Arming Our Service Members

It seems a strange question – should service members be allowed to carry weapons to protect themselves? In light of the four marines and one navy service member killed in a terrorist attack in Chattanooga, the question has once again surfaced.

It is important to note that there are no laws which currently limit a service member from carrying a weapon while off base. Prior to 2011, commanders could limit the purchase, storage, carrying, and use of personally owned weapons when off base. They were able to require that off base residences have a gun safe, or to store weapons in the arms room. Under the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, President Obama restricted the commander’s ability to reduce a service member’s lawful ownership and use of a weapon off base.

On base has been a different story for quite some time. On February 25, 1992, Secretary of Defense Donald Atwood, under George H.W. Bush, introduced the Department of Defense directive number 5210.56 which stated that it is DOD policy 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.” This is entirely different from restricting their use on base. This leaves the ability to issue weapons to the installation commander.

PistolWeapons which are authorized on base must be registered through proper channels prior to bringing them on the installation. While service members living in on-base housing and the barracks may own personal weapons, the storage for them is different. A service member or spouse may store a personally owned weapon in their on base housing as long as it is registered on base. A service member living in the barracks must store their weapon in the unit arms room and can access it via coordination to open the arms room. Concealed carry permits are not recognized on military installations and service members must remember to follow all state and federal laws when transporting weapons onto and off of the installation.

When Congressional leaders are discussing whether or not service members should be authorized to carry weapons, what they should be doing is discussing the criteria by which it is reasonable to believe that their lives will be jeopardized. A military installation is guarded by civilian and military security forces, multiple check points and roving patrols. A strip mall recruiting center is protected by nothing more than glass windows and a door lock.

Based on the recent attack, it is incredibly sad to see that service members were gunned down in violence without the ability to defend themselves. While the police did respond, even they were not enough to stop the attack until it had claimed the lives of still more service members seven miles away. The question is not whether or not service members are able to protect themselves, it is about whether service members on official duty off base deserve the right to carry their issued weapon to defend themselves or others. The answer is simple – yes.

The outcome is not nearly so simple. It is invariable that accidents will then happen. It took only one day for a US Navy recruiter to accidently shoot himself in the leg after the incident. Service members are unlikely to sit idly by while crimes are committed nearby as well. The question becomes much more complex when one realizes that arming service members for protection may lead to a series of unintended consequences. Even with that said though, if a service member meets the criteria for military service, and demonstrates the maturity to go to war in service of their country, it should go without saying that allowing a service member to be armed to defend themselves is a no brainer.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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1 thought on “Arming Our Service Members

  1. Thanks for a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece Kyle. There is an irony in the fact that Pres G W Bush limited the carrying of arms by service personnel while Pres Obama limited the power of a commander to restrict access by service personnel to arms off-base.

    That observation made, it is likely that the military will only proceed in small increments and then only when forced to do so. What this likely means is that any change in the limits on personnel being armed in the ordinary course of their duties will take time, be small, and will likely cost additional lives each step of the way. That is the history of the military and of their political masters and history is usually a very good guide in this type of situation.

    One also has to look at the political aspects of the situation. The public are quick to forget the deaths that have already taken place on supposedly security military bases because of lone wolves. The 2009 Fort Hood incident is a classic example. There were 33 people shot, of whom 13 died. Yet the public is more likely to remember if one armed soldier accidentally shoots an innocent bystander while responding to such an incident. Who is to blame for that kind of memory differential? Probably the free press. But do the American people want to change a free press? These are the problems that politicians ponder (usually when considering threats to re-election). They mostly don’t attend the funerals of the innocent victims of people like Nidal Malik Hasan (the Fort Hood offender). Perhaps there is a need for politicians to get up close and personal with the victims of terrorism in order to learn about grief first hand. It is a point worth pondering.

    History is, however, also a good guide to where things could ultimately end up. I am not old enough to remember WW2 and there are fewer alive each year who are. But it is my understanding that all military bases were more heavily protected during that declared war in order to guard against sabotage and like enemy actions. Perhaps it is time for the politicians and senior military to be proactive instead of crossing their fingers and putting their heads in the sand (its a visual thing). Instead of waiting for more service personnel to die or by maimed in terrorist attacks and then only respond by small increments, it is past time that the issue was given the serious thought that it deserves.

    Options for action must be formulated and explored. Policies need top be reviewed, reformulated and promulgated. Rules of engagement need to be developed. Training needs to be provided. And service men and women need to be provided with the means to defend themselves. All of this takes time, so there is no time to waste.

    In closing, I would make a final observation. I would have thought that this was a problem that should be very dear to the heart of the National Rifle Association. Why have they remained silent while those who protect America are left without protection themselves?

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