The U.S. Marine Corps announced Tuesday that it had authorized military police officers to bring their privately owned firearms onto bases, a rule change that senior officers said was hastened by fatal shootings at two Navy installations in the past month.
About 3,200 qualified law enforcement officers are eligible to arm themselves for their personal protection but not in the performance of their official duties under the new rule, Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a Marines spokesman, said today. They are required to have a concealed carry permit for the firearms.
Previously, only service weapons could be carried by members of the group — which includes military police, criminal investigators and civilian law enforcement officers who work for the Marines at some bases — solely as part of their duties.
The Marine Corps said in a memo that the rule change had already been in the works when the “tragic events” — a Dec. 4 shooting at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and a Dec. 6 shooting at Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida — persuaded the leadership to accelerate the timetable.
“Those incidents did expedite the process,” Butterfield said.
In the Pearl Harbor shooting, a U.S. sailor killed two shipyard workers and injured another before taking his own life. In Pensacola, a Saudi Air Force member armed with a handgun fatally shot three people and injured eight others during a rampage in a classroom building.
The Department of Defense had been reviewing concealed carry rules for several years. In 2016, the Pentagon issued an “arming and use of force” directive that was intended to develop a concealed carry policy for base personnel. Last May, the secretary of the Navy followed through with the initiative and gave Navy and Marine Corps commanders the authority to grant concealed carry authorizations. The Marine Corps is part of the Navy.
It was not immediately clear if any other U.S. military branches were considering allowing base personnel to carry personal firearms.
The Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comment tonight.
Law enforcement officers can carry concealed firearms at bases operated solely by the Marines, not joint military installations, the memo said.
Butterfield said base commanders had some discretion over the concealed carry policy.
“They can’t make it easier,” he said, “but they can put more restrictions.”
In another military branch, at least one Air Force base has done just that.
At Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, Col. Gavin P. Marks, the 55th Wing commander, announced Monday that carrying privately owned firearms was no longer permitted, with few exceptions.
“This policy change comes as a result of the commander’s initial review of the Offutt AFB Integrated Defense and Antiterrorism Plan, a requirement to be completed within 120 days of assuming command,” the base said on its Facebook page.