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DoD Contingency for a President Trump: Directive 5210.56

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 10:20
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The U.S. military makes contingency plans for a great many possibilities.  It appears that the DoD has a contingency plan in place for a Trump presidency.  Donald Trump has said he will eliminate gun free zones in the military and at recruitment centers on day one of his presidency.

On November 18th, the Department of Defense released DoD Directive 5201.56.  Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert O. Work, issued the directive on Arming and the Use of Force, that superficially does away with “Gun Free Zones”. It allows commanders at the O-5 level and above to grant people the authority to carry private defensive weapons.  O-5 is a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) for the Army, Air Force, and Marines; Commander (CDR) for the Navy and Coast Guard. Not all O-5 officers have the authority; only commanders of units, installations or other organizations do. A military commander is a specific position. Not all officers are commanders. An officer who takes a command position has many special responsibilities and privileges. They stay with the position when another officer takes his place.

The directive is highly restrictive, but it allows for authorizeed DoD personnel to carry personal, privately owned defensive weapons. From

This section provides guidance for determining the eligibility of DoD personnel to carry privately owned firearms on DoD property for personal protection when it is not related to the performance of official duties. This section also provides requirements for individual training, transport, safeguarding, and storage of privately owned firearms that the arming authority must consider when determining whether to permit an individual to carry a privately owned firearm on DoD property.

Here are some highlights of the directive.  There are many restrictions.  There are so many, the directive is almost, but not quite useless.

Each permit holder must be individually approved by the commander involved.  That takes a lot of the commander’s valuable time. There are plenty of reasons for commanders to turn down requests en masse, and no incentives given to commanders to approve requests. 

The first restriction does much to gut any effective numbers of personnel carrying defensive weapons.  It requires that the Commander determine, after consultation with legal counsel, that an exception under 930(d) of Title 18, U.S.C. applies. From the directive:

a. 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. Permissions granted under this section do not apply to carrying a firearm within federal buildings unless the arming authority specifically determines, after consultation with servicing legal counsel and in accordance with applicable DoD policy, that an appropriate exception under Section 930(d) of Title 18, U.S.C. applies.

 Here is 930(d) of Title 18, U.S.C.:

(d) Subsection (a) shall not apply to—

(1) the lawful performance of official duties by an officer, agent, or employee of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof, who is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of any violation of law; 
(2) the possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon by a Federal official or a member of the Armed Forces if such possession is authorized by law; or

(3) the lawful carrying of firearms or other dangerous weapons in a Federal facility incident to hunting or other lawful purposes.

Commanders are caught in a sort of legal bind here.  They are being required to have legal counsel tell them that one of the three exceptions applies. But the directive itself could easily be interpreted to suffice for exceptions (2) and (3), especially if the person applying has a concealed carry permit. 

Carrying a weapon for defense of self and others, and especially with a permit, is a lawful purpose in all U.S. territory.  Carrying a weapon after being authorized to do so by a U.S. military commander, is also a lawful purpose.

The directive could have stated that the directive itself meets exceptions (2) and (3), thus taking the burden from individual commanders.

Some other restrictions:

  • Personnel authorized must be 21 years of age or older
  • Personnel not subject to *any* past or pending personnel action
  • When permitted to carry concealed, the firearm must be completely concealed, and not interfere with normal duties
  • May not carry while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants 

The directive can be significantly improved.

The finding of lawful exceptions to  930(d) of Title 18, U.S.C. should be included in the directive, relieving individual commanders of that burden.

Commanders should be given incentives to authorize defensive carry.  Such an incentive might be:

If an applicant who has a valid concealed carry permit is refused by the authorizing authority, a written explanation of the reason for refusal shall be given to the applicant.  Applicants that are refused may appeal the refusal to the Inspector General of the organization.

This directive was put into effect 10 days after the election of Donald Trump. That indicates the Department of Defense takes President elect Trump’s (and future Commander in Chief) promises seriously.  If you want a policy done on your terms, one of the most effective ways to obtain it is to present it as already accomplished.

President Trump will be well informed of such tactics.  I expect he will make appropriate improvements.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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