Oklahoma will soon allow U.S. military personnel to carry their personal firearms without a state-issued concealed carry permit, but commanders may not be so lenient, Pentagon officials maintain.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin recently signed legislation that allow active-duty, National Guard and Reserve members to carry a handgun without having to go through the application process for a concealed carry permit.
Senate Bill 35, authored by republican Sen. Kim David, goes into effect November 1 and authorizes military personnel who are 21 years of age or older to carry a handgun, concealed or unconcealed, as long as they possess a valid military identification card and a valid Oklahoma drivers license or an Oklahoma state photo ID.
"Our military men and women are highly trained in combat and how to use weapons; requiring them to get a license to carry a handgun is redundant and an expense our Oklahoma heroes shouldn't have to worry about," David said in a press statement.
"I want to thank my colleagues and Gov. Fallin for supporting this important measure and respecting the training and knowledge of these brave men and women," he added.
Oklahoma is among a dozen states that have relaxed concealed-carry laws. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Vermont, Maine and Alaska are states that no longer require a permit to carry concealed, according to the National Rifle Association's website.
The Defense Department has also revised its policy that in the past prohibited personnel from carrying firearms on installations in the wake of "active-shooter" attacks at U.S. military bases resulting in the deaths of service members such as the July 16, 2015 shootings at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in which four Marines and a sailor were shot and killed. The gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was killed by police in a gunfight.
But "Arming and the Use of Force," a Defense Department directive that lays out the policy and standards that allows DoD personnel to carry firearms, lists very detailed guidelines commanders must follow before authorizing troops to carry firearms on base.
Commanders, O-5 and above, "may grant permission to DoD personnel requesting to carry a privately owned firearm (concealed or open carry) on DoD property for a personal protection purpose not related to performance of an official duty or status," the document states.
"Written permission will be valid for 90 days or as long as the DoD Component deems appropriate and will include information necessary to facilitate the carrying of the firearm on DoD property consistent with safety and security, such as the individual's name, duration of the permission to carry, type of firearm, etc.," according to the document.
The policy directed the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to develop service-specific guidelines for firearms carry that looks at firearms training standards and the scaled use of force, according to Army Maj. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
"It says you need to put together some [standard operating procedures; you need to have some standards on that for who can, who can't and who is trained in the scaled use of force," Davis said.
The scaled use of force is an "escalating series of actions an individual can take to resolve a situation" and includes "less lethal force (e.g., officer presence; voice commands; empty hand control; pepper spray, baton, Taser; other less lethal weapons) and deadly force," the document states.
The lengthy document mostly deals with authorizing troops to carry personal firearms when performing official duties, but it does offer telling details about the scrutiny commanders must apply when deciding whether to authorize specific personnel to carry for personal protection.
The directive states that personnel authorized to carry privately owned firearms must "acknowledge they may be personally liable for the injuries, death, and property damage proximately caused by negligence in connection with the possession or use of privately owned firearms that are not within the scope of their federal employment."
The eligibility requirements also state that applicants should not be subject to past or pending disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or in any civilian criminal cases.
The directive also follows the Lautenberg Amendment the Gun Control Act of 1968 that makes it a crime for any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, or who is subject to a protective order for domestic violence, to possess a firearm, according to the document.
Military personnel, authorized to carry personal firearms, are also prohibited from being under "the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance that would cause drowsiness or impair their judgment while carrying a firearm," the document states.
Every branch of the military is going to have their own service-specific policy, "but that is going to be on base; then you fall into the whole state, local and federal laws that are applicable" when carrying off base, Davis said, adding that "it gets convoluted" because each of the 64 states and territories can have their own specific guidelines.
"So if someone is saying 'hey just because you've got a [military ID] card, you can go ahead and do this.' No, that's not the case," Davis said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.