Second Amendment may be restored on Army Corps of Engineers land

You might think that a government unit called the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” would mainly perform projects such as building military forts and similar facilities. Yet the Corps of Engineers has acquired jurisdiction over many things that have nothing to do with the military. In particular, “The Corps of Engineers is the nation’s largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation. It administers 422 lake and river projects in 43 states, spanning 12 million acres, encompassing 55,000 miles of shoreline and 4,500 miles of trails, and including 90,000 campsites and 3,400 boat launch ramps. Waters under its control constitute 33 percent of all U.S. freshwater fishing.” (Here is a list of the Corps’ 1,969 recreational facilities.) Thanks to a lawsuit brought by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Corps has announced that it is reconsidering the gun ban on its outdoor property.

The Corps allows hunting on some of its land. Except for hunting, possession of a functional firearm is prohibited on Corps land — even a handgun inside one’s own tent. In Nesbitt v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Mountain States Legal Foundation (a public-interest law firm based in Denver) filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Idaho residents, regarding Corps recreational land in Idaho. In 2014, Federal District Judge B. Lynn Winmill (appointed in 1995 by President Bill Clinton) ruled that the ban violates the Second Amendment. The Obama administration then appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

The prohibition was adopted in 1973, during the Richard Nixon administration. Nixon – -the only U.S. president ever to resign in order to avoid certain removal from office by the House and Senate — thought “guns are an abomination.” His administration promulgated a variety of anti-gun regulations. The regulation in question states:

(a) The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited unless: (1) In the possession of a Federal, state or local law enforcement officer; (2) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under § 327.8, with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting and fishing sites; (3) Being used at authorized shooting ranges; or (4) Written permission has been received from the District Commander. (b) Possession of explosives or explosive devices of any kind, including fireworks or other pyrotechnics, is prohibited unless written permission has been received from the District Commander.

36 C.F.R. § 327.13. Note that by banning ammunition, the regulation also forbids the possession of unloaded firearms that could be loaded in an emergency (if sufficient time were available).

 

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