Under current Federal Law and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rules and regulations, it is illegal to possess any firearm, with or without a Concealed Handgun License. Further, it is illegal to possess ammunition inside the boundaries of any Corps property. This includes on the lakes and waterways belonging to the Corps. The only exceptions are for law enforcement officers, for approved hunting activities, at COE shooting ranges, or with written permission from the local District Commander.
This means, despite what some students have been told that they “Can have their gun as long as its unloaded” isn’t true, if they have ammunition in their possession (and don’t meet one of the exemptions).
This can be found at Title 36, CHAPTER 111, PART 327.13 - Explosives, firearms, other weapons and fireworks.
These rules went into place during the Nixon Administration, dating all the way back to 1973. They mean that you can’t have a gun in your tent, in your camper, on your boat, or while your out for a hike.
However, the Corps of Engineers has announced that they are “revising” their complete ban of firearms after a court case known as Nesbitt v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In 2013, Mrs. Elizabeth Nesbitt (at the time known as Ms. Elizabeth Morris), and Mr. Alan Baker, both residents of Idaho, filed suit against the COE. Ms. Morris had been issued a Concealed Handgun License from the Nez Perce County Sheriff to carry a concealed handgun due to threats and physical attacks against her by a former neighbor. Mr. Baker, an NRA Instructor and Concealed Handgun Instructor, also had a concealed carry license. They both regularly used local COE property for hiking and boating with friends and both regularly carry a firearm for their protection.
In 2012, Ms. Morris and Mr. Baker had their attorney group, the Mountain State Law Firm, wrote a letter to the COE requesting an exemption from the firearms ban. The COE did not respond to their request and in August of 2013, they filed a complaint for relief and a motion asking the district court to immediately end enforcement of the firearms ban.
On October 13, 2014 the district court held that 36 C.F.R. § 327.13 violates the Second Amendment and therefore is unconstitutional. On December 10, 2014, under the Obama Administration, the federal government filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
March 3, 2017, the night before arguments were to start, federal lawyers filed a motion with the court stating that the Corps of Engineers intended to reconsider their firearm ban. On November 20, 2017, the Corps granted Mr. Baker and Mrs. Morris written permission to carry loaded firearms on Corps-managed lands in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
On December 15, 2017 the case was dismissed, and the matter was closed with the courts officially on January 4, 2018 with the COE promising to change their rules. As of April 9, 2018, a rule changes has not been completed.
So currently, carrying a handgun or ammunition on Corps of Engineer property is still technically illegal. While Ms. Morris and Mr. Baker were granted an exception and the Corps promised to change the rules, that has not happened yet. Until the rule change goes into effect, we are still under the current rules. We don’t know what changes will be made or when. I presume the rules would be changed by the end of the year, but that is conjecture on my part.
According to Handgunlaw.us, as of February 10, 2018, The Corps of Engineers Legal Department is still contending that it is illegal to carry onto Corps Property. However, the Legal Rep for the Corps that Handgunlaw.us spoke with said it is commonly accepted that they will not harass or search private vehicles for weapons/firearms or any other prohibited item without obvious and serious cause to do so. That said, they asserted again their authority to do so, if they chose.
In summary, I would not carry onto US Army Corps of Engineer property until their rule revision takes place.
If you would like further information, you can see more at Mrs. Nesbitt’s and Mr. Baker’s law firm’s website at:
Handgunlaw.us information on the subject: http://www.handgunlaw.us/states/usa.pdf
Title 36, CHAPTER 111, PART 327.13 - Explosives, firearms, other weapons and fireworks. A link to this pamphlet can be found here: http://www.handgunlaw.us/documents/COERulesPamphlet.pdf