MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Incidents of gun violence on Naval Base Hawaii and Naval Air Station Pensacola in December gained national attention, and compelled Marine Corps leadership to take action on concealed carry policy.
Sean Lamonzs, chief, Marine Corps Police Department, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, said Headquarters Marine Corps was prompted by these circumstances to accelerate a concealed carry policy.
The idea behind this change is to be able to lawfully react to an incident, whether on or off the clock. The ultimate goal is enhanced safety of those aboard the installation.
“It is to provide a layer of safety,” Lamonzs said, “so we are better prepared to thwart potential unforeseen acts of domestic terrorism or active shooter incidents. We are able to intervene on an incident because we are armed; we are able to act on domestic terrorism.”
“(Recent events) prompted the Marine Corps to get caught up on policy,” he added.
The policy, issued in December shortly after the shootings, said the Commandant of the Marine Corps was authorizing only Marine Corps law enforcement professionals who possess valid Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act credentials to carry a concealed privately-owned firearm on Marine Corps property while in an off-duty status.
“Marine Corps property are Marine Corps installations, bases and stations in which the Marine Corps exercises primacy for law enforcement functions,” the policy adds.
Marine Corps law enforcement professionals are defined in the policy as military police, criminal investigators and Marine Corps Law Enforcement Program Police officers who meet credentialing requirements for concealed carry of a POF for personal protection. These individuals are able to carry a concealed weapon aboard Marine Corps property while off duty.
“They have to meet the prerequisites for this job,” Lamonzs said.
These individuals are expected to comply with the concealed carry requirements set in the “Arming and The Use of Force” directive from the Department of Defense that became effective Nov. 18, 2016. Restrictions and special considerations, including POF registration, POF storage and transportation and adherence to POF concealed carry policy from prior guidance remains in effect, the most recent policy said.
It does not extend authorization to Marine Corps law enforcement on joint bases, other DOD property under the cognizance of another DOD service or on other federal facilities. It also does not allow for other DOD law enforcement to carry a concealed firearm on Marine Corps property.
“This only applies to Marine Corps stations, not on all DOD installations,” Lamonzs said.
“If I were on Moody Air Force Base or Robins Air Force Base, I could not use my credentials to carry a concealed firearm, and they can’t come here with theirs,” Mike Reynolds, interim deputy chief, MCPD, MCLB Albany, added.
Lamonzs and Reynolds said work has been underway to set an internal policy to guide the law enforcement workforce at MCLB Albany. Carrying, storage and management of training are among the things being considered as the internal policy is ironed out.
“We are going to afford officers a place to store their weapons when on duty,” Lamonzs said. “The weapons are not interchangeable; officers can’t use privately-owned weapons on government duty.”
Reynolds said certified law enforcement officials can now go into places like the base’s Commissary or Marine Corps Exchange when they are off duty with their private firearm. There are some places, however, firearms are still not allowed.
“The only place we cannot carry a concealed weapon is in a DOD medical facility or school,” he said.
Both Lamonzs and Reynolds emphasize that this applies to law enforcement personnel, a point which has caused some confusion since the new policy came out in December. Contractors, other DOD employees, visitors and family members are not allowed to carry weapons on the installation unless it is for the purpose of participating in a base-sponsored event, such as the annual Youth Quail Hunt at MCLB Albany.
“The authorization is restricted to law enforcement on the installation,” Lamonzs said. “They can travel with (private firearms) to and from place of duty; not when performing official duties.”
While performing official duties, the private firearms of MCPD officers will be locked up when they arrive for work.
“They will retrieve their duty weapon at the beginning of their shift and check in their POF, and check in their duty weapon and get their privately-owned weapon when they are off duty,” Lamonzs said.
Reynolds said that even the visual of a firearm is enough to deter an incident.
“What’s unique about this base, being a small community, is that everyone on base knows who the police officers are. It could deter a lot, if they see a police officer,” he said.
Lamonzs said it can also be beneficial to the community outside MCLB Albany, such as when an officer encounters an incident on their way home from work.
“This allows our law enforcement personnel to travel to and from their residence armed, while that was not the case previously,” the police chief said. “It leverages our ability to keep the community safe.”
Guidance came out concerning POFs aboard Marine Corps installations on April 3, 2014 following a shooting at Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013.
“In order to ensure good order, discipline, security and force protection, we will more aggressively address firearms policies across our total force through more consistent enforcement of regulations, engaged leadership and increased accountability,” the 2014 guidance said.