U.S. military personnel can now request to carry concealed handguns for protection at government facilities, according to new Defense Department directive issued last week in response to a series of deadly shootings over the last seven years.
While service members already were authorized to carry weapons as part of specific job responsibilities, the new policy allows them to apply to carry their privately owned firearms "for personal protection not associated with the performance of official duties," the directive says.
It also clarifies when military recruiters can be armed, said Army Maj. Jamie Davis, a Defense Department spokesman.
"Commanders have always had that authority to arm recruiters," Davis told Military Times on Monday. "Some of the wording wasn’t very clear, so they’ve gone through and cleaned it up so it is very clear now that the commanders have that authority to use at their discretion."
Effective Nov. 18, the directive culminates years of work, Davis said.
The effort began after the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, where former Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others. It accelerated after the July 2015 attacks on a recruiting station and Navy reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That incident claimed the lives of four Marines and a sailor. Both lone-wolf attacks were believed to be inspired by international terrorism.
In April 2014, Spc. Ivan Lopez-Lopez killed three soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded 12 others after an argument. Lopez-Lopez killed himself when confronted by a military police officer.
The updated policy spells out when troops can carry government-issued weapons as part of their official duty and when they can carry their own firearms for protection. The directive does not apply to troops in war zones or members of the National Guard who are not working in a federal status.
Those wishing to carry a concealed personal firearm on Defense Department property must apply for permission. They have to be at least 21 years old and meet all federal, state and local laws and host-nation requirements the directive says.
The individual military services will determine requirements for those who will grant conceal-carry requests, the directive says. Those officials must have a minimum rank of lieutenant colonel, commander or the civilian equivalent.
"These authorizations will be for a maximum of 90-calendar-day increments and may be renewed for as long as the threat or circumstance necessitating arming exists," according to the directive.
Service members will not be given permission to carry a concealed handgun if they have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice "for any offense that calls into question the individual’s right to carry a firearm," or if they have been convicted or face charges in civilian courts, the directive says.
The updated policy makes clear that Defense Department personnel can be armed, "when there is a general or specific threat of possible harm directed against them when that threat relates to the person’s official duties or status."
That means troops at recruiting stations and reserve centers can be armed if their commanders grant approval, Davis said. The commanders will determine what type of threat their recruiters face and what protective equipment recruiters should be issued.
However, recruiters and other service members who are not security personnel cannot bring firearms to an off-base location that is guarded by police or security guards, the directive says.
"For example, DoD personnel assigned to recruiting duties should not be armed when visiting high schools that have law enforcement or security personnel on site."