In light of recent shootings on U.S. military installations, some military commanders are taking small steps to broaden Second Amendment rights on bases.
While there is no blanket policy allowing Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers to be armed on base, the Marine Corps recently gave the nod to allowing military police (MP) to carry personal guns concealed when they are off duty.
This is welcome news in some regards. Still, several restrictions define the conditions under which an armed off-duty MP might be authorized to use his gun. The edict says only that the affected Marines can use private firearms “for personal protection not in the performance of official duties.”
Those who want to carry also must be in compliance with guidance addressed by the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, or LEOSA.
Better news might be on the horizon, though. Lt. Gen. George Smith Jr., commanding general of Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, said expansion of concealed-carry permissions could be in the works.
The Marine Corps “will continue to develop policy to address the total force requirements for the carry, transport, and storage” of personally owned firearms on base, he wrote in a message released in December.
Given that every Marine is trained in marksmanship and firearm safety, it is certainly worth consideration to allow more Marines to carry—not just for personal protection, but also on the off chance that an installation-wide situation develops, wherein someone with bad intention gets past the gate.
The topic has long come with restrictions that were painted in broad brushstrokes.
Generally, service members have been required to store personal firearms at the station armory; other stipulations existed regarding the transportation of firearms in vehicles and such. Such rules remain in effect selectively across U.S. military bases.
However, the Pentagon loosened the reins in 2016 in response to shootings that occurred in the previous year in Tennessee and at a Marine recruiting station. The 2016 action basically delegated base safety decision-making to individual base commanders, authorizing them to ease limitations as they saw fit.
In light of two December incidents at military bases, the service branches are more actively devising ways to best address such threats.
The Marine Corps order pertains only to Marine bases, not shared installations. Limits also exist regarding carrying at U.S. Department of Defense schools and such. And, of course, it doesn’t extend to other branches of the military.
While the Marines are encouraging more carry, even with the caveats, some base commanders in other branches are trying the opposing tack, even limiting who can store a personal gun in the base armory. Military officials who hesitate to allow those who serve to carry have also been studying the matter of active-shooter preparedness, with some military websites addressing such things as the definition of a “lockdown” and listing things to do in the event of such an incident.
But many say that’s not enough; hence, the more recent call for allowing more of our military members to carry—in or out of uniform.
One advocate of easing carry restrictions on bases survived the 2014 attack at Fort Hood. Then-1st Lt. Patrick Cook wrote a letter to Texas legislators, saying that when shots rang out, he automatically reached for a sidearm where he would typically be carrying it. Since he was unarmed, by military rule, he and others had to hide in a room while a fellow soldier was killed. “This will happen again, and again until we learn the lesson that suppressing the bearing of arms doesn’t prevent horrific crimes, it invites them,” Cook wrote in the letter.
Which is exactly why the Marines are taking a step in the right direction; a step that should be expanded and followed by the other branches.