An acquaintance of mine has signed up for the US army and is now in his first six months, I guess what's called basic training. He was not allowed to bring books and asked us to send him reading material.

A military website states for basic training:

Dice, playing cards, dominoes, magazines, newspapers and books will be confiscated.

(For completeness: There is an exemption for one religious book.) I understand that there may be little time or remaining energy in boot camp to read but is there an official rationale which was brought forward when the regulation was instated?

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    Are you asking about what might be the "rationale" to forbid books (which has no legal basis and is an opinion), or the legal basis that allows the Army to forbid books in basic training? Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 2:21
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    @BlueDogRanch Usually a law or other regulation is the result of a process, typically involving an exchange of arguments. Even a proposed law unanimously considered reasonable and necessary is typically (I think also in the U.S.) accompanied by a statement providing a reason for it -- if I'm not mistaken a rationale is actually a requirement for the validity of a new law. These reasons are part of the lawmaking, aid in its interpretation and are hence on topic. Now the military regulations specifying allowed items are not laws but may have been instated with similar official reasons. Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 3:54
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    I’m voting to close this question because it belongs on history.stackexchange.com or politics.stackexchange.com Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 4:50
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    @BlueDogRanch Possible that other sites fit better. But I would maintain in general that the lawmaking process (e.g. debates between lawmakers, anything they wrote regarding pending legislation) etc. are on topic here. Obviously we are at an overlap with politics and often history; but any law scholar would know the Federalist Papers.and they are surely on topic here, to name an example. Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 5:07
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    "lawmaking process (e.g. debates between lawmakers, anything they wrote regarding pending legislation)" are political and off topic here. Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 5:11

1 Answer 1


When it comes to preventing disciplinary issues, the military much prefers simple solutions that work. This will at times result in rules which ban things that aren't really a problem, along with the things that really are, but to tailor the regulation to ban only what needs to be banned can result in rules that take two lawyers and a judge to puzzle out. Your drill sergeant hasn't got time for that.

And there are magazines that the military will see as needing to be banned. Porn (even though the on-base store sells it) was prohibited when I went through boot camp. I don't know if it was from a moralistic stance, or the simple fact that someone will steal someone else's copy of Playboy, which will probably result in a fight.

Shortly before I enlisted in the military, the recruiter held a meeting at which a former drill sergeant told us about what to expect in boot camp. He touched on the things that we were told to leave at home. I asked whether a paperback novel was allowed or not, and he said that there isn't enough spare time in six months of boot camp to finish a book. It may seem, from the outside, that disallowing a novel is an unreasonable abridgement of your rights, but the actual effect on you is minimal. Boot camp only runs from two to three months, and the last time I checked nobody ever died from a lack of entertainment. There are hills more worthy of dying on than this.

Gaming materials are probably be contraband because they might be used for gambling. That can lead to an outright brawl, and while a good fighting spirit is quite welcome, fisticuffs in the barracks are not.

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