Q: Is the Army demanding information about soldiers' privately owned firearms?
A: This is another false Internet rumor. A memo from one commander of a small unit in Kentucky was an isolated mistake that was quickly corrected; it wasn't Army policy.
I received this e-mail yesterday the 17th of May and would like to have you check it out if possible. It looks like a hoax to me and not true.
Subject: Fw: Civilians are next! Yes, it's political It just gets scarier by the minute……………
FORWARDED AS RECEIVED . . . .NOW IT BEGINS… Subject: Register Guns ALL ACTIVE DUTY MEMBERS HEADS UP!!!! Gentlemen, I am an 11B currently assigned at Fort Campbell. I live off post, with my firearms (which I don't bring on post for any reason). A very frightening thing happened at work yesterday. I was ordered to fill out a list containing my firearm information. This included make, model, caliber, and serial number of all firearms I currently posses. In addition, I was also required to list registration information, location of all weapons individually, and information regarding any CCW permits I posses. If you are like me, then the people you work with know you have firearms. So I had to list at least some. I tried to talk to my 1sg (who is normally approachable through proper channels) to find out what this is for, and I was basically told, "I don't give a !&@%, just put your info on the form." I don't know how high this goes, but I am hearing that this is going on in other units at Fort Campbell as well. It just seems a little coincidental to me that within 90 days: the most anti-firearm President in history is inaugurated, some of the nastiest anti-firearm laws are put on the table in Washington, and then the Army comes around wanting what amounts to a registration on all firearms, even if they are off post, and doesn't provide any reason or purpose as to why. I fear something really nasty is blowing in the wind here. I have been in almost 8 years, and never have any of my units asked for this information. If any of you out there have any info as to what all this crap is about please chime in. Otherwise consider yourself warned. I have already posted this on every other firearm forum I am a member of to get the word out. Here it is folks.[/EET]
This latest scare story began with a misleading headline on the conservative site WorldNetDaily on March 21: "Military demands details on soldiers' private guns." In fact, as the WND story itself reported, the demand came not from "the military" but from one unit commander who was acting outside his authority. The memo went to only 110 soldiers (of the 29,000 at Fort Campbell in Kentucky) and had been rescinded even before the WND story appeared. Subsequent chain e-mail messages and postings on gun rights Web sites have omitted any mention of the small number of soldiers involved or the Army's quick action in correcting the mistake. Instead, like this message, they have strained to imply that the short-lived memo somehow represents an Army-wide policy instigated by an "anti-gun" commander in chief. The truth is a good bit less sensational.
The Fort Campbell Memo
Members of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., received a memo (shown below) dated March 12 asking them to "inform their Chain of Command" of the registration number, whereabouts and concealed carry permit status for all of their privately held weapons.
WND reported on the incident March 21 in an "exclusive." The story made clear what later retellings did not: The memo never represented Army policy. Even the article's misleading headline said, "Fort Campbell command reversed under pressure." Nothing in the story supports the headline writer's assertion that there was "pressure" to reverse the policy, but even those who read only the headline knew it was no longer in effect at the time the story appeared. The WND story quoted a spokeswoman for the base, Cathy Gramling, as saying that the memo came from a single company commander who did not have authority to seek such information. She said the commander issued it while base officials were considering starting a training program for soldiers with privately owned guns because of "a number of negligent discharges of privately owned weapons" :
WorldNetDaily.com, March 21, 2009: Base spokeswoman Cathy Gramling told WND the letter apparently was a mistake. She said the base requires anyone bringing a privately owned weapon onto the installation to register it. … Gramling said the memo was "from a subordinate unit commander who, at the time, believed he was acting within his authority." She said requiring the information was halted when it was discovered the commander was not within his authority.
Gramling said she'd been quoted accurately in the WND report (though she told us the headline is "not at all" accurate). Kelly Tyler, director of public affairs at Fort Campbell, has since elaborated on what Gramling told WND. Tyler states that this is "the only memo of its sort" (contrary to the e-mail's suggestion that "this is going on in other units at Fort Campbell") and that, in fact, a "cease and desist" order has been issued to ensure that other unit commanders don't repeat the mistake:
Kelly Tyler, director of public affairs, Fort Campbell: There is no policy at Fort Campbell requiring Soldiers who reside off post to declare or register their privately owned fire arms. The command is concerned about the elevated numbers of negligent/accidental discharges – at least one of which resulted in a tragic death. The goal is to determine how to best mitigate those risks, without infringing on the Constitutional Rights of our Soldiers. The memo was an effort by a company commander to attempt to ascertain who in his unit owned firearms. Within days of the memo being issued, it was rescinded. To the best of our knowledge, that was the only memo of its sort that was issued — the Deputy Commanding General has issued a "cease and desist" order to all units who may have been contemplating similar actions. (To provide some perspective, the 101st has more than 200 companies and company commanders — this memo was issued to about 110 Soldiers of the 29,000 on Fort Campbell). Current policy states Soldiers who live in the barracks at Fort Campbell must store their personally owned weapons in the unit arms room. Soldiers who live in government quarters on post must register their weapons with the Provost Marshal, but can keep them in their homes. Soldiers who reside off post have no registration requirements unless they bring their weapons on post to use the firing range. Other than the short-lived memo, no efforts are underway to collect serial numbers of privately owned weapons. Soldiers and their families must comply with local and state regulations for gun ownership and hand gun carry permits. Unregistered weapons are not permitted on the installation at any time, and registered weapons are only permitted if they are being transported to or from the personal weapons range.
Obama Didn't Do It
The e-mail’s anonymous author, who claims to be a Fort Campbell solider who received the memo, also suggests that the order was an act by the military under the instruction of the Obama administration. “It just seems a little coincidental to me that within 90 days: the most anti-firearm President in history is inaugurated, some of the nastiest anti-firearm laws are put on the table in Washington, and then the Army comes around wanting what amounts to a registration on all firearms,” the author says. But Gramling told us that this was “not a Second Amendment issue.” She wrote in a follow-up e-mail to FactCheck.org: “There is no reason to link the actions of one company commander to an alleged Presidential plan to disarm the public; it is a ridiculous assumption.” As for a possible firearm safety class, she said that “no training program has been implemented at this time, though commanders remain concerned about all aspects of soldier safety.”
Unruh, Bob. “Military demands details on soldiers’ private gun.” WorldNetDaily.com, 21 March 2009.
Snopes.com. “Fort Campbell,” 4 May 2009.