Letter Re: ARES Volunteering

Thinking about volunteering your time with your County Department of Emergency Management? You may have to leave your concealed carry weapon at home!

As a fairly new licensed Ham Radio Operator, I thought it would be great to volunteer and become a member of the local Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) organization. I submitted an application for membership and completed the required FEMA on-line courses. I received a packet in the mail that contained additional forms that needed to be submitted. One of the forms was a County Department of Emergency Management Emergency Worker Registration Form. The second item on the form required me to certify my non-drug use and agreeing to not have “any concealed weapon in my possession while engaged in emergency worker activities”. It referenced a state legal code.

I reviewed the state code and could not find any mention of concealed weapons. I contacted the ARES membership representative, who said he would check on it and get back to me. I decided to fill out the forms, except I drew a line through the portions referencing concealed weapons. I included a note on the front of the forms packet noting my action.

About a week later, I received an e-mail from the ARES representative who stated that my application could not be processed with the modifications. If I wanted to re-submit, I could, without the changes. I also received a phone call from another representative, basically stating the same information, except he added that the local sheriff is the one who levied the requirement. He also stated that, as a volunteer, I would never be placed in a dangerous situation. I chose to not resubmit my application.

This letter is not meant to reflect negatively in any way about the ARES program or its members. During the short time I spent with the members, I have no doubt about their character and outstanding dedication to their mission.

I fully understand that if I had been asked to work in a school or federal building during an ARES event, there would never have been a question about my not being allowed to carry a weapon, but for them to forbid ANY possession is unacceptable, especially during an major emergency situation.

Additional Information:

For those who are not familiar with the ARES program, it is a group of licensed amateur radio operator volunteers who prepare and make themselves and their radio equipment available in times of disaster– earthquake, flooding, volcanoes, storms, and more. ARES members participate in drills and exercises on a regular basis. Our local county ARES also supports local events, such as the March of Dimes walks. (ARES members participated in the last Boston Marathon and were very helpful, especially when the government blocked all cell phone coverage in the area, not knowing if cell phones were triggering the explosive devices.) – G.S.

Hugh Replies: I served as the ARES coordinator for our county for a short time. I eventually gave it up because I couldn’t spend the time that it required. We were never asked about Concealed Carry, but it was understood that ARES might be stationed within government buildings that had restrictions (court houses, schools, federal buildings, et cetera). I suspect that is the reason your ARES group had that restriction. Some states treat your vehicle as an extension of your home, so you may have some flexibility. In a non-emergency-practice, rules like this generally have bearing, but in a complete failure of society, I suspect it really won’t matter. Use your best judgment.

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