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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

SM 445-2-H CHAPTER 29

Firearms Safety Program

Instruction: This chapter is revised to address U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) organizational changes.

1. Purpose and Scope.

A. To specify the minimum occupational safety and health requirements for the firearms safety program.

B. The requirements apply to USGS personnel, volunteers, and those who work under USGS funding/direction who, in the performance of their official duties, are required to use government or personally owned firearms for protection against dangerous wildlife or for specimen collection.

C. Flare guns are not covered under this chapter.

2. References.

A. Physical Security Handbook SM 440-2-H.

B. Property Handbook SM 408-2-H.

C. State Firearm Laws and Regulations pertaining to firearms use, handling, transport, and storage.

D. 18 United States Code (U.S.C.) Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Chapter 44 Firearms.

E. 26 U.S.C. Internal Revenue Code, Chapter 53 Machine Guns, Destructive Devices, and Certain Other Firearms.

F. 27 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 447, 478, and 479.

G. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 495 Explosive Materials Code.

H. 14 CFR 108 Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation, Airplane Operator Security.

3. Definitions.

A.  A fiirearm is defined as any breech-loaded handgun or shoulder-fired small arm from which one or more projectiles are fired by gunpowder or compressed gas. (Devices that resemble firearms and fire blanks, hypodermic darts, cracker shells, etc., can also cause serious injury. Safety training requirements for firearm like devices can be found under section 29.3.7 and (Appendix 29-C.)

B. Firearm Use denotes use, handle, carry, transport, or storage.

4. Requirements

A. Certificate of Need and Qualification Inquiry.

(1) A Certificate of Need (Appendix 29-A, Certificate of Need for Issuance of a Firearm for Official Use) will be completed for all personnel authorized to use a firearm as part of their official duties. The Certificate of Need will be issued for the time frame required (time frame of use) and, at no time, be issued to cover more than a 12-month period. An approved study plan is required for issuance of a Certificate of Need for specimen collection.

(2) Approval of the Certificate of Need will be by a direct supervisor who has knowledge of firearm needs and training in firearms safety.

(3) Failure to return a firearm by the termination date on the Certificate of Need does not alleviate the responsibility of the user. The user may be responsible for damage or theft of the firearm. General accountability guidelines for firearms are that the item is:

(a) Stored in a locked facility when not in use.

(b) Removed from public view when leaving an unattended area.

(c) Closely safeguarded when on travel status.

(4) On September 30, 1996, 18 United States Code (Chapter 44) §992(g)(9) took effect, making it a felony for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to possess firearms or ammunition. Personnel that use a firearm for official business will be required to fill out a Qualification Inquiry (Appendix 29-B, Qualification Inquiry Form) self-certifying that they have not been convicted of such crimes prior to approval of the Certificate of Need or participation in firearms training. A new Qualification Inquiry Form will be submitted with each new Certificate of Need or firearms training course request.

B. Firearms Training.

(1) Personnel cannot be certified to use a firearm without first successfully completing a USGS approved Basic Firearms Certification Course (BFCC), which includes the 24-hour BFCC for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife (Basic Defense Course) or the 8-hour BFCC for Specimen Collection (Basic Collection Course). Personnel carrying a firearm for both self-defense and specimen collection must first complete the Basic Defense Course. The Basic Defense Course can suffice for certification for collection purposes. All firearms safety training must be documented on a SF-182, Authorization, Agreement and Certification of Training Form.

(2) To recertify for defense purposes, an 8-hour USGS-approved Refresher Firearms Certification Course (RFCC) for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife (Refresher Defense Course) must be attended annually. Recertification is valid for 12 months.

(3) To recertify for collection purposes, a USGS-approved RFCC for Specimen Collection must be attended annually.

(4) The Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife Course must be repeated if the employee:

(a) Does not attend a Refresher Defense Course annually.

(b) Does not successfully complete the Refresher Defense Course.

(c) Has poor performance or unsafe behavior using firearms.

(5) All training hours specified for USGS Basic and Refresher Firearms Certification courses are to be considered the minimal number of training hours required.

(6) Alternative firearms certification courses and training schedules may be substituted upon approval of the USGS Firearms Safety Committee or established Regional Firearms Committees. Contractors should work directly with the USGS Firearms Safety Committee or established Regional Firearms Committee to ensure that contracted training is relevant to survey objectives. All USGS-approved firearms certification courses must cover the minimum firearms training standards specified in Appendix 29-C, USGS Minimum Firearms Training Standards.

(7) Personnel who use devices that resemble firearms and that fire blanks, hypodermic darts, cracker shells, etc., will complete firearms safety training listed in Appendix 29-C, USGS Minimum Firearms Training Standards. Training must include at a minimum:

(a) General Firearms Safety and Four Rules of Firearms Safety;

(b) Firearms Safety in the Field;

(c) Bureau Firearms Regulations and Policies;

(d) Supervisor and Personnel Responsibilities.

C. Firearms Instructors.

(1) Personnel who serve as USGS Firearms Instructors for the Basic Defense and Refresher Defense courses will be certified by the USGS Firearms Safety Program Manager. USGS Firearms Instructors who teach these courses must successfully complete the following training:

(a) 24-hour BFCC for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife;

(b) 8-hour RFCC for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife. Assisting in the instruction of the Refresher Defense Course can substitute in meeting this training requirement;

(c) USGS Firearms Instructor Certification Course (FICC) for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife. The FICC for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife is valid for 5 years;

(i) To recertify as a USGS Firearms Instructor for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife, an appropriate FICC must be successfully completed every 5 years as approved by the USGS Firearms Safety Program Manager. Successful completion of this course will be determined by the USGS Firearms Safety Program Manager, Regional Firearms Managers, and instructors leading the course.

(ii) Teaching segments of the FICC for Defense Against Dangerous Wildlife while under the purview of the USGS or Regional Firearms Manager can substitute for training.

(d) Basic National Rifle Association Instructor Certification Program, to include Range Safety Officer;

(e) An accredited, non-government firearms training course (40 hours minimum) approved by the USGS or Regional Firearms Safety Program Manager;

(f) Continuing education training from an accredited, government or non-government firearms training course approved by the Bureau or Regional Firearms Manager must be successfully completed every 3 years.

(2) Personnel who serve as USGS Firearms Instructors for the Basic Collection and Refresher Collection courses will be certified by the USGS Firearms Safety Program Manager. Firearms Instructors for both these courses must successfully complete the following training elements:

(a) 8-hour BFCC for Specimen Collection (Basic Collection Course);

(b) USGS approved RFCC for Specimen Collection (Refresher Collection Course). Assisting in the instruction of the Refresher-Collection Course can substitute in meeting this training requirement;

(c) USGS FICC for Specimen Collection.

(i) The FICC for Specimen Collection is valid for 5 years.

(ii) To recertify as a USGS Firearms Instructor for Specimen Collection, an appropriate FICC must be successfully completed every 5 years.

(iii) Assisting in the instruction of the FICC for Specimen Collection can substitute in meeting this training requirement.

(3) In addition to the above training, all USGS Firearms Instructors must be able to demonstrate the ability to independently and effectively teach the fundamentals of firearms safety in accordance with the USGS Firearms Instructor Manuals.

(4) Non-USGS government personnel or private contractors who serve as firearms instructors must meet certain standards. All contracted firearms safety training courses will be evaluated by the USGS Firearms Committee or an established Regional Firearms Committee to ensure adequate coverage of the course content listed in Appendix 29-C, USGS Minimum Firearms Training Standards and USGS Firearms Instructor Manuals.

(5)  Non-USGS government personnel or private contractors who serve as firearms instructors must have the following minimum training and certification requirements:

(a) Firearms Instructor Certification from an established Firearms Training Program (e.g., National Rifle Association Instructor Certification);

(b) Experience teaching firearms safety to include a curriculum containing lesson plans that stress the potential hazards associated with firearms use and establish appropriate safeguards to minimize the risks and liabilities to both students and instructors.

(6) Assistant Firearms Instructors and instructor-candidates will be appointed by their respective Regional Firearms Safety Program Manager.

(7) USGS personnel who serve as Assistant Firearms Instructors and instructor-candidates will have successfully completed appropriate USGS Basic and Refresher Firearms Safety courses. In addition, they will have demonstrated proficiency in the safe use and handling of firearms, participated in ongoing shooting range activities, and shown an interest in the USGS Firearms Safety Program and firearms safety instruction.

D. USGS Firearms Safety Committee.

(1) The USGS Firearms Safety Committee has been established and will operate in accordance with Survey Manual Chapter 308.66, Specialized Safety Committees.

E. Regional Firearms Committees.

(1) Regional Firearms Safety Committees may be established at the discretion of the Regional Director to oversee firearms safety training in the region, assist managers in selecting appropriate contractors for firearms safety training, and evaluate contractor course curriculum.

(2) The Regional Firearms Manager, appointed by the Regional Director, will oversee the respective regional firearms activities and chair the regional firearms safety committee, if established.

(3) Regional firearms safety committee membership will be representative from organizations that use firearms.

5. Recordkeeping.

A. Local firearms safety staff will maintain files containing the following information:

(1) Firearms safety training records for personnel who attend USGS Basic and Refresher Firearms Certification courses to ensure training is up to date.

(2) Certificate of Need records.

(3) Inventories of firearms maintained in their armory.

(4) Firearms sign-out logs which must include location and employee names.

(5) All records of firearms maintenance and repair.

(6) Records of unintended firearms discharges in training and field work environments.

(7) Records of lost, stolen, or functionally-damaged firearms.

B. Firearms Accidents or Incidents.

For any firearm accident, incident (inclusive of discharges), or defensive action, the supervisor authorizing the Certificate of Need will complete a report in the Department of Interior Safety Management Information System (SMIS) as described in SM 445-2-H.7. In addition, a hard copy of the SMIS report will be forwarded through local management to the Firearms Safety Program Manager for review by the Firearms Safety Committee.

6. Safe Storage and Security.

A. Storage.

(1) All firearms and ammunition will be stored in a secure area under lock and key when not being used in the field, in transit, or the firearm is not under the direct control of the employee in accordance with the Firearms and Ammunition section in SM 440-2-H.10.C Physical Security Handbook. “Under lock and key” means that the firearm is to be stored in a locked hard case or stored in a soft gun case with a trigger safety lock employed.

B. Transportation.

(1) General Transportation.

(a) All firearms and ammunition will be transported in accordance with the Firearms and Ammunition section in SM 440-2-H.10.C Physical Security Handbook.

(b) Firearms will be unloaded during transportation.

(c) Neither the firearms nor any ammunition being transported will be directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the transporting vehicle. In the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment, the firearm or ammunition will be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.

(d) Any personnel authorized to use a firearm in the field must follow the State and municipal laws concerning the transportation and mode of carry of firearms in the transporting vehicle. Note: State permits authorizing concealed carry are not recognized by the USGS and do not apply to government personnel as long as the employee is on official duty.

(2) Aircraft Travel.

(a) Firearms, ammunition, and firearm parts may be permitted in checked baggage if unloaded and properly locked with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks in a hard-sided container.

(b) Firearms, ammunition, and firearm parts transported on commercial airlines must be declared to the airline. Before checking any firearm to be carried in the baggage, employees must read and sign the Firearms Unloaded Declaration tag stating that the firearm is unloaded.

(c) Ammunition must be separated from the locked firearm container, shipped in factory-sealed containers, and limited to 11 pounds weight. The Federal Aviation Administration and airlines may have additional restrictions on the amount of ammunition that may be placed in checked baggage.

(d) Even if an item is generally permitted on commercial flights, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.

(e) For mission aircraft operations, firearms and ammunition must be declared to the pilot or authorized representative prior to boarding, and hazard materials training is required in accordance with the Interagency Aviation Training Guidebook.

C. Lost or Stolen Firearms.

(1) Lost or stolen firearms will be reported within 24 hours, by the employee who checked out the firearm, to the USGS Firearms Safety Program Manager and Regional Firearms Safety Program Manager, the local law enforcement agency for entry into the National Crime Information Center System, and to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) and Explosive’s Stolen Firearms Program Manager toll free at 1-888-930-9275 or 800-ATF-GUNS.

(2) Any missing or lost ammunition will be reported within 24 hours to the USGS and/or Regional Firearms Safety Program Manager.

D. Ammunition.

(1) Damaged or hand-loaded ammunition will not be used. Damaged or faulty ammunition will be disposed of as recommended by the Regional Firearms Safety Program Manager or local Firearms Safety Officer.

(2) Small arms ammunition (e.g., rifle, pistol, or shotgun cartridges) will be separated from materials classified by the U. S. Department of Transportation as flammable liquids, flammable solids, and oxidizing materials by a distance of 15 feet or by a fire partition having a fire resistance of at least 1 hour.

(3) Small arms ammunition will not be stored together with Division 1.1, Division 1.2, or Division 1.3 explosives unless the storage facility is suitable for storage of explosive materials.

7. Responsibilities.

A. Director.

(1) Requires compliance with statutory, regulatory, and firearms safety program criteria;

(2) Holds the Designated Agency Safety and Health Official (DASHO), Associate Directors, and Regional Directors accountable for effectively fulfilling firearms safety program responsibilities within region, mission area, or office;

(3) Delegates sufficient authority to the DASHO to effectively manage and administer the firearms safety program.

B. Associate Directors and Regional Directors.

(1) Provide adequate staff and funding resources to effectively implement and administer the firearms safety program within their respective region, mission area, or office; (Reference 29 CFR 1960.7.)

(2) Require compliance with statutory, regulatory, and firearms safety program criteria and hold managers and supervisors accountable for effectively fulfilling firearms safety program responsibilities;

(3) Designate individuals to serve as the Regional Firearms Manager. Designate representatives to serve on the Firearms Safety Committee and Regional Safety Committee, if established.

C. Designated Agency Safety and Health Official. Directs firearms safety program activities, through the Chief, Office of Management Services, and ensures that adequate staff and funding resources are provided to develop and administer the firearms safety program.

D. Chief, Office of Management Services. Provides sufficient authority and resources to effectively support and represent the interests of the USGS in the oversight, management and administration of the firearms safety program.

E. Chief/Deputy Chief/Section Chiefs, Occupational Safety and Health Management Branch.

(1) Designates an individual as the responsible person for all firearms training and certification activities within USGS (i.e., the Bureau Firearms Manager [BFM]);

(2) Provides final concurrence on substitutions to other firearms training programs upon review and approval by the BFM;

(3) Provides final concurrence on training necessary for the safe operation on firearms-like devices upon the recommendations of the BFM and/or Firearms Safety Committee;

(4) Provides for the establishment of a Firearms Safety Committee, which advises the DASHO and Chief, Occupational Safety and Health Management Branch through ad hoc membership on the Occupational Safety and Health Council, to address all firearms issues and reviews all accidents related to firearms, inclusive of making recommendations to prevent recurrence of similar accidents;

(5) Provides administrative support to the BFM and Firearms Safety Committee, as appropriate;

(6) Provide firearms safety program oversight, administration, budget coordination, and supervision of the Firearms Safety Program Manager;

(7) Collaborates with Firearms Safety Program Manager on firearm safety program policies, goals and annual program plans and accomplishments;

(8) Serves on the USGS Firearm Safety Committee;

(9) Provides support, oversight, and supervision for the Firearm Safety Program Manager.

F. Firearms Safety Program Manager.

(1) Serves as the principal firearms technical expert on firearms-related issues;

(2) Develops and recommends firearm-related policies for review by the USGS Firearms Safety Committee;

(3) Maintains and reviews copies of all accidents and incidents involving a firearm used on official duty. Identifies any trends and make recommendations for future preventive actions;

(4) Serves as lead investigator for firearms serious accidents involving serious injury or major property damage;

(5) Oversees all USGS Basic, Refresher, and Instructor Firearms Safety Training Programs and monitors training to ensure consistency, accuracy, coverage, and overall quality;

(6) Develops USGS Firearms Safety Certification Course materials and updates all USGS Firearms Safety Training Manuals;

(7) Serves as an advisor to the OSH Council, DASHO, Bureau OSH Manager and Specialized Safety Programs Section Chief, Regional Firearms Safety Program Managers, and local Firearms Safety Officers;

(8) Chairs the Firearms Safety Committee and is responsible for the coordination of meetings, agendas, and for publishing minutes;

(9) Oversees regulatory issues associated with firearms safety training and the issuance and use of firearms;

(10) Verifies that the Regional Firearms Managers, Firearms Safety Officers, Firearms Safety Instructors, and firearms users have received adequate firearms safety training to perform competently in their positions;

(11) Coordinates with the Firearms Safety Committee to compile a fiscal year firearms safety program action/accomplishment plan and submits annually to the Bureau OSH Manager;

(12) Completes a firearms safety policy self-assessment annually;

(13) Maintains firearms program management databases (i.e., training, operator, instructor, inventory).

G. Regional Safety Managers. Provide support and assistance to the Regional Firearms Managers, Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinators, and Firearms Safety Officers in establishment and implementation of firearms safety program requirements and training.

H. Regional Firearms Safety Program Managers.

(1) Serve as a focal point for all firearm-related matters in the respective region;

(2) Maintain regional firearms records;

(3) Coordinate training activities in conjunction with firearms representatives;

(4) Assist firearms representatives in selecting appropriate contractors for firearms safety training and evaluating contractor course curricula;

(5) Oversee regional firearms activities and chairs the Regional Firearms Committee, if established;

(6) Assist the USGS Firearms Manager with policy and training curricula development.

I. Firearms Safety Officers.

(1) Serve as a focal point for all firearms-related matters in their respective field organization;

(2) Maintain local firearms records;

(3) Coordinate training activities in conjunction with the Regional Firearms Manager and Regional Firearms Representative.

J. Firearms Instructors.

(1) Participate in Regional Firearms Safety Committee activities, if established.

(2) Maintain a level of instructional and technical proficiency as described within this chapter and as recommended by the Regional Firearms Manager.

(3) Teach the USGS Basic and Refresher Firearms Certification courses in accordance with the USGS Firearms Instructor Manual(s).

K. Assistant Firearms Instructors.

(1) Perform firearms-related duties as assigned by and under the direction of the Regional Firearms Manager or certified USGS Firearms Instructor;

(2) Maintain currency with firearms training requirements described in this chapter.

L. Organizational Managers. Provide appropriate personnel and budgetary resources to establish a local firearms safety program inclusive of training, periodic inspection and maintenance, and personal protective and other equipment necessary for safe operation of firearms in all conditions.

M. Supervisors.

(1) Obtain and maintain a Qualification Inquiry from each person authorized to use a firearm self-certifying they have not been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges prior to issuance of the Certificate of Need;

(2) Verify completion of employee firearms safety and related required training prior to issuance of the Certificate of Need;

(3) Obtain a Certificate of Need for each employee authorized to use a firearm and forward a copy to the local Firearms Safety Officer.

N. Personnel.

(1) Complete the Basic or Refresher Firearms Certification course(s) and maintain currency with all firearms training requirements specified in this chapter;

(2) Ensure the safety use of all firearms under his or her control;

(3) Maintain all personal-owned firearms used for official business in safe, serviceable condition.


/s/ Jose R.Aragon                                                                      July 20, 2016
___________________________________________          ___________________
Jose R. Aragon                                                                         Date                                                                                          Associate Director for Administration


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