Who ordered that military installations should be “gun free zones”?

My heart goes out to those poor people who were killed and injured at the Navy Yard and to their families.  Some questions have to be asked.

I was sent this link to PJ Media, which has an interesting bit of information relative to the hideous Navy Yard Massacre.

Flashback: US Military Bases are ‘Gun Free Zones’ Because Democrats Decreed Them To Be

After Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounded more than 30 in November 2009, John R. Lott wrote about one of the craziest policies to come out of the Clinton era: making military bases “gun free zones.”

Yes, that’s correct. In 1993, President Bill Clinton decreed that US military personnel were to surrender the Second Amendment rights that they swear an oath to support and defend. Lott, writing in 2009, called for that policy to be ended.

Shouldn’t an army base be the last place where a terrorist should be able to shoot at people uninterrupted for 10 minutes? After all, an army base is filled with soldiers who carry guns, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Beginning in March 1993, under the Clinton administration, the army forbids military personnel from carrying their own personal firearms and mandates that “a credible and specific threat against [Department of the Army] personnel [exist] in that region” before military personnel “may be authorized to carry firearms for personal protection.” [In the cases of Hassan and Alexis, it was too late for that.] Indeed, most military bases have relatively few military police as they are in heavy demand to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. [in 2009]

The unarmed soldiers could do little more than cower as Major Nidal Malik Hasan stood on a desk and shot down into the cubicles in which his victims were trapped. Some behaved heroically, such as private first class Marquest Smith who repeatedly risked his life removing five soldiers and a civilian from the carnage. But, being unarmed, these soldiers were unable to stop Hasan’s attack.

The wife of one of the soldiers shot at Ft. Hood understood this all too well. Mandy Foster’s husband had been shot but was fortunate enough not to be seriously injured. In an interview on CNN on Monday night, Mrs. Foster was asked by anchor John Roberts how she felt about her husband “still scheduled for deployment in January” to Afghanistan. Ms. Foster responded: “At least he’s safe there and he can fire back, right?” — It is hard to believe that we don’t trust soldiers with guns on an army base when we trust these very same men in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, most of CNN’s listeners probably didn’t understand the rules that Ms. Foster was referring to.


Read the rest there.

There are the exceptions of those who want to commit “suicide by cop”, but the deranged and cowardly go to places where they know potential victims won’t be armed.

Arguments can be advanced on both sides of this decision, but people should know about the policy and who implemented it.


There’s more.  In a comment, below, there is information about the policy being rooted in something Pres. George H.W. Bush did.

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  1. Papabile says:

    Being a former infantryman, I understand how people could be annoyed at the Clinton Executive Order.

    Honestly, though – that was standard practice even before that order. The exception was that officers could carry their sidearm, though few ever did – in the late 80’s/early 90’s that is. I never heard of an enlisted being authorized to be under arms (personal arms – that is) while in uniform.

    The military, at least in my limited experience, has always emphasized control of weapons, etc.

  2. inexcels says:

    In light of recent events, I hope the wisdom of this policy will be called into question. But probably not.

  3. TopSully says:

    I don’t know what the differences were in the Clinton policy, but personal weapons weren’t carried around in the years before he was president.

    In the early-mid 1980’s when I was on active duty and living in the barracks at Camp Lejeune we were required to store our personal weapons in the armory. We could check them out any time we wanted, but they had to be checked back in before the armory closed for the day. No personal weapons were allowed in the barracks, and you didn’t carry a personal weapon on duty. Considering the excessive drinking that went on back then it was a good policy.

    In the late 80’s and through the 90’s when I was in the reserves and attached to a combat unit, we had a locker in the armory that was specifically for storage of personal weapons. Most of the senior Marines had personal .45’s we would load in that locker when we deployed. None of us liked or trusted the 9 mm Beretta that was the issue sidearm.

  4. nasman2 says:

    In the late 80’s early 90’s Offutt AFB also didn’t allow personal weapons to be carried around and you’d have to turn them in to the Security Police. Many just chose to live off base and you never considered carrying onto the base. I guess they considered the perimeter security good enough to ward off any attempts on base…….

  5. Cantor says:

    The policy may have been formalized under Clinton, but it was in place in many locations prior to that. And it doesn’t mean that subsequent President’s could not have changed it if they so desired. They have not.

    While stationed in Europe in the 70s, I noted that that our AF Security Police at the gates carried M-16s but carried the magazines separately. Inserting the magazine broke a seal and kicked off a major investigation. We affectionately called the guys Barney Fifes.

  6. Ganganelli says:

    I wonder if the policy was implemented after the Vietnam war. My dad would tell me stories of soldiers coming back from that war that were seriously troubled. That combined with the sexual “revolution” and the easy availability of all kinds of drugs makes the policy seem eminently reasonable.

  7. Arele says:

    Well, I certainly hope this policy, formal or informal, is changed, especially in light of two massacres in the last four years where our own military were forced to cower helplessly in the face of a deadly shooter. Is this what our sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers signed up for when they commit their lives to defend our country? To be sitting ducks?

    If this wasn’t common knowledge before, it sure is now, which puts our brave military men and women in even more danger. This recent shooter just picked a prime spot and opened fire on innocent, defenseless people, knowing they were helpless. What a monstrous and cowardly act.

    It seems more and more that mass shooters are quite well aware of what areas are gun free zones and which ones are not.

    For heaven’s sake, let’s at least give our brave, fighting men and women a fighting chance!

  8. “The unarmed soldiers could do little more than cower as Major Nidal Malik Hasan stood on a desk and shot down into the cubicles in which his victims were trapped.”

    I am not here to mock the dead or to add to the pain of their loved ones. But as a veteran of the U.S. Marines, I must speak up. I was stationed at Twentynine Palms, Calif., when Clinton made that rule, and we never noticed. Maybe it was because we were in Somalia at the time. Or maybe it was because, while a lot of us owned firearms, we did not carry them around the base. We were required to keep them in our respective unit’s armory — to check out for shooting or hunting. But concealed (or open) carry on a military base? I can’t think of anything more stupid. What would be the purpose?

    Oh yeah, in case there’s a crazed gunman in a random shooting incident. But how often does that happen? It’s called random for a reason. Plus, Marines do not cower, and if Hasan had attempted this on a Marine base, he would not have been hauled off in handcuffs. What was left of him would have been mopped up and hauled off in buckets. Marines do not need concealed carry to take down and disable an armed assailant. We just do it. Semper Fi.

  9. It certainly wasn’t what I signed up for when I enlisted in the Navy in 1971. But it was all that I got, even back then. And it didn’t get any better by the time I retired in 1991. The only weapons I ever carried on duty were the M1911 while standing topside watch on my submarine during the first five years of my career and an officer’s uniform sword, and that was carried only during graduation and Friday rehearsals for same at OCS as part of the Regimental Staff. The rarity of experience in routinely carrying arms on active duty service always struck me as rationally inconsistent. That assessment only became more ingrained in the latter years of my career when I took up competitive rifle and pistol shooting for a local Navy team.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  10. Papabile says:

    It would create very interesting conundrums if one allowed soldiers to carry their personal weapons… It would be immediately given away that they were carrying when they didn’t remove their covers/patrol caps, etc. when inside. (Of course that wouldn’t be a problem for the Navy.)

    In any case, it’s not a rights issue for the military b/c you don’t have the same ability or right to exercize your civil rights when you are on active duty. Many rights are restricted, such as speech.

  11. inexcels says:

    Marines do not need concealed carry to take down and disable an armed assailant. We just do it.

    Color me skeptical–unless there’s a whole lot more of you than him, or you successfully ambush him at point-blank range. If there’s a few meters between you and him, he’s got a gun and you don’t, and he knows you’re there, I don’t care how macho you are, you’re dead meat.

  12. e.davison49 says:

    I just read something that says that the policy was started in 1992 under Bush 41.



    It appears this “gun-free zone” type policy can actually be traced back to Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 5210.56, signed into effect in February 1992 by Donald J. Atwood, deputy secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush. … t appears DoD Directive 5210.56 was reissued in April 2011 by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III.

    Some outlets are citing Army Regulation 190-14, a policy implemented in 1993 that changed policy regarding carrying firearms on the Army’s military bases, to cast blame on Clinton.

    However, that policy specifically notes part of its purpose is aimed at implementing “applicable portions of Department of Defense Directive 5210.56,” which, as previously stated, was put into effect by Bush Sr.’s deputy secretary of defense: …

  13. Kathleen10 says:

    To change that policy would conflict with the current administration’s determined narrative that guns ARE the problem. They are not swayed by self-defense arguments no matter how sound and rational.
    To see this on a military base is horrendous, and even, embarrassing. Of course this policy should be changed, and immediately. But how can Obama sign off on something for the military that he abhors for private citizens. He won’t.

  14. inexcels says:

    I do note that it seems like all the military or former military personnel posting here seem to feel the no-guns policy is a good idea. I’d be inclined to defer to their wisdom–they of all people should know–but even still, it does strike me as kind of ridiculous that there are apparently no effective measures in place to prevent these mass shootings on military bases, of all places.

  15. Andrew says:


    I wonder if the policy was implemented after the Vietnam war.

    During the Vietnam War none of us carried weapons or ammo around at any base stateside unless we were heading out to the range for target practice, or cleaning the guns. Otherwise everything was stored at the armory under very strict control.

  16. Bob B. says:

    I remember living with my M-16 in Viet Nam, it was with me everywhere. Went to Ft. Bliss, TX and the only time I had a weapon was to escort a prisoner, payroll and for parades (what an everlasting pain they are). They didn’t even issue you a weapon for guard duty (which was an incredibly stupid thing I particularly remember once), but these were aerodefenders, so it made some sense.
    As for military weapons, you also have to remember that the armorer wouldn’t accept a dirty weapon – someone had to clean it, guess who that was?
    I, too, am surprised that Hasan “survived” to stand trial – it wouldn’t have happened during my time in the Army. The trial did make a mockery of military justice, despite the verdict (not being called a terrorist, not charged for killing the baby one of the soldiers was carrying and a mute president).

  17. The Sicilian Woman says:

    TopSully and the other vets who’ve responded confirmed what a vet on Twitter said yesterday, re: weapons in the barracks + drinking = trouble, so no weapons in the barracks, and how that policy has been in place since long before Clinton. Like inexcels, I’ll defer to their opinion, same as I did the vet on Twitter.

    What remains lost on the libs is that yesterday’s gun violence took place where guns are banned (at least not readily available). It took 7 minutes for an armed officer to arrive. So much happened by then. Sigh.

  18. Stu says:

    I have never liked this policy because in effect it prohibits those who want to carry concealed from doing so almost all of the time. Why? Because most bases are too keen on allowing you to check your weapon at the gate and you certainly can’t just put it in your trunk. So, the net effect is the service members are denied there ability to execute their 2nd Amendment rights both on and off base.

    Now that I am retired, I have encountered the first base which is friendly to gun owners. It’s the Coast Guard.

  19. Dienekes says:

    Unfortunately it seems that controlling people and CYA are higher priorities than saving lives. Obviously some people are much more equal than others. The latter are what you would call “expendable”.

    When you live on Mount Olympus it all becomes so much clearer.


  20. Sword40 says:

    As a former Marine, 1962 – 1966, I can say that we ALWAYS stored our weapons in the Unit Armory. (which was located in the same barracks). when it was time for inspections, parade, etc. we would check them out from the armory. We were allowed private weapons but they were also stored in the armory. There were enough fights and race problems way back then without adding weapons to the mix.

  21. Anchorite says:

    Bob B, Sword40, et al. – Thank you for your service! This country needs more people like yourselves.

  22. Mike Morrow says:

    When I was a young naval officer forty years ago, I spent more than half of my six years service living in on-base quarters. At the four navy bases on which I lived (not yet called “campuses” as apparently the Washington Navy Yard and some other “military” facilities sometimes now are), there was always a requirement that personal firearms be held by base security. Never could a personal firearm be held in private quarters. Carry of private weapons was inconceivable.

    This always struck me as extraordinarily stupid policy. A shooter committing an assault in a department store or schoolyard outside the base can never be sure that he will not encounter an armed citizen. But go inside the base perimeter to the base exchange, commissary, chapel, library, hospital, mess hall, etc. a violent criminal’s sanctuary exists in which a shooter is guaranteed by force of military law that there will be no citizen/soldier/sailor armed to stop his assault. The chance is negligible that any shooter with base access decals will get stopped, and weapons found, during a random vehicle inspection for base entry, so US military bases have always been much more open to the recent type of slaughter than even an elementary school! It’s just been dumb luck that it hasn’t happened before.

    The US military community is, in general, one that superior in intelligence, courage, judgement, discipline, and perhaps even weapons-use skill when compared to the general civilian population. But it is only the latter who may have right to concealed weapons where they reside and traffic. Why would one not grant the military population in their sphere of daily existence the same right that is granted to those off the base?

    Perhaps now, that question will get asked. But typically, most admirals and most generals cease being men of integrity on their path to such rank. They become little more than self-serving politicians of the very worst kind. They are worse as a class than most Roman Catholic bishops in that respect. So don’t expect that any will have the vision to see obvious solutions, nor the courage to foster the required solutions once they have been identified by others.

  23. Magash says:

    Separate from the reasonableness of the rules in the modern day, the history of these rules on weapons should be understood before anyone tries to blame any previous president for their existence.
    All of the U.S. military’s rules on the use and possession of weapons on military bases is based on the traditional historical relationship of enlisted personnel and officers. Especially the traditions of the British military upon which much of American military tradition is based. Through most of modern (post Renaissance) history officers were from the aristocracy and enlisted men were recruited from among the so-called lower classes. Even through WWI this was common. Under these conditions it was not that unusual for officers to fear mutiny by armed men under their command. One of the ways this hazard was reduced was to prevent enlisted men at stations, bases and ships from having access to arms. Arms were kept in armories and only issued at military need. I far as I have been able to find out this has always been the case in the U.S. Military. No doubt some will research and find that at Fort Thunder in Kansas in 1857 troops were armed or some such thing, but one must remember that at that time anything west of the Mississippi was territory not state and so the rules were much the same as for being in Viet Nam or the Green Zone in Iraq. I can assure you at the Navy Yard in DC at that same period all of the guns were locked in armories or shipboard gun racks. At least the weapons used by enlisted. Officers might very well have been armed and in this period, and for many years thereafter officers always purchased their own side arms, that is they were private weapons. This was a practice that was only changed last century when the military began to issue officers pistols, instead or requiring them to buy one.
    So I guess the real question should be when did the military start limiting officer’s ability to carry weapons on base?

  24. Martlet says:

    My husband spent 23 years in the air force and some more years on DOD contract to the air force. We do part of our shopping on base and attend Mass on base even now (we are overseas) and I cannot begin to imagine the security nightmare of people being able to bring their personal weapons onto a military installation. As it is, it can take a long time during peak parts of the day to actually get onto the base as normal security checks are carried out, without security guards have to check people’s weapons. Once on base it would pose a nightmare for our (very well-armed) security police. Almost entirely, except in rare occasions such as we are discussing, they at least know that when they go to break up a fight or attend a domestic incident, they will not be looking down the barrel of a gun.

  25. TimG says:

    @ Mike Morrow;

    I am with you. Requiring all weapons be under lock and key on base always struck me as stupid as well. When I first reported to SUBASE Groton I felt very confident in the Marines at the gates, but even they were limited in what they could do to search people coming on base. Once they were replaced with rent a cops (and nothing against those folks, they did what they could with what they had)……to me at least, security definitely degraded even further.

  26. TimG says:

    To me, the issue is if a person wants to bring a weapon on base to commit a crime, it would be easy to do so. I am sorry but unless things have drastically changed, the base searches are laughable. It’s the same thing where I work….a cursory glance in a bag on random days as you come in the door. I could easily, EASILY bring in multiple weapons and they would never know it.

    I think we must enable law abiding citizens to protect themselves and others on base, just as we can do off base.

  27. Cantor says:

    The advantage to a no-weapons policy is that the sighting of a single weapon ensures a lockdown and security response. It also reduces the likelihood of an accidental armed melee in which well-intentioned people make matters worse.

    Back in the 70s, CNO Adm. Zumwalt issued one of his noteworthy “Z-grams” (hmm… a distant relative perhaps?) authorizing beer vending machines in navy barracks. It was later rescinded, and most military installations prohibit alcohol in barracks. The lesson learned was that alcohol + teenage testosterone = trouble. To toss weapons into the mix is begging for even more disaster than we’ve seen in TX and DC.

  28. Theo-Philo SWO says:

    As a Naval officer currently serving, this policy has never made sense to me. The Navy has trained and qualified me to use at least 6 different firearms, several of which are machine guns, as well as various non-lethal weapons. I have been through 4 Navy schools in order to lead boarding teams conducting counter-piracy and counter-smuggling operations overseas. I am trusted to drive and fight a 1.2 billion dollar warship, but cannot carry my personal firearm on base.

    Stu is absolutely correct in saying that this policy “prohibits those who want to carry concealed from doing so almost all of the time.” I have my concealed carry license from the state of Virginia (and reciprocity in 32 other states), but this restriction on bringing personal weapons onto military installations kept me from carrying most of the time while I was stationed there. If I was going to base at all that day, I had to leave my gun at home. Even if I was going to run errands after work where I could legally carry concealed, most of the time I would not because it meant driving home 45 minutes in traffic to get my gun. Regardless of the Fort Hood and Washington Navy Yard shootings, I would want to carry my personal firearm at work just like I am allowed to off-base.

    The important thing for people to remember is that military installations are not just gun-free zones but weapon-free. I know a female officer who was turned around at the base gate because the guard noticed pepper spray attached to her keychain. TimG is right in his assessment of how easy it would be for most people to bring a weapon onto base in order to commit a crime. It makes no sense to me to keep this policy in place and it should be relaxed, at a minimum for military officers. At least let us follow the laws and regulations that apply to us on the other side of the fence.

  29. Papabile says:

    I just did the search on the history of the DOD Directive. It comes out of 10 USC 1585 in the US Code…. which was originally passed in 1958.

    Added Pub. L. 85–577, § 1(1),July 31, 1958, 72 Stat. 455.

  30. Arele says:

    Sounds like those with military service disagree on whether this gun free zone policy was ever a good idea. But even if it was in the past (and many here who were or are in the military express reasonable doubt) the two recent deadly rampages on military facilities should at least put this policy in a new light and open it up for new scrutiny.

    I, for one, would feel much safer at a military facility if I knew that law abiding citizens &/or military personnel carried loaded firearms, and not just criminals.

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