Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Senator Chris Murphy Leveraging the Defense Authorization Bill to Challenge Military Personnel's Private Gun Rights


Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Assigning the task of national defense to a young American, and then promptly insisting they surrender the very liberties they're prepared to lay their lives down for, indeed requires audacity. Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut, is no stranger to such audacity. His newest legislative endeavor seeks to label every member of the armed forces as unfit to exercise their Second Amendment rights. While these military personnel are already forfeiting numerous freedoms to safeguard the nation, Senator Murphy, who hasn't spent a single day in military uniform, believes this isn't sufficient. He considers the Second Amendment freedoms of those serving in the military as an excessive liberty.

Senator Murphy's long-standing interest in gun control isn't a secret. He has built his career around challenging the Second Amendment and the gun industry, earning him favor amongst gun control advocates. Now, his focus has shifted to the Second Amendment rights of military personnel who own guns.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy (Shutterstock)

Consider this: these individuals are entrusted by our country to handle firearms and defend our nation against threats. Senator Murphy appears fine with this, yet proposes these same people can't be trusted with personal firearms.

In the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a crucial bill that finances and sustains our military, Senator Murphy has introduced an amendment. Like many others, this bill attracts a plethora of amendments for various projects each year, most of which are dismissed due to their irrelevance to defense. However, Senator Murphy is cleverly transforming gun control into a military issue. 

The proposal begins harmlessly enough, suggesting the Secretary of Defense establish baseline training standards for all those required to carry firearms during duty, including marksmanship, suicide awareness, and safe storage training, which are already standardized in each military branch.

It then deviates from constitutional norms. Senator Murphy's proposal demands training before anyone in the Department of Defense purchases a firearm for private ownership. Furthermore, it mandates that any firearm on a military base be registered with the base commander and securely stored at home, with ammunition stored separately.

Military authorities typically require privately owned firearms on bases to be registered, a policy that was already in place during my active service. However, this legislation's prescription of firearm storage contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Heller decision.

Courtesy US Army

Moreover, the amendment text requires all privately owned firearms to be registered with base authorities, even those legally bought off-base and never taken on base. This is problematic because a base commander's authority ceases at the front gate.

Senator Murphy proposes to institute a nationwide firearm registry beginning with all military gun owners, irrespective of whether the firearm was purchased on base or whether it was ever brought on base.

His attempts to push his gun control agenda don't end there. He has also proposed an amendment that imposes unnecessary delays on service members' rights, including a federal seven-day waiting period for any firearm purchase and a four-day waiting period for ammunition purchases on military bases.

Such proposals wouldn't stand a chance under regular congressional scrutiny, which is why Senator Murphy is trying to include them in a defense budget bill.

The process of selling firearms and ammunition on military bases complies with the same federal and state laws as the base's location. All firearm sales are completed using ATF Form 4473 and confirmed by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that the service member isn't a prohibited individual. Any state requirements are also observed.

But it doesn't stop there; it descends into something quite Orwellian. Senator Murphy's NDAA amendment would allow the Defense Secretary to gather all gun ownership information from military and civilian employees if the data is needed to prevent injuries and mortality. This is the inception of a national firearm registry, which is explicitly prohibited by federal law.


Worse still, another amendment by Senator Murphy prohibits anyone who doesn't live on Department of Defense property from possessing privately owned firearms that aren't related to their official duties.

Such a provision would disenfranchise military personnel not living on base, retirees who use on-base shooting ranges to maintain firearm proficiency, and those who wish to hunt on military lands.

Enormous military bases employ U.S. Fish & Wildlife wardens for wildlife conservation. Excluding a population of hunters not only removes their chance to practice safe firearm handling but also hampers the use of hunting as a wildlife management tool.

This is no accident. If successful, Senator Murphy could use this as a stepping stone to impose similar requirements on the rest of American society, arguing that if it's suitable for the military, it should be for everyone else.

It's unacceptable for a U.S. senator, who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, to abuse legislative power to snatch away the Second Amendment rights from those tasked with defending our nation. But, considering Senator Murphy's track record, this move is not surprising at all.

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