'We Are Targets': New Offutt Air Force Base Commander Clamps Down on Private Guns
Has the U.S. military learned nothing in the years since the Fort Hood shooter killed 14 and injured 32 unarmed soldiers in that 2009 terrorist (or "workplace violence," per Barack Obama) attack?
While it might seem paradoxical, U.S. military bases have been essentially gun-free zones. The military's own weapons are stored in guarded armories, and one doesn't hesitate to add "of course." But even the carrying of personal weapons for self-defense, concealed or otherwise, has long been banned. That's why so many were killed and injured at Fort Hood in 2009, helplessly waiting for the local police to arrive.
Things have been loosening up however.
A 2016 Pentagon rule "allows base commanders to permit troops to apply to concealed carry personal weapons on base." Although that's a far cry from some states' constitutional carry or other states' must-issue permit laws, it seems to me to be at least a step in the right direction.
Offutt Air Force Base is moving in the other direction -- and airmen aren't happy about it. According to an official announcement on Facebook, "the 55th Wing commander has directed that the transportation of privately owned firearms (POF) on Offutt Air Force Base, with few exceptions, will be prohibited." The release explains that the base commander’s "intent for this change is that firearms will be effectively controlled and safely handled on Offutt AFB and is reflective of the full confidence in the 55th Security Forces Squadron’s ability to defend the installation and its personnel." Under the prior commander's policy, "registered Department of Defense ID card holders with a Nebraska Concealed Handgun License (CHL) and holders of reciprocating state concealed carry license (CCL), to transport and secure privately-owned handguns in privately-owned vehicles within the base." But that's all been overturned.
Colonel Gavin P. Marks became the 55th's Wing Commander last June, and his new policy goes into effect today.
Offutt is no small deal, either. The Air Force's 55th Wing is one of the nation's premier intelligence-gathering units... among other things. It's the largest unit in the Air Combat Command, providing "worldwide reconnaissance, real-time intelligence, command and control, information warfare and combat support" around the world, but especially to our Central Command operating in the Middle East. Offutt is also home to the joint United States Strategic Command, which is in charge of the country's nuclear deterrent. If I were a terrorist like the Fort Hood shooter, Offutt would look to me like the perfect place to kill some infidels and humiliate the Great Satan.
Because when seconds count, the 55th Security Forces Squadron is only minutes away.
As Cam Edwards noted at Bearing Arms, "there are hundreds of comments on Offutt’s Facebook post announcing the decision, and while I haven’t read them all, I’ve yet to run across any comment in support of the move."
Commenters are saying things like this instead:
• This is totally asinine. CCL holders were finally giving permission to bring firearm on base and keep in housing. Now this? Stupid stupid decision. This does NOT keep the airmen safer, it does the opposite. We are targets, let us protect ourselves if we choose.
• This is craziness. Are you going to pat down and car search every person who comes on base? Cuz the wrong person can bring a gun anyway and now a smaller portion of the good guys can defend themselves. Thanks a lot!
• Insanity. You only have to look yesterday to Texas to see why this is a terrible decision. You can have the greatest first responders in the world, they will still be minutes away. This is a wrong decision based in politics, not data.
• Translation: The new commander has no confidence in the state's background checks and training classes for concealed carry licenses. He also has no combat experience and doesn't research facts before disarming the most trustworthy people under his command.
• My airmen chose to fight to defend our country and protect the citizens, however using your position allows you to impose your personal democratic political opinion and publicly state these Airmen are not armed which places them in harms way. I hope you are prepared to shoulder this burden should tragedy occur outside the gates since ALL now know self protection is no longer allowed.
If you have a Facebook account, you can read the long list of responses to the official announcement here, and I'd just like to congratulate everyone for keeping it far cleaner than I'd have managed to if I were an airman assigned to Offutt.