Commentary

February 1, 2013

If you own weapons, be familiar with your rights and responsibilities

hunterPrivately owned weapons are a hot topic right now. If you own weapons, it is more important now, than ever, to be familiar with your rights and responsibilities.

As a general rule, current federal law prohibits the Department of Defense from issuing any requirement, or collecting or recording information, relating to privately owned weapons that are not brought onto a military installation.

There are four important exceptions to this rule. The first two exceptions apply when Soldiers are engaged in official duties or are in uniform. These are self-explanatory. It makes sense that the military can regulate your use of privately owned weapons when you are on duty.

The third exception allows the collection and maintenance of records relating to an investigation or adjudication of an alleged violation of law or regulation. This simply means that Criminal Investigative Division or any other law enforcement agency can gather information about your privately owned weapons in connection with an investigation.

The fourth exception authorizes commanders and healthcare providers to ask Soldiers whether they have plans to acquire, or already possess or own privately owned firearms, weapons or ammunition whenever the commander or health care provider has reasonable grounds to believe that the member may be at risk for suicide or causing harm to others.

In addition to understanding your rights, it is also important to understand the limits of those rights. The laws discussed above only apply to weapons that are never brought onto post. If you bring weapons onto post, or store weapons on-post, the rules are completely different.

If you have weapons on-post, Garrison Policy Letter 3 requires you to register your privately owned weapons within three days of bringing them here. Weapons registration is primarily conducted at the Military Police Station by the Desk Sergeant. Do not bring your actual weapons to the police station. Instead bring the information you will need to fill out National Training Center form 655 (Registration of Privately Owned Firearms). Specifically, you will need the weapon’s serial number, manufacturer, model, caliber/gauge, barrel length, overall length, and type of finish. If you are purchasing a weapon at the Exchange, you have to register the weapon before you pick it up.

Garrison Policy Letter 3 also requires you to update your weapons registration whenever you change your residence or transfer ownership of a weapon. Soldiers at the NTC should also be aware that California state law requires you to process all weapons transfers (private sale or gift) through a dealer with a Federal Firearms License. The only weapons that are exempt from this provision are antiques, and Curio and Relic rifles and shotguns that are more than 50 years old.

Failure to comply with Garrison Policy Letter 3 may be punished as a violation of Article 92 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice for dereliction of duty. Failure to comply with California law may result in prosecution in California state courts, or punishment under the UCMJ as a violation of Article 134.
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