Commanders Can Ask About Privately Owned Guns


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RetiredUSNChief
January 10, 2013, 08:11 AM
This post concerns an article I just discovered while reviewing my links to the military.com website. Here is a link to that article:

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/01/08/commanders-can-ask-about-privately-owned-guns.html?ESRC=navy-a.nl

The laws have changed in the military with respect to inquiring about private ownership of guns. These are the opening paragraphs:

Commanders, chaplains and health professionals are now specifically authorized to ask troops they think are at risk for hurting themselves or others about privately owned firearms.

The authorization is part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains provisions dealing with numerous new or amended policies concerning, among other things, sexual assault, abortion, detainee operations and suicide.

The measure dealing with privately owned firearms clarifies a provision -- backed by the National Rifle Association -- in the 2011 Defense Authorization Act that prohibited collecting information from troops about their firearms. Some commanders and mental health professionals were concerned that it forbade inquiries about firearms, the most common and by far the most lethal method used by servicemembers to take their own lives.


It will be interesting to see how this new legal program is instituted in the military, and I would be deeply interested in what active duty servicemembers experience with respect to how this is implimented in the coming months and years. So, for those THR members who are currently serving active duty, please keep us up to date on this down the road...whether on this string or another.


For now, I'd also be interested in people's current take on this.

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NavyLCDR
January 10, 2013, 01:15 PM
My current take is nothing has changed. In commands I have been statationed, when either a Chaplain or a medical representative makes a determination that the service member has gone past the point of mere suicidal ideations and is at an elevated risk, the Commanding Officer will ask if the service member possess privately owned firearms. If yes, the service member is asked to surrender those firearms temporarily until medical declares they are no longer at risk.

The firearms are generally held by a noncommissioned or commissied officer of the service member's choosing at the officer's residence and returned when medical clearance is received or the service member is discharged from active duty.

If the service member refuses to surrender the firearms, then their off-base living privileges are revoked and they are moved into the barracks where firearms are prohibited anyway. Living off base is a privilege in the military - not a right.

tulsamal
January 10, 2013, 01:35 PM
Yeah, I remember when I moved on post. Schofield Barracks, 25th ID. I had to send in a written form to the Cmdr of the Post that I owned firearms. They have full registration in Hawaii so I had already carried them all downtown to be listed. I _think_ I had to list them out for the Post Cmdr as well but... that was 25 years ago and I could be wrong!

Soldiers that lived in the barracks could have POW's but they had to store them in the unit arms room.

Gregg

kwguy
January 10, 2013, 01:46 PM
Yes, the military can be pretty Draconian when it comes to personally owned firearms. If I remember correctly, the commander at Ft. Riley (?) tried to make ALL soldiers register their weapons on post, even if they did not live on post at all, after the Ft. Hood shooting. I think that got "turned off" relatively quickly though. Military members are subject to a lot of stuff that most folks may not even realize.

RetiredUSNChief
January 10, 2013, 02:01 PM
@ NavyLCDR:

I understand the difference between privileges and rights in the military, of course, so I understand the aspect about living off base.

I also understand that there is a great deal that the military can do with respect to servicemembers that the civilian world cannot do...indeed, the civilian world would find it foreign and incomprehensable in many respects.

I have never run into a scenario where one of my commands got involved on the level of personal firearms possession, though to be honest if a submariner had serious issues with respect to suicidal tendencies or other serious mental health risks, he would be transferred off the command to be cared for by a shore based command with all the medical and psychiatric care they can provide.

Perhaps by the time it did become an official involvement, it may simply mean that I never heard about it because the Sailor was no longer at my command.

Does the codifying of this action potentially open up to a form of abuse of power, though? Say, down the road requiring all servicemembers to declare/register their personal firearms?

d-dogg
January 10, 2013, 02:05 PM
You have no civil rights in the military - never have.

We give up our rights to protect those of the civilian population.

kwguy
January 10, 2013, 02:10 PM
In the Army, it's kind of dependent upon the base. In Alaska, there were no problems taking firearms out to go shoot, with them just laying in the back seat of the car, in plain view. No big deal at all, but do that in some bases in CONUS, and you'll get arrested. In the earlier example, I talked about Ft. Riley. That was the commanding officers doing. It varies.

NavyLCDR
January 10, 2013, 02:14 PM
Does the codifying of this action potentially open up to a form of abuse of power, though? Say, down the road requiring all servicemembers to declare/register their personal firearms?

The codification either for or against an act always has more affect than the code itself. While this provision doesn't actually change anything, it certainly does get the trend going.

25cschaefer
January 10, 2013, 02:16 PM
When I was in, 2006-2010, my commander wanted a list of my, and the other soldiers', privately owned firearms. I lived off post with my wife and I told him he had not right or reason to have that information and he did not pursue it any further. Later that year, as we were warming up to go to Iraq, he made everyone in the unit list all of their online accounts and passwords. Of course, I told him to stick it and he did not pursue it any further but, you would not believe how many soldiers just blindly handed over their information. "It's for COMSEC, it'll make us safer, he told me to, I'm just a private, ect." They were even giving their spouse's information to administrative staff.

Just because you join the military, doesn't mean you and your family don't have rights, you are still human.

kwguy
January 10, 2013, 02:34 PM
^^Very true. Commanders at all levels can be remarkably "pseudo-fascist" at times. They think the title "Commander" means "god" or something. You did well to not comply with that stuff. Just because a military officer or NCO is in a position of leadership does not mean they have no limits. Heck, even McCrystal showed his true colors on this matter a day or so ago.

RetiredUSNChief
January 10, 2013, 03:13 PM
The codification either for or against an act always has more affect than the code itself. While this provision doesn't actually change anything, it certainly does get the trend going.

I agree on the trend. Interestingly, by codifying it they also establish limitations they can be held to.

I'll be curious how this plays out in the next few years.


You have no civil rights in the military - never have.

We give up our rights to protect those of the civilian population.

This is not entirely true. Though we could spend all day citing examples where the civil rights enjoyed by civilians do not apply either directly or indirectly, we could also spend all day citing examples and circumstances where they quite clearly do.

There are differences...that is a given. This is because a military organization is most definately NOT run, nor capable of being run, like a civilian organization. The standards of conduct, the responsibilities, and accountability are different as a result.

MEHavey
January 10, 2013, 06:03 PM
Commanders at all levels can be remarkably "pseudo-fascist" at times.
They think the title "Commander" means "god"That's wrong.

While individuals are individuals, the commander is held responsible for ALL individuals under his command -- AND their actions.

Some CC's are more concerned than others over this broad responsibility, and manage in a greater depth of detail to minimize the risk. Others are less so, based in part on both the background/tendancies of troops themselves and the trust in the command chain.

Yes. I've run into some real [expletive deleted] types.
But far more often I've dealt with reasonable men (and a few women)

Killermonkey21
January 10, 2013, 06:42 PM
That's funny. I just had to fill out a Risk Assessment today at my unit, made mandatory here at fort richardson. On it was a "yes/no" block for "do you own a Privately Owned Weapon? Then it went into how many, what kind (rifle, pistol, shotgun), and what action type. I told my Soldiers that kept their guns off post to say no, as I was aware of this law change.

Me? Oh, I lost all of my firearms in a tragic boating accident.

RetiredUSNChief
January 10, 2013, 08:13 PM
I, too, would have considered that kind of information, under those circumstances, to be none of my command's business. I would have left it unanswered.

And, had I no firearms at all, I would have also left it unanswered for exactly the same reasons.

Knowing many of my fellow shipmates as I did, I'm quite certain there would have been a large percentage of others who would have done exactly the same thing.

They could have drawn all the conclusions they wished from that action.

RobNDenver
January 12, 2013, 12:21 PM
Ok, so in most ordinary circumstances the private ownership of firearms shouldn't be the command's business. When a GI expresses suicidal thoughts or behaviors noticed by others then I want the NCOs or Officers to act and act agressively to help that soldier. If they didn't ask I would think they were derelict

txgunsuscg
January 12, 2013, 12:38 PM
I know when I bought a gun in Cumberland County NC in 2003, I had to get my CO's permission. That was a county law though, not military.

kwguy
January 12, 2013, 12:49 PM
To RobNDenver. In cases like those, that's not infringing, that's simply good leadership, and looking out for your troops, whether you are the commander or not. In the military, one is trained to look out for that stuff. Yeah, nobody wants to sit through those classes, but you know what, I think instead of SOME of the classes our kids sit through in school today, maybe those type of classes might not be too bad. Might catch some warning signs early, before they become serious.

Ehtereon11B
January 12, 2013, 12:59 PM
Not surprised. My military chain of command knows I have firearms. Heck my platoon sergeant is the one who sold me 2 of them. We all casually talk about firearms because they are literally our job. This whole regulation is just CYA military style.

BSA1
January 12, 2013, 01:10 PM
Two key questions that should be asked someone that is suspected of being suicidal;

1. Are you thinking about committing suicide?

2. Do you have a plan?

3. If what is your plan?

For a supervisor not to ask these questions is neglient.

RetiredUSNChief
January 12, 2013, 02:29 PM
I agree...if suicidal ideations are suspected, the command will take whatever actions they deem necessary to ensure the safety of the servicemember.

In that light, asking about how the individual intends to go about it and what kinds of dangerous materials may be in his/her possession is common sense...be that drugs, chemicals, poisons, firearms, or whatever.

ilbob
January 12, 2013, 02:33 PM
are they required to answer?

RetiredUSNChief
January 12, 2013, 03:13 PM
are they required to answer?

Good question.

The answer to that, prior to this law, might be a little fuzzy.

If he's given a lawful order, then the answer is "yes".

A lawful order is, by definition, is any order that is given by a superior commissioned officer, warrant officer, noncommissioned or petty officer.

(The order given, however, must indeed be "lawful".)

Since this is now codified, there is not doubt that such an order, under such conditions, is required to be answered.

Before this change, however, it may not have been quite so clear cut. If the servicemember is residing in any form of government housing, then he is required to provide that information. If he is residing off base, however, he may not have been prior to that.

The key prior to this change would be in the rules and regulations of the various organizations at that time. A servicemember is required to obey the rules and regulations, so long as they do not conflict with a higher authority. If no higher authority established that a servicemember is NOT required to provide such information, then there would be on such conflict depending on the circumstances in which the rules/regulations apply.

ilbob
January 12, 2013, 03:25 PM
It seems to me that the use of the word "ask" does not imply in and of itself that a response is required. If one is ordered to respond, that is not "asking".

I would suggest that military members accept the idea that they will have somewhat less freedom of action as part of the deal when they volunteer. If you do not like the rules, don't volunteer. It seems pretty simple, but when the rules are unclear or get changed in the middle of the deal it seems unfair.

I wonder why congress felt the need to deal with this situation anyway. It seems like something the military should deal with on its own.

RetiredUSNChief
January 12, 2013, 08:36 PM
But asking a question can be considered an order to respond.

HorseSoldier
January 12, 2013, 08:48 PM
I agree...if suicidal ideations are suspected, the command will take whatever actions they deem necessary to ensure the safety of the servicemember.

From what I saw happen with an E-5 I deployed last year, they will also be very proactive if homicidal ideation is expressed or suggested. Thumbnail is guy was a med hold in the WTB, with all his firearms locked up in an arms room on post, until Behavioral Health signed off on him no longer being a threat to others.

kwguy
January 12, 2013, 09:02 PM
I believe that back in 2011, the concern was gathering data for the VA? But this seems to clarify specifically that the chain of command can ask about weapons for servicemembers they feel are at risk for suicide, since the suicide rate has been high. As mentioned above, they've been doing this anyway (and have been for many years), but I guess the question must have come up somewhere, hence the clarification.

4thHorseman
January 13, 2013, 03:50 AM
Hey guys, all they are doing is asking. You can always refuse to answer the question. Anybody can ask anyone any question. No law against that. It is your choice to answer it or not.
In actuality, it would be blatant disregard for a commanding officer not to ask if he/she really cares about the welfare of the people working for him/her.

ilbob
January 14, 2013, 12:24 AM
But asking a question can be considered an order to respond.
I don't see how it can be phrased as a request and still be an order. I don't see how you can legally refuse to obey an order. A request is something else entirely. I guess a lot depends on just what the legislation actually says and just how the question is "asked".

In any case as I understand this, it only applies in cases where a service member is suspected of having suicidal or homicidal urges. I don't see how that is as much of a problem as some might try to make it out to be.

Besides, as I understand the rules, if you live on base you generally can't keep personal weapons on base except under military control and if you live off base they can make you come back.

OptimusPrime
January 14, 2013, 12:38 AM
To the OPs original question though, this is nothing new. We were doing the same thing in the mid 90s at Ft. Riley. No real reason for it, it wasn't a roundup, it was just a health and welfare thing.

RetiredUSNChief
January 14, 2013, 12:38 AM
I don't see how it can be phrased as a request and still be an order. I don't see how you can legally refuse to obey an order. A request is something else entirely. I guess a lot depends on just what the legislation actually says and just how the question is "asked".

In any case as I understand this, it only applies in cases where a service member is suspected of having suicidal or homicidal urges. I don't see how that is as much of a problem as some might try to make it out to be.

Besides, as I understand the rules, if you live on base you generally can't keep personal weapons on base except under military control and if you live off base they can make you come back.

A commanding officer has quite a sweeping range of authority over those under his command. He can require quite a lot that people not familiar with this don't understand.

Now, I fully recognize the difference between a CO issuing orders and a CO issuing orders that are ineffective because they cannot be reasonably enforced or verified.

A CO may, indeed, require all those under his command report whether or not they have personal firearms, even if it isn't servicemember specific. He may do so because this is simply part of his "suicide awareness training" because of an increase, or isolated instance of, suicides at either his command or even service wide.

This does not mean, however, that all servicemembers will comply, or tell the truth if they do answer up.

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