The U.S. Constitution allows citizens of this country the right to possess firearms, but that right comes with the solemn responsibility of using them safely and following all regulations – on and off post.
According to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, firearms account for more than 32,000 deaths and more than 67,000 injuries each year.
In fact, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website states it is the firearm owner’s responsibility to ensure his or her weapon is never stolen or lost. To that end, the agency strongly encourages anyone who purchases a firearm to invest in a combination locker for safe storage.
From 2012 to 2014, firearm-related injuries killed nearly 1,300 children on average each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ryan Sadler, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence safety specialist, said storing weapons properly is key for keeping children safe.
“The best way to mitigate any chance of children encountering weapons at home is to have (the weapons) placed in a combination locker and store the bullets in a different, secure place,” he said.
The Springfield, Missouri, Police Department suggests keeping any weapons in the house unloaded, too, and urges parents to educate their children about the seriousness of firearm usage. The department advocates for communicating to children that guns are not toys.
Fort Leonard Wood has its own regulations surrounding firearms on the installation, and service members and civilians alike need to adhere to those. Sadler said everyone traveling to or on post should educate themselves on the rules.
“A common no-no that people or service members may do when dealing with their personal firearms is bringing their loaded firearms on the installation during hunting season,” he said.
Fort Leonard Wood Regulation 210-21 states, “Firearms will be unloaded when placed or carried in or on a motor vehicle. A round in the chamber or magazine constitutes a ‘loaded’ firearm. Removal of the cap or powder from the pan constitutes ‘unloaded’ for muzzle loading firearms.”
In addition, anyone interested in bringing firearms inside the gates should know that the weapons must be registered with the installation, which requires a background check.
Rick Vise, Installation Physical Security officer, said firearms must be declared upon arrival at a Fort Leonard Wood entry control point.
“Firearms must also be declared to law enforcement personnel when approached by an on-duty law enforcement person,” he said. “At no time will a firearm be left unattended in a vehicle for any reason.”
He said that there must be an authorized reason – such as hunting – if people wish to bring the firearms onto the post.
According to Vise, the authorized reasons are:
— For the purpose for hunting in authorized areas on Fort Leonard Wood.
— For firearm practice sessions conducted on a designated range or at the Outdoor Adventure Center.
— To transport a firearm to or from a licensed firearms dealer for the purpose of purchase, sale or repair of the firearm needing transport.
— To bring to a location of bona fide repairs.
— For sales or purchases of firearms by and between private individuals.
— Transporting to and from gun or sports shows, fairs or displays.
— To bring to an authorized storage location.
Vise added that all firearms being transported onto Fort Leonard Wood must be inside the vehicle’s trunk or separated from the vehicle occupants in a way so they are not readily available or accessible to the driver or passengers – bolts or actions must also be closed. If it’s necessary to transport a shotgun or rifle in the passenger compartment, bolts must be removed and actions must be open.
Visit https://ftleonardwood.isportsman.net/ to learn more about which hunting areas are open, how to get there and which permits are needed.
Sadler confirmed that Soldiers are allowed to possess personally owned weapons in on-post housing, but they must have received their commander’s permission.
“Service members and family members are allowed to have weapons in on-base housing,” he said.
He cited Fort Leonard Wood Regulation 190-11, which states, “All military personnel and their family members must obtain their unit commander’s approval/permission to register and store a firearm(s)/weapon(s) in FLW family housing or in a unit arms room. Commanders grant this permission when signing the FLW Form 1835 or 1835A.”
Commanders are allowed to refuse permission for a number of circumstances. To read them in full, and to see more information regarding local firearm usage, study Fort Leonard Wood Regulations 190-6, 190-11 and 210-21 at https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/regs.
Even if one lives off-post, precautions should be taken before turning their backyard into a homemade firing range. Sadler urges any who do this to consult with their local laws, be aware of their surroundings and install a backdrop behind all targets to catch traveling bullets and projectiles.
In addition to educating oneself on the federal, state and local laws surrounding firearm possession, purchasing and usage, the ATF urges people to treat every firearm as if it were loaded, always keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction and always keep fingers off the trigger and outside the trigger guard unless the intention is to fire the weapon.
“The advice that I can recommend to individuals that possess a personal fire arm or who wants to purchase one is to determine the purpose of the firearm,” Sadler said. “Decide which firearm is right for you; get your gun permit; receive gun training; and be very responsible when using firearms.”