Well, at least it’s a half-step in the right direction, but the recent announcement that military bases will no longer be gun free is not all that the headlines proclaim.

It is progress, but only on paper. Sure, guns are allowed in theory…but just try to get a permit. (Think concealed carry in places like NYC or Maryland.) The new DoD directive states that:

“Pursuant to DoDI 5200.08, military commanders and their civilian equivalents may issue the necessary regulations for the protection and security of property and places under their command or supervision.”

Did you catch those two words, “may issue”? It is a phrase that those of us in the gun rights world know all too well, and what it means is that while carrying a firearm isn’t prohibited outright, you still have to ask permission…and that permission can be withheld.

In fact, the DoD directive is 26 pages long, and chock full of hurdles a commander must jump before granting permission to carry, and plenty of other obstacles to any military boss thinking about signing off on letting troops carry. In fact, the restrictions are so numerous, I’m not going to list them all here. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of troops will likely not be given permission to carry.

Here’s why…

As I’ve written before, the primary opposition to troops carrying concealed on post is the command element itself. Success or failure in command has a major impact on an officer’s career trajectory, and a failed command is a career ender almost every time. Having been a commanding officer myself, I can tell you that if a soldier under your command has an accident with a gun, especially an accident which harms someone, you are quite likely done for.

So a commander who wishes to have a successful career must weigh the risks involved in signing off on allowing concealed carry within his unit. On the one hand, he may be giving his troops a valuable tool to save their own lives. On the other, he may be signing away his career. Do you really believe that any career-minded officer is going to grant that permission?

I don’t.

And while I understand the systemic forces that encourage this sort of thinking in the officer corps, I still believe it to be a cowardly act to choose career safety over troop safety. With this directive, DoD has punted responsibility to local commanders who now must risk everything to simply do the right thing. Perhaps there will be some individuals who have the guts, but doing the right thing starts at the top, and DoD must do better than this.

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