As of May 2022, the Joint Travel Regulations for service members were updated to exclude the weight of gun safes from the total weight allowance of household goods in a permanent change of station.
As the number of accidental child injuries and deaths continue to rise, more and more incidents are attributed to unsecured, loaded guns. Defense leaders are confident this update will help improve overall gun safety in homes, while also helping to decrease service member suicides.
“We will continue to prioritize the health, safety, and welfare of our Airmen, Guardians, and their families,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “We want to ensure our service members have a safe home.”
The weight allowance for household goods falls between 5,000 and 18,000 pounds, based on rank and whether or not a service member has dependents.
With the weight of gun safes typically ranging from 200 to over 1,000 pounds, some service members may have experienced a conflict when choosing between safety and convenience. Now, service members are allowed to ship empty gun safes, not to exceed 500 pounds, in addition to respective household goods weight allowances.
Leaving loaded guns in unsecured areas of the home, such as bedside tables, closet storage rooms and unlocked gun cabinets, creates an opportunity for children to gain access to weapons, putting themselves or others in danger.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that firearms were the leading cause of death among U.S. children and adolescents in 2020.
Beyond the impact unsecured guns have on child safety, the Department of Defense has recognized the significant rise in service member suicide rates and established the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee in March to address and prevent suicide in the military.
The Department of the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program, Integrated Resilience, Security Forces and the Safety Office combined to promote an effort focused on putting time and space between distressed individuals and the means to harm themselves named “Time-Based Prevention,” which became a part of the Department of the Air Force’s comprehensive suicide prevention strategy.
“We know that increasing the time between one’s suicide ideation and one’s access to a firearm can play a critical role in preventing a suicide. If this policy change prevents just one suicide, it’ll be a success in my eyes,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones.
The concept was presented to Total Force Airmen who shared that the cost of going over their household goods limits is a barrier to using weapon safes in the home, leading the Department of the Air Force to pursue this change to the JTR. The DOD went on to adopt the “Time-Based Prevention” approach as a part of the DOD suicide prevention strategy.
In addition to the JTR update, the Department of the Air Force implemented a cable gun lock safety program in 2020, sending 150,000 cable gun locks to every installation in the United States for distribution to service members on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The bottom line is our first obligation is to the Airmen, Guardians, and families who were courageous enough to raise their right hand to serve this country,” Kendall said. “Everything we do is with them in mind, and this regulation update is no different.”