Speaking as a military brat and a Navy veteran, I cannot say as though I have any complaint with this impending law:
(a) In General- Except as provided in subsection (c), the Secretary of Defense shall not prohibit, issue any requirement relating to, or collect or record any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearm, privately owned ammunition, or another privately owned weapon by a member of the Armed Forces or civilian employee of the Department of Defense on property that is not–
(1) a military installation; or
(2) any other property that is owned or operated by the Department of Defense.
The military is a beast unto itself, with a multitude of interesting and creative idiosyncrasies that your average American citizen is completely unaware of… In this specific case, commanding officers are responsible for their subordinates at all times, to varying degrees, and that responsibility does not stop at the base fence. For example, the last year I was in, the military was having quite the rash of motorcycle-related accidents and fatalities, and, as such, an order came down for all commands to require all motorcycle riders to take a military-mandated training course, wear specific gear while riding a motorcycle (at all times, mind you), and sign official documents that would go into the servicemembers’ permanent records indicating that they understood the requirements and would abide by them (that paperwork-filing exercise simplifies prosecution in the future if the servicemember disobeys the order). Was there whining aplenty about this order (especially the mandate of the oh-so-stylish hi-vis orange safety vests)? You betcha. But it was, so far as anyone could tell or wanted to test it, a lawful order, and so it stood.
However, mandating a registry of firearms owned off-base? Well, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act has some pretty clear things to say about federal government entities keeping firearm registries:
No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.
Like so many other firearm-related laws, this one is frequently flouted and ignored by the BATFE, but that does not mean it is any less binding than the day it was signed, and it would appear as though the proposed 2011 National Defense Authorization Act is, at least partially, intended to ensure those protections are extended to our serivcemen and women as well. This entire situation falls under the, “There Never Should Have Been A Question” category, but since there was, it is about time for it to be answered.