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Here we are in the dog days of summer. It’s hot everywhere and many Americans seek solace on lakes and at campgrounds nationwide. Many of those properties are managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and their regulations forbid the carrying of defensive firearms and ammunition on their managed property. Some might be wondering why we want to carry a gun while boating or camping in the first place. Do bad things really happen while we’re boating or camping? The answer is yes. Violent crime happens everywhere. Here’s just one example from August 11th, 2021 (just four days ago) at a lake I grew up skiing as a kid, Torch Lake in Michigan.

So let’s start here – First, the Corps owns and manages over 11.7 million acres. That includes over 400 lakes and river works as well as nearly 100,000 campsites along with those properties. Millions of us (including my family) use these waterways and campsites every day but still, ACE prohibits the carry of firearms or ammo on these properties. From ACE regulations:

327.13 Explosives, firearms, other weapons, and fireworks

(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.

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Here’s a personal story. I bought a 2016 Yamaha AR192 ski boat back in 2015, brand new. Since that day, I have kept my boat on Corps property in a dry dock facility at a Marina that leases their space from the Corps. We use the lake and have used the surrounding facilities, including the campgrounds, regularly for years. Here’s what I can tell you. I have never been unarmed on my boat, ever. I have never sat at the marina restaurant without a firearm, ever. I have never left for the restrooms at 3:30 in the morning with my kids in tow at the campground unarmed, ever. All of those places are on ACE property.

How is that possible?

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Refer back to number (4) above in the Corps regulations. Guns are prohibited unless ‘written permission has been received from the District Commander.” Here in Georgia, several years ago, local grassroots group GeorgiaCarry.org (GCO) and member David James, sued the Corps locally. Eventually reaching the 11th circuit Court of Appeals, it became obvious to the Corps that GCO and member James were not going to stop the appellate process until reaching SCOTUS. With Trump’s election won, the Corp settled with GCO (our best guess is that ACE felt Trump would be ending the carry ban altogether) and agreed to give written permission to carry concealed to GCO members in good standing with a Georgia Weapons License, effectively ending the ban on carry on ACE properties in this district. I have my written permission from the commander and have never been unarmed on their property since.

Does the same apply to you if you live outside the Mobile district segment of the South Atlantic Division? Technically not, however there have been cases of permission granted by commanders in other regions of which I am aware, since the GCO case.

Here’s the bottom line. Find your region and district within the region where the property you use is located and send a letter to the commander seeking permission to carry on their property. Be specific. Identify the properties, identify yourself with name and address and include a copy of your CCW, drivers license, grassroots organization affiliation, if any, and any other document that might help your standing as a law-abiding citizen including retired LEO, military, etc.

The commanding officer has the sole authority to grant you permission on Corp property. Until we can draft, pass and sign legislation (or win a landmark victory in court) wiping out the ban on our right to bear arms on said ACE lands and waterways, we are relegated to asking permission to exercise our God-given right to defend ourselves on ACE property. Be mindful that while it’s highly likely there are guns all over Corps properties already such as in cars, boats, pop-ups and RV’s, it is a violation of law that punishes up to $5,000 and 6 months in the slammer.

That decision is yours.

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