News: Weapons Safety on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma
Story by Pfc. Brendan King
YUMA, Ariz. - Owning firearms is a federally-protected constitutional right and a privilege extended to all station residents, however, Marines, sailors and civilians must follow the rules and regulations governing their storage, transportation and safe usage.
In 2012 there was a rise in negligent discharge mishaps directly resulting in both serious injuries and loss of life, according to statistics provided by headquarters Marine Corps.
Complacency was a primary factor in many of these occurrences, so just as Marines are the first to fight, they also must be the first for safety. Marines must get back to basics and follow the simple rules of safe weapons handling.
“These mishaps often occur during weapons cleaning or during subsequent functional tests of a weapon after cleaning when live ammunition is present,” said Richard Barnes, a tactical safety specialist with the Department of Safety and Standardization aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
During combat, Marines must react quickly, safely and be mentally prepared to engage targets. However, they must also use the same safe weapons handling procedures they are taught on the range while at home handling or cleaning weapons.
"Everything you learn in the Marine Corps also applies to your personal weapons when it comes to safety," said Barnes, a native of Ephrata, Wash.
Every time a Marine goes to the range for weapons qualifications, whether it be in basic training or the last range before they retire, they are instructed in the four weapons safety rules and can repeat them without a moment's hesitation.
1. Treat every weapon as if it were loaded at all times.
2. Never point a weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
3. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
4. Keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire.
Even though laws in Arizona permit the carry of concealed firearms, station regulations differ from state law. On station, the only personnel authorized to carry weapons are on-duty law enforcement officials acting in the performance of their duties.
"Once you step onto the air station, you are on federal property, not state property,” said Barnes. “State laws for carrying weapons don't apply here."
Marine Corps orders require that all persons introducing firearms to the air station must register them with the provost marshal's office within 24 hours. Failure to register weapons is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and violators face administrative and disciplinary action.
This includes all weapons that are kept in a private residence. All personnel that reside in military housing or bachelor officer quarters or staff noncommissioned officer quarters who plan on keeping custody of their weapons, must ensure their weapons are registered with PMO.
"Weapons taken into pass and registration have to be unloaded and condition four," said Barnes. "It's a good idea to call them ahead of time and let them know you'll be bringing a weapon in there for registration. That way, they can let you know the most current information regarding registration and if anything has changed."
Condition four refers to the weapon being unloaded, safety being on, and the bolt, cylinder or slide being in the open position.
Enlisted personnel living in barracks are prohibited from possessing firearms or other weapons within those spaces. Personnel in the barracks need a letter from their commanding officer to allow their weapons to be stored in the unit's armory.
Any Marine or Sailor who brings a firearm or other weapon into the barracks will face immediate administrative and disciplinary action.
“They fall under article 92 in failure to obey a direct order,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Biggers, PMO Staff advisor and a native of Albuquerque N.M. “Every time I have dealt with this issue the Marine was punished harshly with Non Judicial punishment as well as time in the brig.”
Leaders and Marines at all levels should never consider any weapons-related activity to be low risk. Safe weapons handling procedures are critical at all times: on the range, in combat and at home.
If proper weapons handling procedures are not followed, a Marine potentially risks their own life and the safety of their fellow Marines and family.