No Special Treatment for Veterans on Gun Rights

I’m going to take a lot of heat for this, I predict. But, I say it as someone who actually benefits from these kinds of policies. I think the difference is that I don’t like it for practical and principled reasons. I read a story today out of Florida that concerned me a bit.

Florida has fast-tracked concealed weapons licenses to 82,000 active-duty military members and honorably discharged veterans since a terror-related shooting at a pair of military installations in Tennessee two years ago.

Military.com | 9 Jan 2015 | by Matthew Cox

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who along with Governor Rick Scott helped expedite the permitting process as part of the state’s reaction to the Chattanooga shootings, on Tuesday highlighted the effort that has helped bolster Florida’s nation leading number of concealed-firearm permits.

Before I get to the point on this post let me first qualify what I’m going to say. I don’t believe that permits are constitutional in the first place. Permits to carry are nothing more than government stripping you of your rights and then selling them back to you. No one should have to get a permit to exercise a fundamental human right to self-defense. That said, I’m writing this posts based on the reality that currently exists understanding I find the entire system of licensing repulsive.

When I joined the Army, I didn’t join to defend or protect my own rights. I joined to “support and the defend the constitution of the United States” for everyone. I didn’t join to receive special privileges or extra rights. While I do and will continue to appreciate the support that troops have, it concerns me that too many people think that government personnel (troops and police officers) are somehow entitled to special treatment based on a personal decision to don a uniform.

Last I checked, those of us who serve in the military are still considered “service members.” We are in the “service” of our nation not to be serviced by the nation. If we are serving the American people, what gives anyone the authority to bestow more rights upon us that the people we actually serve? The first three words of the Constitution are “we the people,” “we the government employees.” The people created the government to, among other things, “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Do we as veterans believe that those blessings only apply to us? If you don’t think they do, why would you support laws that bestow greater rights to you than the people you serve?

The only thing I truly agree with is exempting those in the profession of arms from having to take a qualification course as a part of their licensing. As far as I know, every single service requires regular firearm qualifications and receives regular training on marksmanship and safe gun handling. We can argue all day long about where all troops are actually “trained” on those things, but then I would argue that there isn’t a single state in the Union whose training requirements are any better.

When I was active duty, my Texas license to carry was free. As a veteran, it costs me $40 (beginning September 1, 2017, it will cost $40 for all Texans). The story claims that the effort to expedite permits is “part of the state’s reaction to the Chattanooga shootings,” but fails to recognize that even if troops have permits, federal law, executive, and general orders prohibit service members from carrying onto a military installation in most cases anyway. In fact, I was almost arrested recently going into Fort Hood while carrying a concealed firearm.

In November of last year, the Department of Defense released DOD DIRECTIVE 5210.56 which allows post commanders to “grant permission to DoD personnel requesting to carry a privately owned firearm (concealed or open carry) on DoD property for a personal protection purpose.” When I got to the gate, I declared that I had a concealed firearm and told the guard, “before you let me enter, can you tell me if I’m allowed to have a concealed handgun on me if I have a license and don’t enter into buildings under the directive issued last year? Has Fort Hood created a policy?” He said yes that I just needed to have my papers, so I handed him my license and he directed to a secondary screening area. When an MP arrived, he asked for my “papers,” to which I told him I gave them to the guard. The guard gave him my license, but he wanted registration papers. I was confused by this and it was explained that all firearms must be registered with the post to be allowed in. Once registered, the gun had to remain in the home except when traveling between a residence and the range or going off post. He then said he was supposed to arrest me for having a gun that wasn’t registered and I told him that I didn’t want to come on post if it was illegal which is why I declared it to the guard first and told him to turn me around. I guess the guard didn’t know the law and thankfully the MP was understanding and let me leave.

While 5210.56 sounds like a great policy, the problem is that once permission is obtained (which Fort Hood doesn’t grant at all) it is only good for 90 days and has to be renewed. The fact is that commanders simply don’t care about the policy and continue to disarm their troops. I’ve spoken to many military leaders that like it that way because they don’t trust their troops with a firearm. My response to that is twofold: 1) what kind of leader are you that you don’t trust your troops with a firearm? and 2) it sounds like you have a training deficiency in gun safety and handling. But, I digress…

Soldiers and cops are frequently told, “thank you for your service.” Is it really service if we are being offered more freedom and liberty than civilians are and think that is a good thing? Are we truly serving or are we simply self-serving? For these reasons, I don’t believe that troops, cops, or veterans should be granted any special privileges or rights that the people don’t enjoy. To believe otherwise says nothing more than you believe you are better than the people you serve.

P.S. This goes for prosecutors, judges, and every other special class of government official.

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