Can You Carry a Gun on a Military Base?

A privately owned firearm.
A privately owned firearm. (U.S. Air Force/William P.Coleman)

In the wake of mass shootings, including multiple active-shooter incidents on military installations, some might be wondering whether they can openly carry a gun or have a concealed weapon on base.

The answer is probably not, according to typical military base rules. But that might not be true for all current and former troops, depending on the base.

While post commanders by and large determine their own regulations for acceptable behavior on the base they oversee, many locations do not allow any personal firearms to be brought on the installation or stored in base housing or barracks. Troops living in barracks or other similar quarters who own personal weapons typically must register and store them in a base firearms storage facility. You should check with your local base to learn rules specific to that installation.

Some bases permit weapons to be stored in on-base housing. While some installations require all personal weapons to be registered, others do not. Rules at some locations require that weapons in on-base housing be stored in locked safes. You can check with your local housing office for specific rules for your base.

A 2016 Pentagon rule allows base commanders to permit troops to apply to concealed carry personal weapons on base. Check with your local base for information on their use of that policy. 

Base law enforcement officers and military police are permitted to both conceal and open carry guns on base.

Pentagon policy allows contractors to carry weapons on base for their official duties and in limited off-duty instances as long as they meet certain criteria. That guidance can be found in a DoD directive.

Some bases allow active and retired law enforcement officers to carry a concealed weapon on base if they are authorized to do so under a law known as the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA). On those bases, current and retired officers must register for and receive a LEOSA carrying card and then register with the base's security office. You can check with your local base to see whether it has a rule allowing this type of use.

Military members are permitted to have a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) military move stateside with their guns so long as the weapon is not on the excluded list. That list includes semi-automatic "assault" weapons, machine guns, short-barrel shotguns, short-barrel rifles and silencers. Movers also are blocked by regulation from shipping ammunition. The rules may be different for moving weapons to OCONUS locations, so check with your transportation office.

Whether military members can carry guns openly or concealed on base has been the subject of intense debate. In 2016, President Donald Trump suggested that troops should be permitted to carry concealed weapons on base. But then-Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, who was then Army chief of staff and is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that he did not support the idea.

"I don't think soldiers should have concealed weapons on base," he said.

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