Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
As part of its civil works mission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages water resource
projects. Areas behind and below Corps dams, and Corps navigation locks and their pools, are
popular recreation sites, attracting 370 million visits annually. Corps projects include some of the
most densely used federal recreation sites. Currently, 36 C.F.R. Section 327 sets out the
regulations for public use of Corps projects. Section 327.13 generally prohibits possession of
loaded firearms by private (i.e., non-law enforcement) individuals at Corps-administered projects
unless they are being used for hunting at designated sites (with devices required to be unloaded
while transported to and from the sites) or at authorized shooting ranges. The regulation applies at
projects regardless of their location in states allowing open or concealed carry of loaded firearms.
Proposed legislation—H.R. 2046, the Recreational Lands Self-Defense Act; Section 113 of H.R.
2609, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of FY2014
(which are all substantively similar); Section 103 of S. 1335, the Sportsmen’s Act; and an
amendment proposed, but not adopted, during Senate floor consideration of S. 601, the Water
Resources Development Act—would bar the Secretary of the Army from promulgating or
enforcing regulations that prohibit individuals from possessing firearms (including assembled or
functional firearms) at Corps projects. The proposed language would require firearms possession
to comply with state law. Supporters see it as addressing a patchwork of regulations restricting
firearms on federal lands, as providing consistency for open and concealed firearms possession
within a state, and as facilitating recreational shooting and self-defense. They argue that
enactment would result in Corps policies consistent with Section 512 of P.L. 111-24, which made
it legal for individuals to possess firearms at National Park Service (NPS) and National Wildlife
Refuge System (NWRS) units of the Department of the Interior (DOI). Other stakeholders are
concerned that the legislation as proposed may produce unintended public safety and
infrastructure security issues.
The issue for Congress is not only possession and use of loaded firearms but also maintaining
public safety and infrastructure security at Corps projects.
- Critical facilities security: Proposed legislation does not explicitly provide authority to restrict firearms at Corps facilities (e.g., dams) or in specifically designated areas.
- Public safety and law enforcement: No armed federal law enforcement officers are commissioned for public safety and security purposes at Corps projects. Corps rangers issue citations for regulatory violations and are not allowed to carry firearms. Most law enforcement is provided by local and state personnel.
at Corps projects has not been performed. DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation is faced with similar
safety and security issues at its water resource projects. It allows possession of firearms on
Reclamation lands and waterbodies (e.g., reservoirs behind dams) when such possession complies
with federal, state, and local law; hunting is similarly allowed unless an area has been closed for
public use or has been designated as a special use area. Firearms are restricted at Reclamation
facilities (e.g., dams and buildings). DOI and Reclamation use multiple authorities and
mechanisms to provide for armed and unarmed law enforcement and public safety and security.
Date of Report: September 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R42602
R42602.pdf to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART
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