Let me tell you a story, though an admittedly dry, boring one.
Regular readers will know that I am a United States Navy veteran*, and, specifically, a Surface Warfare Officer; in short, this means I directed other people to drive ships around oceans. However, while ships are in port, they have something called a “quarterdeck”; I have no idea what happens to the quarterdeck when the ship is underway, but think of it like laps – they disappear when you stand up. In any case, quarterdecks are where the visitors and crew of the ship embark and disembark, and where the only access to and from the ship – the brow – is attached.
On the quarterdeck, you will find a variety of things – the ship’s log, a connection into the 1MC (the ship’s loudspeaker system), the various flags (assuming they are not already flying), and, of course, the Officer of the Deck (OOD) and the Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW). The Commanding Officer (CO) of a ship is always responsible for the ship**, whether it is in-port or underway, but he cannot always be onboard. When he is not and the ship is in-port, the Command Duty Officer (CDO) is his appointed representative, and is delegated some of the CO’s authority. The OOD, on the other hand, operates as the CDO’s representative on the quarterdeck of the ship, with the POOW operating as the OOD’s assistant.
OODs are responsible for ensuring the overall safety and operation of the ship while in-port – they pass 1MC announcements, sound bells for time progression, keep track of whether an officer is aboard or ashore, act as an interface between shoreside workers and onboard personnel for repair tasks, organize working parties, and check the IDs of persons attempting to access the ship. Additionally, should the situation arise, OODs and POOWs are the ship’s first line of physical defense while in-port – both carry M9 pistols. Depending on the ship’s size and threat condition, there can be additional roving/fixed patrols armed with a variety of other weapons, but if someone means to storm the ship, they are coming up the brow… right into the OOD and POOW.
As a junior officer in the Navy, I stood OOD for four to six hours every six days for the first three years of my career. Thankfully, all I did for those… countless… hours was check ID cards – there are a few stories I probably will not share, but the upshot is there were no shootouts on any of the ships I served on. In order to be qualified as an OOD, however, I had to get qualified on the M9.
Which is a sad story in and of itself.
“Qualifying” on the M9 consisted of sitting through a presentation given by the Gunnery Mates on how to operate, load, and fire the M9… and then go to the range and shoot the qualifying course. I was afforded no opportunity to practice, familiarize myself with the firearm, or do anything except get in front of the qualifying target and hope for the best. Thankfully, I managed to qualify as a “Sharpshooter” (meaning I scored somewhere between 204 and 227 out of 240)… and that was the last time I ever fired that ugly-arsed POS in the Navy.
However, despite the… lacking… “training” I received on that particular firearm***, the Navy, from my Department Head on up, trusted me to carry an M9 in Condition 2 with 45 rounds of ammunition in Pascagoula, Mayport, Ingleside, Norfolk, San Diego, Panama City, Manta, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Darwin, Brisbane, and other ports I am sure I am forgetting.
Do you know what the Navy did not trust me to do, however? The Navy did not trust me to carry a firearm off duty, or on the ship any time I was not on watch. While I was stationed in Mayport, FL, I possessed a Florida CCW permit; if I dared to bring a firearm onto base, concealed or otherwise, and it was discovered, I would have been up on serious, federal charges and/or court martial.
I satisfied the Floridian requirements for peacefully, responsible carrying a handgun in the state. I satisfied the military requirements for carrying a handgun on watch. It is even worth noting that I received and maintained a Department of Defense Secret clearance during my time in. But if I were to go out into Jacksonville, purchase the same handgun, stick it in the same craptacular holster the military used, and carry it onto the base as a personal firearm, the reaction I would have received would have been… one I would rather not be on the receiving end of.
Because that makes sense.
So, yes, military bases are “gun-free zones”, in that private citizens cannot carry personal firearms onto them, just like every other “gun-free zone” in existence. A lot of folks have been blaming President BJ Clinton for that particular rule, but the oldest thing I have found is Department of Defense Directive Number 5210.56 (*.pdf warning), dated 25FEB92, which states:
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.
It is worth noting this directive supersedes DoD Directive 5210.66, “Carrying of Firearms by DoD Personnel”, dated 17MAR86.
Yes, military bases have gate guards – bases have between one and 10+ gates, with anywhere between two and 10+ guards (typically rent-a-cops of various types; we generally stopped using Marines at base gates long ago) per gate – and they might have some sort of roving patrol, but even that is not guaranteed (Pascagoula did not, and Mayport did not as far as I am aware). However, once an aggressor were to penetrate the outer shell of security afforded by those gate guards, there is no immediate second layer of defense – calls would have to be made, forces would have to be mobilized, and all the while, service members and their civil service counterparts are… well, screwed.
Why not allow service members to be their own second layer of security? After all, you are your own first responder, and you are the only person legally or morally responsible for your own safety. And, realistically, a vast number of military members – predominantly Marines and Army, granted, but more and more Air Force and Navy, thanks to the Individual Augmentation program – have received significantly more firearm-related training, if not real-world experience, than your average beat cop that would respond to a “mass shooting” event. Why not allow them to put that training and experience to work, rather than be forced to “shelter in place”**** and wish they had ammunition?
Oh, right, because the political points garnered by continuing the myth that
“gun-free zones” victim disarmament zones work is more important than anyone’s life, military or not. It is well past time for us to realize criminals do not obey signs, and disarming peaceful citizens only helps facilitate those who would prey on them.
(* – And, thankfully, free of any and all legal, moral, or contractual obligations to the military, which means I can say whatever I want about it now.
** – Barring two unique circumstances; can anyone name them?
*** – That “training” is why I went out and purchased my very first firearm and then got interested in the firearm-owning community, ending up with this weblog right here. So, thank the Navy?
**** – Can you imagine the Founding Father’s responses to the military – much less any American citizen – being ordered to “shelter in place”? Good grief.)
(Image of me on the deck of the Cleveland shamelessly stolen from the Brisbane Times.)