Use and Possession of Firearms, Weapons, Explosives, and Fireworks on Post

By Alex Glover, Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office 

Weapons and firearms are often popular items when it comes to the United States Army. While Fort Bliss recognizes Soldiers’ ability to possess these items, it also seeks to ensure the protection and safety of Soldiers and civilians on Fort Bliss. For this reason, Fort Bliss Regulation 27-5 provides rules about the following: (1) Restrictions on Use and Possession of Privately Owned Weapons; (2) Prohibited Privately Owned Weapons and Contraband; (3) Registration of Privately Owned Firearms; (4) Storage of Privately Owned Firearms; (5) Use and Transportation of Privately Owned Firearms; (6) Loss or Disposal of a Privately Owned Firearm; and (7) Compliance with Applicable Civilian Laws Governing Firearms.

There are three primary types of items which have restricted uses on Fort Bliss. Compressed air-powered weapons are only to be utilized for target practice in authorized target areas. In addition, if the user is under 18 years of age, they must be supervised by a sponsor. Bows and arrows, including crossbows, are permitted for hunting or target practice in authorized areas. Martial arts devices are not to be transported unless they are being used for a training program which is approved by the Fort Bliss Garrison Commander. Further, these items are not to be carried, except for transport to and from approved training. Examples of these items are found in paragraph 3-1 of Fort Bliss Regulation 27-5. While none of these items must be registered, they must be stored in the same manner as privately owned firearms. Further, if these items are used improperly, they may be considered contraband and subject to permanent confiscation.

In addition to restricted items, there are certain items which are considered weapons and contraband when they enter Fort Bliss. Examples of items that may not be possessed or used includes: any fully automatic weapon; some types of rifles and shotguns; a silencer or suppressor for a weapon; explosives (including fireworks); brass knuckles; any illegal knife; nightsticks, maces, or tomahawks; blowguns; armor piercing ammunition; and any firearm on which the serial number has been removed, obliterated, or altered. The detailed list of items which are considered weapons or contraband can be found at in paragraph 3-2 of Fort Bliss Regulation 27-5. These items are subject to permanent confiscation. Items such as machetes, axes, or hatchets are excluded from this list, if they are used for personal purposes (i.e., home projects and camping activities).

While the above paragraph highlights weapons and contraband which are subject to confiscation, some privately owned firearms may be brought onto Fort Bliss. To bring a privately owned firearm onto the installation, the firearm must be registered with the Provost Marshal Office. If the firearm is registered with and brought directly to the Fort Bliss Rod and Gun Club for use there, then the firearm need not be registered with the Provost Marshal Office. However, if the firearm stays on post after use at FBRGC, registration is necessary. Those who live on Fort Bliss must register a weapon within 24 hours after it has been brought onto post. This grace period has been shortened from previous publications of Fort Bliss Regulation 27-5. While the firearm is pending registration, there are three places the firearm may be stored: (1) in the unit arms room; (2) at the FBRGC; or (3) in a suitable off-post storage facility.

After the firearm is registered, there are specific ways in which it must be stored, but your options depend upon your living situation. Newly arrived Soldiers who are without a unit assignment and those living in the barracks have the same three options as seen above (the unit arms room; the FBRGC; or a suitable off-post storage facility). Soldiers who live in on-post family quarters have an alternative option. Firearms may be kept within the family quarters, but the firearms must be stored in a locked container or with a trigger locking or action-locking device on the firearms. In addition, the ammunition must be stored in a locked container. A gun safe or gun cabinet would satisfy the requirement of a locked container. If the firearm or ammunition is not stored in the family quarters by those means, the firearm must be stored in the same three ways as those who live in the barracks. The person who signed for the quarters is responsible for proper storage of all firearms and ammunition, regardless of ownership of the weapon. Aside for authorized transportation and storage in the unit arms room, no person should possess or store privately owned firearms in their vehicle, or any part of any barracks, dining facility, office, motor pool, or other unit area.

There are certain activities when properly registered firearms may be possessed, carried, and used on Fort Bliss: (1) for marksmanship activities in authorized areas; (2) for hunting in designated areas; (3) for storage and removal from storage; (4) for purchase or sale; (5) for the performance of official duties by federal, state, or local law enforcement personnel authorized to carry firearms or weapons; and (6) transportation to or from one of the above permitted activities.

When transporting a firearm in a vehicle, the firearm must be unloaded and stored in the trunk or in a locked container designed to secure firearms. However, transportation of a registered firearm has additional caveats in order to be permissible. Individuals who enter Fort Bliss with a firearm must immediately report possession of the firearm to the Access Control Point (gate) guard personnel and inform the guard of the reason to bring the firearm onto the installation. Unregistered firearms will not be allowed on the installation unless very select circumstances apply. Newly arrived service members or service members with a newly purchased firearm may bring unregistered firearms onto the installation for immediate storage in a unit arms room or at FBRGC. As stated before, the firearm must be registered within 24 hours of the firearm’s introduction onto Fort Bliss.  Please note that this 24-hour grace period is not provided to those who seek to make a declaration only after they have been informed that their vehicle is being searched or inspected. In that case, the individual will be faced with penalties for having violated the regulation. However, those who inform ACP guards that they did not intend to enter Fort Bliss or did not realize they possessed the firearm, without first being informed that their vehicle is being searched or inspected, will simply be denied entry onto Fort Bliss at that time.

Patrons of the FBRGC may transport privately owned firearms directly to and from FBRGC without first registering the privately owned firearms with the Provost Marshal Office. Individuals under the age of 18 may also possess, transport, and use privately owned firearms and weapons. However, the minors must be supervised, and the supervising service member is responsible for those minors. Other than law enforcement and security personnel working that capacity, no individual may carry a privately owned firearm in a concealed manner while on Fort Bliss. Further, service members will not possess, transport, or use privately owned firearms during a military exercise of deployment, unless authorized, in writing, by the Commanding General. In the event that an individual loses, sells, or loses control of a registered privately owned firearm, they must immediately notify the Provost Marshal Office. They can do so by contacting the Fort Bliss Military Police Desk at (915) 744-1237.

These rules regarding weapons and firearms do not override applicable local, state, or federal laws, or regulations. Instead, service members are obligated to comply with these rules and those outlined within local, state, and federal laws, or regulations. For example, Section 922 of Title 18 of the United States Code (known as the “Brady Bill”) prohibits certain individuals from possessing, purchasing, and transferring firearms and ammunition. According to the Brady Bill, those certain individuals are those who have one of the following statuses: (1) felony conviction; (2) fugitive from justice; (3) unlawful user of/addicted to controlled substance; (4) adjudicated as “mental defective;” (5) discharge from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions; (6) subject to a civilian court domestic violence order; (7) conviction of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or (8) Indicted on a felony offense.

If you have any further questions on this topic and want to speak with an attorney, please schedule an appointment with the Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office by either calling (915) 568-7141 during office hours or emailing anytime.