A new policy barring military and civilian personnel at Offutt Air Force Base from transporting privately owned firearms onto base beginning Jan. 2 has drawn a fierce backlash on social media, with one Facebook poster calling it “insanity” and another calling it “craziness.”

Col. Gavin Marks published the order Monday on his Facebook page, though Offutt personnel were notified of the change Dec. 9 by email, said Ryan Hansen, a 55th Wing spokesman. It followed a mandatory review of Offutt’s Integrated Defense and Anti-terrrorism Plan, which was required to be completed within 120 days after he assumed command of the 55th Wing last June.

“He spoke with security forces, OSI, many, many base agencies,” Hansen said. “He amended the policy because he felt it would be in the best interests of safety and security for everyone at Team Offutt.”

The decision follows two highly publicized Offutt-related gun incidents last year. In the first, Marine Pfc. Ali Al-Kazahg, 22, of Milford was arrested May 31 at Offutt’s StratCom gate while carrying two semi-automatic rifles, a pistol, a silencer, a bump stock, a vest with body armor and a case of ammunition.

In the second, an Offutt airman shot and killed his wife and then himself Sept. 28 in their home in the Rising View military housing area.

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Two other shootings at Navy bases in December — one at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Hawaii, and the other at Naval Air Station Pensacola — left six dead and eight wounded.

Those latest shootings prompted new calls to allow more service members to carry weapons on base.

Marks’ order overturned a previous policy that allowed Department of Defense ID card holders with a concealed-carry license from Nebraska or reciprocating states to transport personal firearms onto base, provided they are inside their vehicles, unloaded and inside a locked container. That policy had been in place since September 2018, Hansen said.

Concealed carry of weapons outside of vehicles aren’t allowed at Offutt, or at other military bases.

The new restriction doesn’t apply to current and former military law enforcement personnel who have been granted permits under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act , which allowed qualifying military police to carry concealed weapons. Offutt began granting those permits two years ago and was among the first bases to do so.

“The commander’s intent for this change is that firearms will be effectively controlled and safely handled on Offutt AFB,” Marks said in the order, adding that it “is reflective of the full confidence in the 55th Security Forces Squadron’s ability to defend the installation and its personnel.”

Hansen said people who live in homes inside Offutt’s gates will still be able to carry unloaded firearms to and from their residences in locked containers as long as they tell the gate guard they have a registered weapon and are transporting it to their home.

By noon Tuesday, Marks’ Facebook post had drawn nearly 600 comments, almost all opposed to the change. Many of the posters’ profiles indicated that they were from out of state, though some did say they were personally affected by the change.

“This decision puts Offutt personnel in harm’s way and illustrates that the leadership does not trust their people,” wrote Tim Donahoo, whose LinkedIn profile said he is a navigator instructor on E-4B Nightwatch aircraft based at Offutt. “I’m not surprised but very disappointed with the decision to disarm service members and make them defenseless.”

Donahoo and others said the policy effectively prevents them from protecting themselves while traveling to and from Offutt.

Tara R. Simmons said in her Facebook post that she is married to a service member and would no longer want to attend on-base events with him because of the rule.

“We live a good twenty minutes from the base,” she wrote. “I cannot believe i have to leave my firearm at home. I am unprotected from the time I travel to and from the base. The idea of it makes me feel exposed.”

Hansen said Marks appreciates the response but is sticking with his decision.

“(He) understood from the beginning this change could be viewed negatively and may inconvenience some,” Hansen said in a statement. “However, he strongly believes in the policy change and feels it is in the best interest of Offutt Air Force Base.”

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