on the FIRST occasion that a PTSD war victim goes berserk to kill himself and his friends that will put the kibosh on the whole thing.

          I too agree that DOD and other federal civilians if they volunteer to carry should be allowed to carry, with one caveat.
          My state just passed a law to allow public school teachers to carry arms, BUT
          they will be required to have much more training that the simple 8-hour class for their concealed carry.

    • Great point! Let’s take a lesson from those who seek to take our rights away. One step at a time. Slowly but surely eradicating gun free kill zones.

  3. Serious question: where does the United States Constitution grant Congress authority to dictate military policy? As far as I can tell, military policy is exclusively the purview of the Commander in Chief, also known as the President of the United States of America.

    Don’t get me wrong: I abhor the current blanket disarmament policy of our “armed forces”. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Congress has the power to fix that. I really hope that I am wrong.

    • It is Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

      • Correct, Jeff.

        And, incidentally, Congress also has the power under a sister clause:

        To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

        Observe, that Congress has the power to “prescribe” the “discipline” of “the Militia. I take this to include basic gun-safety (muzzle discipline, trigger discipline, loading discipline, target and ground discipline), basic marksmanship, laws governing the proper use of deadly force and the like.

        If the general public believes that training for carry in public places is appropriate – even necessary – then we PotG should agree and insist that it be a national initiative “prescribed” by Congress and implemented by the States in through “training . . . according to the discipline prescribed by Congress”. This is the legitimate, comprehensive and necessary method devised by the Founding Fathers to ensure the safety of all members of society who may come upon a gun unexpectedly. Especially children should receive training such as Eddie Eagle.

        Congress should fund such a necessary program including .22 arms and ammunition for high school students.

        I’m eager to see the Anti’s response for our openness to their training requirements.

  4. Let’s say for discussion that civilian DoD personnel are excluded no matter what happens. There are two important options available:

    1) Nothing stops the civilian DoD personnel from boycotting their workplace — in other words go on strike over unsafe working conditions.

    2) If you are a civilian DoD employee, don’t just sit there, do something. Bring tennis ball sized rocks into your office that you could throw at a terrorist. Bring Italian salad dressing and/or ball bearings that you could pour onto the floor to make a terrorist slip and fall. Bring wasp spray to your desk that you spray at a terrorist’s face. (And bring a lighter so you set the terrorist on fire after spraying him/her.) Bring a fire extinguisher to your desk. Bring rope that you place across doorways to trip an unwitting terrorist. Bring a cane to your desk that you can use as a melee weapon if a terrorist attacks. Make a sling (à la David and Goliath) and practice enough to be able to hit a human sized target at 50 feet … and bring that to work. (No security checkpoint is going to reject a leather strap and string — especially unassembled.)

    Get creative and use your imagination. This is one time when “doing something” actually has merit.

    • Innovative; but I’m not convinced.

      I think we have bigger fish-to-fry than arming civilians on military bases. Let’s get the easy victory closed (arm the “Armed” forces). Then, make an incremental argument for civilians to be armed.

      As to all the other self-defense measures that can be taken, it’s all very well to enumerate these possibilities for those occasions when one “might not have her gun with her”. Couching it in these terms serves the desired purpose.

      The way it struck me here was that the author (you) may be implying that such measures are possibly an adequate substitute in a GFZ. We must avoid saying/writing anything where the Anti’s might be able to draw such an inference from our (PotG) authority.

      We should maintain that today – as for the past 200 years – the state-of-the-art in self-defense is the gun. When you absolutely-positively-have-to-defend-yourself then there is no substitute for a gun.

      We must hold that the GFZ is a wholly bad idea in general. (There may be a few exceptions such as court rooms; but these are very few). The problem of self-defense is the GFZ. Alternatives to the gun as the tool-of-choice are desperate second-best alternatives for when one happens not to have a gun.

      • “We must hold that the GFZ is a wholly bad idea in general. … Alternatives to the gun as the tool-of-choice are desperate second-best alternatives for when one happens not to have a gun.”

        I agree completely. I was simply offering tactics for people who are forcibly disarmed. As many people have stated, mindset/tactics and conviction are the most important characteristics for survival in combat. Of course it sure helps to have superior firepower. Nevertheless, superior forces with superior firepower have lost battles to superior tactics and conviction.

    • Don’t forget the paint buckets and Matchbox cars. If it’ll stop the Wet Bandits, it should work on terrorists and spree killers, too. Maybe a pile of feathers and a fan?

    • “Nothing stops the civilian DoD personnel from boycotting their workplace — in other words go on strike over unsafe working conditions.”

      If I recall correctly, I did have to sign an agreement stating that I would not go on strike while working for DoD…

  5. Someone once asked: how long after arming military personnel on US soil would the uproar about a standing army start?

    • We’re talking about service members being armed with handguns for personal protection only. Nothing in this increases the threat posed by a standing army.

    • It has occurred to me that our modern police forces look very much like the “standing armies” our founding fathers were afraid of while, at the same time, our Armed Forces look a little like the militia they admired. Let’s not get hung-up on the terminology: “standing army” = “Armed Forces”; vs. “police” = “civilians”. What we really need to do is look under the terminology to understand the institutional structure of these institutions.

      Our founding fathers’ standing army was either rented from a friendly king or conscripted from the dregs of society. Prisoners, thugs, shiftless people. Once in the standing army, they had a career that would likely last a lifetime, however short that might be. Most men didn’t live to 60 years and retire. They died in their 30’s if not before. So, once you had – eh – “enlisted” you had a career in service to a king and country. Good clothing, adequate food, some sort of shelter. Probably didn’t have to worry about being laid-off. Your loyalty was fixed to your officers and command structure because they were your life-time employer.

      How closely does this standing army description match-up with our professional police force? Not perfectly, of course. However, a police officer has a 20-year career with a pretty good pension at its end; young enough to pursue some alternative line of work in private security with an exception from State carry laws. Who wants to screw-up a good thing by disobeying lawful orders?

      Turning to our modern Armed Services, a young person enlists with an expectation of doing 1 – 3 hitches of 3 years. In the course of his term in the Service he learns a skill/trade that he hopes will lead to a civilian career. If he is an infantryman, perhaps in law-enforcement. If he is an engineer on a nuclear-powered vessel, perhaps as an operator in an electric company. Very few Armed Forces personnel serve long enough to retire with a handsome pension. It’s viewed more-so as an entry level job with a path back to civilian life.

      Thinking from the viewpoint of our founding fathers, how much would they have feared active duty Armed Forces service men when these are vastly outnumbered by vets (who are pissed off at the VA). How much would they have feared our modern police forces.

      Perhaps, in some ways, to some extent, the terminology we are using causes us to think of these institutions backwards from the guidance left by our founding fathers.

  6. There is a strict hierarchy of privileges. Government killers > government employees > everyone else.

    • Except as we’ve seen that in many states civilians have more latitude for carrying than members of the military. Kinda throws a monkey wrench into your equation don’t it?

      • Hah. The government killers are given machine guns and explosives at taxpayer expense, items which are all but prohibited to civilians. Then you have cops, who have all sorts of exemptions from gun control laws.

        Sounds like plenty of privilege to me.

        • yep given machine gun and explosives, get to take them home and everything. Got a whole pile of them. I’ll go check my privilege. I remember to buy a handgun in N.C. if you were a Marine stationed in Lejeune you had to get a letter from your command allowing you to buy a gun, or to get a CCW because the Sheriff wouldn’t issue a pistol permit without it. (You have to have a pistol permit to buy a handgun in NC, even from a private seller. It’s issued by the Sheriff’s department)

        • What’s the issue here? You’re literally given a free machine gun and free ammo to shoot. That’s a privilege post 1986. You can’t carry because you swore to obey orders like good little animals. Deal with it.

          Note that some states have passed bans on private sales that exempt military family members. So while the actual government killer is forced to obey orders (for the time being), the privilege actually trickles down to anyone he associates with. LOL.

          • TANSTAAFL.
            And definitely not for we who serve.

            Put the pipe down, and step away from the keyboard, kid. It’s far past time for your tinfoil reality to be put to bed.

        • LOL @ kid, as if the military isn’t taxpayer-funded adult daycare writ large. It is the definition of free for the welfare recipients.

          And boy is the word “serve” being abused in this day and age. George Orwell would be proud. Always used without any subject, because the truth is uncomfortable.: you serve politicians and you serve the political class.

      • Didn’t seem to work out that way in Waco. It was supposedly OK for members of the “military” (or about as close to as I can think of in recent years) to show up with “tanks” and helicopters. While similarly OK for the “civilian side” to be incinerated for having some “unregistered” rifles or whatnot.

        The fact that a member of the armed forces is NOT allowed to carry when acting as a civilian, just adds insult to injury. Just as my buddy the security guard living in Oakland was wondering why it was not OK for someone with his “firearms handling skills” to carry when taking his daughter to a crime infested playground in that city, but OK for him to do so when watching some VIP’s kids in a gated community…..

        Military as a loose federation of civilian Joes in state militias, and cops as deputized civilians; each group bringing largely their own weaponry, is the gold standard. All else is just varying degrees of tyranny by supposed more equals..

  7. Lots of people carry anyway. They take the word concealed very literally. If they start using detection equipment the result will be predictable

  8. When I was in, our base had a great skeet range, top of the line, hardly ever busy. A friend and I would go shooting all the time, even on our lunch breaks. So there was a shotgun in my trunk, a Mossberg 500, with a 20 inch barrel. big box of mixed ammo, and in a padded case. It wouldn’t have been fast to access, but I wouldn’t be cowering waiting for help.

  9. @ Glenn
    I think the original impetus to keep firearms out of the hands of troops while in-garrison wasn’t about PTSD, as much as it was/is about domestic violence. The drive to bar servicemembers with PTSD from KBA started picking up steam around ’07 with the NICS Improvement Act.
    I remember Friday safety-briefings were nearly always the same thing; “Don’t beat your wife/husband, don’t drink & drive, & wear your seatbelts/safety equipment”, with the largest emphasis being on spousal abuse. The reason being; avoiding losing troops to the Lautenberg amendment, since being pegged with a domestic violence record bars someone from carrying a firearm, regardless of military duties; hence them being permanently non-deployable.

    • Individual/many posts banned at least back to the 80s. Benning and Lewis were two that did so.

    • This is about carrying during normal duty hours. Troops can still have guns in the home, including on-base (for most bases, anyway).

  10. According to my ID we are the uniformed services. For some reason there is a rifle with a wreath in my chest…

  11. I won’t list the bases but there are many military installations where civilians out number active duty 2 to 1. The enemy is now here and they will be looking for easy targets. If you work on a base or next to a military office I suggest you carry consealed.
    In some locations you will be breaking the law. It is a safe bet that the base commander has 24/7 armed security.

    • “It is a safe bet that the base commander has 24/7 armed security.”

      That is definitely not true on the base where I work. I work down the hall from the base CO, and there are no armed guards in this 30k+ sq. ft. office building. The only building on the base that has armed security is Security, where the base police force’s offices are. Yes, we have armed gate guards drawn from the ranks of sailors, most of whom are not MAs, working on the base. Building doors are locked, but most are glass like the NOSC in Chattanooga.

      If an attacker were to come on to the base and attack my building the CO would have no more protection than anyone else (except NCIS on the third floor) in the building.

  12. “when there is a reasonable expectation that life or DoD assets will be jeopardized if firearms are not carried.”

    Seems we’ve crossed that threshold.

  13. One thing at a time. Trying to arm civilians as well would be a silly overreach that could endanger arming the military members who already have the training to use the firearms and are in the service of a country that expects them to fight in combat, if called upon. Let’s start with them, especially since civilians who do not fall under the USMJ can quit without committing a crime if they feel endangered.

  14. I can solve this.

    Let’s enforce that portion of the US Constitution that states, ” shall not be infringed” and include all US citizens, 24/7 geographically unlimited.

    I am available for consultation on these and many other matters.

  15. I don’t think it’s appropriate, as a DOD civilian, for DOD civilians to be armed in bases. I do want officers and NCOs to have sidearms and access to rifles as policy, however. Civilians and enlisted personnel being armed on base would, in the unique circumstances of a life/work environment of many young people undergoing training, extensive existing security measures, and a large PTSD subset, likely cause some real problems.

    Rather what badly, absolutely, desperately needs to be passed is /federal safe harbor/, an absolute mandate to allow anyone who can legally possess a firearm to lock that firearm in their vehicle on base when they arrive from the outside world. As it is, you are effectively disarmed travelling to and from work because the CFR classifies the entire facility as a place where firearms are prohibited. The legal challenges over Post Office parking lots are grinding ahead, but that’s just one aspect of a vast federal prohibition which effectively disarms all federal employees for a substantial period of the week. This should apply to all civilian federal employees and all enlisted personnel who are living off-base.

    • Marina, I totally agree. I don’t care about carrying my weapon into the building, I just want to be able to drive to/from work without having to leave it at home. I often go places directly after work and it bugs me that I am disarmed and would not be able to respond if the need arises. Murphy’s Law gives that during this disarmed period is when I would need my weapon and not have it.

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