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Military Concealed Carry Policy Allows Privately Owned Firearms On and Off Duty

The Armed Services weren’t quite so armed under previous military concealed carry policies.

Concealed carry with personal firearms on military bases (or areas otherwise under the Department of Defense’s control) was unauthorized for DoD personnel.

That changed.

A timeline on military concealed carry policy

ccw in military

By no means an exhaustive recount, here are a few events tied to a recent change in concealed carry in the military:

November 5, 2009: “Allahu Akbar” pierced the air at a military deployment center in Fort Hood, Texas, soon followed by the rapid staccato of two pistols fired by Nidal Hasan. It was the deadliest mass shooting on a US military base. When silence fell, so did 13 armed forces members. A total of 13 deaths and 42 injuries resulted from the attack.

July 16, 2015: At 10:30 a.m. a 24-year-old man fired approximately 25-30 shots, the beginning of an attack on two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A total of four were left dead, with three injured.

Over the course of that year, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee received several phone calls, emails and other forms of communication from constituents. In response to shootings like that in Chattanooga, his constituents expressed concern about force protection for family members in domestic and international armed forces facilities.

April 7, 2016: According to a report from Military.com, Lee asked a top U.S. Army officer, Gen. Mark Milley,about this during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

"Tell me, what has the Army done to improve force protection of the United States and at bases in Europe and the Middle East, where they're sort of targets for attacks?” Lee asked Milley. “What other options are being considered, including the possibility of allowing soldiers to carry personal firearms on the base in order to protect themselves?"

Milley notably disagreed that carrying concealed personal firearms was a sound course of action. He remarked on the short amount of time, eight minutes, it took for law enforcement in and around the Chattanooga facilities to respond.

Among other arguments, he said that at the the time it was not authorized on facilities under Department of Defense policy to carry concealed, privately owned weapons.

November 18, 2016: The DoD released Directive 5210.56, titled Arming and the Use of Force and approved by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work. It isn’t to be confused with 1992 Directive 5210.56, which "limited and controlled" carrying of firearms by DoD military and civilian personnel.

With qualifying requirements and prior approval, this effectively afforded the right to concealed carry for certain military personnel that met certain restrictions and were afforded the ability to do so by an arming authority.

How to Concealed Carry on Military Bases


The 2016 directive allowed and provided guidance on how to carry concealed, privately owned firearms by DoD personnel for personal protection unaffiliated with official duties, which allows for concealed carry on military bases among other DoD spaces.

It’s a broad directive that is only attached to DoD service members and civilian employees, not retirees, according to what Pentagon spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis told Military.com.

"This policy only covers active service members, DoD civilian employees, and DoD contractors -- when applicable," Davis said to Military.com. "Guidance for retirees, dependents and other members of the public will be addressed in a separate instruction at a later date."

Despite the rights the arming authority can grant the applicable and approved parties, the directive does not apply to carrying in federal buildings, unless appropriate counsel, consideration and approval for an exception as per 18 U.S. Code § 930(d) is afforded.

The right to carry concealed, privately owned firearms, according to the directive, must be shown in writing and will last 90 days or “as long as the DoD Component deems appropriate,” so long as the applicant affirms a few key requirements in writing.

  • They must meet applicable federal, state, local and host-nation requirements to carry a firearm. Proof of this may come in the form of a concealed handgun license.
  • They must not be under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances that would affect their ability to carry.
  • They will inform their arming authority of any changes that would disqualify their ability to carry a privately owned firearm.
  • They must comply with all federal, state and local law regarding use of deadly force, self-defense and accidental discharge.
  • They must acknowledge their personal liability for damage, injury and death attached to their negligent use of private firearms not stemming from federal employment.

In addition to those acknowledgments, they must meet a base level of eligibility. The applicant must be at minimum 21 years old. Their fitness to carry a firearm must not be subject to past or pending action on an offense in accordance to 10 U.S. Code Chapter 47. They must not be convicted of or facing charges for violation of state or federal law.

The arming authority will require an official firearms training component through a certified firearms competency demonstration. The applicant must also have Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act credentials, or state approval, where applicable.

The firearm must be concealed completely in a way that does not interfere with normal duties or actions. It must meet state law requirements on caliber, ammunition, capacity and design. It also must be in a holster specifically designed for the pistol being carried.

For carrying a weapon not during the performance of official duties, the arming authority must be a commander grade O-5 or having a civilian equivalent while in charge of DoD property.

The directive also allows for military personnel to concealed carry during official duties, with a few more stringent policies attached.

Being that this isn’t formal legal advice, have a conversation about the new directive with a potential arming authority. Being a member of the Armed Forces means having the responsibility, right and at times, unfortunately, the burden of being ... well, armed.

As Milley’s statement shows, there are going to be vehement opinions on all sides of the matter.

For something that’s explicitly mentioned in the name, being armed in the Armed Forces does require a measure of tact and bureaucratic understanding beyond knowing how a weapon works.

But, as many in the military are immensely aware, there’s more to holding a gun than knowing the paperwork attached to it.

gun blog writer jake smith

About The Author

Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter and photographer based in the pacific northwest. He graduated from the University of Idaho with degrees in public relations and apparel.