It might seem counterintuitive that someone who is charged with defending our country in times of war shouldn’t also be authorized to carry a weapon when he’s walking down an American street, but this is often the case. Federal laws regarding gun rights for active duty military personnel are thin at best, and most state laws are simply silent on the subject. But some jurisdictions and the U.S. government have at least taken steps to address the issue.
The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004
The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act was originally passed in 2004 to allow qualified law enforcement officers, including retired officers, to carry concealed weapons more or less anywhere in the U.S. regardless of the laws of the state they were in at the time. LEOSA was expanded in 2013 to include certain military personnel – those who have been granted the right to apprehend suspects under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
What LEOSA Doesn't Cover
“Anywhere in the U.S.” does not include military bases, however, and weapons do not include machine guns or shotgun-type or rifle-type firearms. Military personnel must be authorized by their respective service branches to carry a weapon and they must have an endorsement letter from their commanders. The Air Force has been actively working to authorize their qualified personnel, and the Army is beginning to do so as well.
Some State Laws
Oklahoma and Ohio are among the few states with legislation in place that directly addresses the gun rights of military personnel in their jurisdictions. In November 2017, Oklahoma passed a law that allows active duty personnel at least 21 years old to carry handguns based on their military IDs. They do not require a special license from the state. Those who are 18 to 20 years old require special permits.
The situation is similar in Ohio. This state also passed legislation in 2017 to allow qualified active duty military personnel to carry concealed weapons without a special license. Ohio also lets active servicemen and servicewomen to purchase firearms before the age of 21, as does Nevada.
Tennessee still requires licensing for military personnel, but the state did relax its qualification requirements as of January 1, 2018. Now service members must pass only a written test, not also a skills test, if they’ve had at least four hours of appropriate training in the military. Texas also lets active service members skip certain licensing requirements and the state doesn’t charge military personnel for their licenses.