The right to bear arms

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Kidron B Vestal
  • Deputy Chief of Public Affairs
Self defense is an instinct often highly-prized by man. Numerous tactics exist, ranging from stealth maneuvers in martial arts, to slyness with a bow and arrow.

Members need to pay close attention to the rules that govern their dwelling place and community, while also knowing the best means in self protection. If one assumed their 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear a firearm, is that upheld everywhere?

In an evening outing to an indoor shooting range, three instructors educated two lieutenants on reasons why concealed carry is a sound choice, but also learned how and when it is authorized.

Civilians, servicemembers and their dependents are not authorized to carry a concealed weapon on base and there are numerous restricted places in the city of Minot as well.

"Do not rely on one thing," said board member Erik Lehner, of the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club, when discussing the various means of self defense.

Three members of the MRPC agreed the safest arsenal of defense in their vehicle is a flashlight, a cell phone, and their pistol. The time it takes a victim to react after an attack is 4 to 6 seconds. To gain back this time, Lehner recommends shining a flashlight in the eyes of the attacker as a disrtaction.

While a flashlight might prove a good recourse, many members feel most safe with a firearm.

The installation defines a firearm as: any weapon, including starter guns, which will or may be readily converted to expel a projectile through a barrel by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; and any firearm muffler or silencing device. This definition includes individual, crew-served, aircraft armament weapons, and pyrotechnic flare guns. Unauthorized firearms on base include switchblade knives, fully automatic weapons, and a few others.

"The most important thing regarding our policy on privately owned weapons it to maintain the safety of the general public and our law enforcement patrols," said Staff SSgt. Joshua Dehoet, 5th Security Forces Squadron non-commissioned officer of police services.

If transiting from an on-base residence to a destination off-base, the individual is authorized to have the weapon in the vehicle, but the firearm must be unloaded, with the weapon and the ammunition located in separated places in the vehicle (i.e. the front seat for the pistol, the backseat for the magazines, or vice versa). If making a stop at a convenience store before exiting the base, the weapon needs to be placed in the trunk, with the cartridge away from the weapon.

Any persons assigned to and residing in military family housing, the dormitories, the visiting officer or bachelor quarters, and the temporary lodging facilities must register their privately owned firearms with the 5th Security Forces Squadron Armory at 723-3184. The armory is open 24-hours a day, and 365 days a year. This facility is the only authorized storage site for members who do not store their firearms in their military family housing unit.

Captain Michael Gallucci, 5th Security Forces Squadron operations officer, said, "Dormitory residents must remember that any and all weapons are prohibited in the dorms. This not only includes rifles and handguns, but everything from BB guns to bows and arrows, and sling shots to stun-guns."

More details on this and other important requirements can be found in Minot Air Force Base Instruction 31-101 Vol 1 (Jan 8, 2010).

For those who visit or reside off-base, there are many precautions to keep in mind.

In the city of Minot, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon on private property--to include restaurants, shopping sites, and recreation venues. Additional places that are off-limits include liquor and gaming establishments, federally-owned or operated buildings, schools and school functions, churches and church functions, as well as public parks.
If entering a private establishment, please notify the manager with the request to carry a concealed weapon. Such permission is required.

"From a legal perspective, we expect members who carry concealed weapons off-base to demonstrate compliance with the local statutes. Education on policies and the practice of positive control procedures must remain key, especially when dependents are present," said Captain Garrett Bruening, chief of military justice for the 5th Bomb Wing Judge Advocate office.

Certain gun rights advocates believe some local prohibitions are unconstitutional- but until so ruled by a court, the law stands as written.

A permit is not required to purchase a firearm in North Dakota, though a permit is necessary to carry a concealed weapon. Persons must be at least 21 years of age to purchase a firearm, ammunition, etc. If a member is 18 years of age, he or she can apply for a Class II permit but a parent or legal guardian must make the firearm purchase for the individual.

Two permits exist: Class I and Class II. The Class I permit requires classroom instruction and qualification on a certified firearm proficiency exercise and is accepted currently in 27 states, with four more pending. The Class II permit is a written test only, and it is honored in 22 states. There is a minimum age requirement of 21 for the Class I.
A free, firearm safety class is scheduled for April 24. 

For more information, contact Margie Zietz, Minot Police Department at 857-4711.

If one doubt's their proficiency with a weapon, they could keep this advice in mind.

"The number one thing to practice in carrying concealed [weapons] is running away," said Lehner.

He noted this is to build more time and space between the parties. The distance it takes for one to draw their weapon in time to stop an approaching attacker is 21 feet.

Other common forms of self protection include pepper spray. While this is often portrayed as effective in television, the reality is that pepper spray can often injure the victim just as much. It takes a clearance of over 15 feet to not feel effects of the compound.

If one would like to practice their shooting skills, an indoor and outdoor shooting range is operated by the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club in the city of Minot. For more information, logon on to their website at or call 701-852-4000.