FUBAR: US Navy vs. US Law, Private Firearms and Suicide

Navy: Store guns of sailors at risk for suicide

First of all, it is a very good thing the Navy is recognizing the suicide problem they are having.  Suicide has been a under-treated problem for the military [active duty and veterans] for too long.  Many people just need a chance to be able to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I hope the military improves and helps the individuals.

Many individuals will not be able to be identified as “at risk.”  This program, of ‘voluntary’ gun registration is illegal and a violation of civil rights. [I understand that some rights are given up when joining the services.]

Smith said commanders and Navy health care workers should identify sailors at risk and “provide all available assistance while maintaining sailors’ rights.”

There is a direct conflict with the US law here:

18 U.S. Code § 926 – Rules and regulations

No such rule or regulation prescribed [by the Attorney General] after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established.

The new guidance states that commanders “may inquire about, collect and record information about a service member’s privately-owned firearms, ammunition or other weapons.”

If it is illegal to inquire, collect and record a service members sexual proclivity, [Don’t ask. Don’t Tell] it ought to damn sure illegal to to inquire about a service members private firearms

Sailors shouldn’t be coerced into handing over guns, it says, and they can ask for them back at any time.

Actually, what the regulation states:

4.  This policy governs voluntary storage and shall not be executed through  coercion nor the use of incentives/disincentives.

In written Navy regulations two terms; “Should not” and “Shall not” are used for very specific reasons.  In Navy Regulations, words still still have meaning***. “Should not” coerce handing over guns, would mean the sailor could possible face NJP [Non Judicial Punishment] or Courts Martial if they do not hand over weapons.  The commanders would not be [in Navy Legalese] violating the law to demand handing over of private owned, personal weapons.

“…ask for them back at any time.”  Yeah, you can ask for them back at any time.  Getting them back could be very involved because the sailors command may not have the firearm:

Once a Sailor agrees to voluntarily relinquish a privately-owned firearm, the command shall follow the procedures outlined in reference (d) for proper safe storage of privately-owned firearms on an installation [this is normally the base armory].  If a command is not located on an installation, the command should coordinate with local police, sheriff, National Guard or a Navy Operational Support Command for safekeeping; or the command shall store the firearm in an approved manner per reference (d)*If a predetermined storage period is not set between the commanding officer and the Sailor, the firearms shall be returned upon request.

A “..predetermined storage period is not set…”  How much more ambiguous can this be?

“Sailor, I need you to voluntarily relinquish the gun until we’re sure you are 4.0.  Okay?”

Yeaahhh…. no coercion at all. None.  And the command+health professionals will decide when you are well enough to get back your gun?

Also, the whole idea of no coercion by Commanders is a paper CYA maneuver.  When your Commanding Officer “asks” the subordinate officer or enlisted sailor to volunteer to do something–it really is not an asking or volunteer action.

If a sailor doesn’t want to relinquish a personal weapon, commanders can ask to store critical pieces or the key to a gun safety lock.

There is nothing in the new regulation that says commanders can ask to “…store critical pieces or the key to a gun safety lock.”  I do not know where the author got this idea.  But I have sent an email to ask.

Also in the new Reg:

5.  In all situations when there is an immediate risk to life, Navy personnel will take rapid action to ensure a Sailor receives necessary care and counseling to mitigate the risk of danger to the Sailor or others.

In US law: exigent circumstance.  What the police claim [way too much and way too easily] to violate the Fourth Amendment.  “Rapid action.” I can easily foresee a SWAT dynamic entry into the sailors’ private residence** to “mitigate the risk.”

This brings up the question of, what police force is going to be used to go to the sailors home and take the firearm[s]?  Military Police normally do not have any jurisdiction off base.  Will it be NCIS or a MP/local police liaison to go to the house?  How long would it take to get the goat rodeo together?

If the command calls the local police, tells them that there is a gun situation that requires “rapid action” how else will the local police respond except with SWAT?  This is going to lead to an old military acronym: FUBAR.

Just the ticket for a person who is determined to be a high suicide risk.

* News stories (on the release) of Ref D, say, “The policy also clarifies that Sailors must comply with all federal, state, and local laws…”  Irony, much?

**[Off-base.  If you live on-base and own private firearms, you must store them at the base armory or other command approved area.]

***Unlike the old-out-of-date-inconvenient-to-my-will, Constitution of the United States.