NPCA Asks Secretary Kempthorne Not To Change Gun Regs in National Parks

The National Parks Conservation Association opposes a change in gun laws in the national parks.

National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan has asked Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne not to change regulations pertaining to guns in the national parks.

The parks advocacy group is just the latest to respond to an effort by 47 U.S. senators to have Secretary Kempthorne make it possible for folks who are permitted to carry concealed weapons to carry them in the parks. Already the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and the Association of National Park Rangers have opposed the senators.

"On its face, the senators' letter misinterprets or ignores the precise requirements of the regulation," Mr. Kiernan said in a letter sent January 16 to the Interior secretary. "In fact, the regulation does not 'prohibit' individuals from possessing a firearm on park lands as the senators allege in their letter. Rather, the salient language provides that, 'Unloaded weapons, traps and nets MAY BE POSSESSED: (i) within a residential dwelling. (ii) within a temporary lodging or mechanical mode of conveyance when such implements are rendered inoperable or packed, cased or stored in a manner that will prevent their ready use.'"

As with the ANPR, Mr. Kiernan noted that not all federal lands were intended to be managed in the same manner.

"Firearm rules that make sense for multiple-use BLM land in the West are certainly not appropriate for the White House, Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the National Mall, or in the valley of Yosemite," he said. "There are, of course, many park units where hunting is specifically authorized and permitted and different firearms rules appropriately apply in those areas."

The NPCA leader also questioned the perceived hardship the current regulations have on gun owners.

"Unloading and putting away guns by those who elect to enter a national park where hunting is not permitted is really no more onerous a limitation on the rights of law-abiding citizens than requiring those who wish to enter a federal building to be searched or pass through a metal detector, nor is it as restrictive," said Mr. Kiernan.

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Comments

Once again we hear lots of good arguments about preventing poaching. We're missing the point here. How does this discussion keep me safe when I'm hiking in the wilderness? I only want to defend myself from a person who might try to steal my wallet or assault my wife. I'm a "good guy". I obey the laws, including hunting laws. If there was airtight security in the wilderness like there is at the airports, this firearm restriction would have some merit. But until you can prove your ability to defend me at all times, I'll defend myself; thank you very much.

Mr. Miller, While I actually agree with your criticism of the above statements, I find it strange that you should feel the need to be defended all the time. It seems inconsistent to me that someone who is the risk taking, self sufficient type of personality who would travel in the wilderness would feel so much at jeopardy. While I certainly understand your need to be able to protect your wife, would you actually shoot someone for taking your wallet?Personally, I think that there are 2 types of people I don't care to run into while in the parks. #1, muggers, and #2, someone who would be willing to kill
to protect a couple of bucks and some credit cards. This gets to the heart of the issue for most of the public. Most of the park- going public does not want stressed out people running around the national parks with pistols tucked into their waistband. You may argue that there are criminals everywhere, but I would say you are more likely to suffer any dozens of calamities wanderin' around in the woods far more likely than having your wife attacked right in front of you. So, breathe deep and relax a little, after all, that's what the parks' are really here for.

People who insist that they need to carry a loaded gun everywhere astonish me. How have I lived to be 62 years old and NEVER carried one? I have hiked and backpacked all over this great country. I have walked (at night) down the streets of LA, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans and others.
When I was a child my family lived in a very bad part of a (relatively) large city. I remember lying in bed at night and hearing drug deals (and worse) going on outside of my bedroom window. All of the homes in our neighborhood had bars on the windows and the owners (or renters) owned guns........except ours. My dad said that he refused to be a "prisoner" in his own home, and he said that pulling a gun only serves to escalate a situation and more people end up getting shot with their own gun than protect themselves with it. My dad was no wimp. He hit the beach at Normandy and was a decorated war hero. Nearly every house on our block was broken into in the ten (or so) years that we lived there, except one......ours. Several people were assaulted, we never were. Maybe the Good Lord protects the foolish. Maybe when you're "expecting" trouble it is more likely to find you. I have never felt the need to pack a gun.
Violent crime is hardly rampant in our National Parks. Most folks are there with their families enjoying vacation just as you are. Guns are already allowed in parks. They simply have to be unloaded and packed away. Therefore they are still there; they are just not readily available to some hothead who just had someone "steal" his campsite. They have to be unpacked and loaded......time to cool down. Time to think about the meaning of the words, "federal offense". YES I KNOW: NOT EVERYONE WHO OWNS A GUN IS A HOTHEAD! MOST ARE NOT. All it takes is one.
Our Park Rangers do an admirable job of balancing the protection of the resource with the needs of the public.
Let's not complicate their lives. Right now if someone is in the possession of a loaded weapon they are already breaking the law and can be arrested. The ranger doesn't have to wait until there is a dead animal (or person).
If you REALLY feel threatened walking the "mean streets" of the National Park back country, carry bear spray. I can assure you that no one is going to assault your wife with a face full of pepper!! Plus it can be fired from the hip. BTW, number of armed robberies and assaults in National Park back country last year: zero.

"People who insist that they need to carry a loaded gun everywhere astonish me."

I don't think anyone has said that here. What is being argued is that citizens have a Constitutional right to carry a loaded gun on federal land and that the federal goverment shall not infringe on the people's right to have and carry weapons. If you don't like that, amend the Constitution, but don't ignore it. Ignoring the Constitution is how we've ended up invading another country; ignoring the Constitution is how the government has been able to indiscriminately gather private data about citizens' library records, phone records, and email records.

As for the unlikely event of something terrible happening, that argument ignores that the Second Amendment and Founders wanted to protect individual rights to carry weapons regardless if there were greater threats than crime to their safety.

Finally, bad things do happen in national parks. About ten years ago, a female ranger (who was not law enforcement) was beheaded at Yosemite. Many parks have problems with crime:
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/1/14/162412.shtml . Over the last decade, there have been thousands of violent crimes in national parks including murder, assault, and rape: http://www.the-eggman.com/writings/crime_in_nat_parks.html .

Yes the risk is low, but this isn't about risk; it's about the Constitution.

Drug runners and criminals in border parks are a serious threat to safety. If I were to hike Saguaro's backcountry, I'd want a weapon to protect myself and my family. And that's my Constitutional right as a law-abiding citizen.

......."this isn't about risk; it's about the Constitution."
War Cry of the NRA

Should we then allow people to carry guns, as Mr. Kiernan points out, in the White House, Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the National Mall? How about the Capitol Building? Isn't this a violation of my Constitutional Rights?
What about all the various ordinances in cities across this land which restrict who and who may not carry a weapon? I know that many large cities do not allow guns in their city parks. I doubt that you would get away with (visibly) carrying a gun in most shopping malls. In fact, most GUN SHOWS prohibit carrying loaded guns! Isn't THAT a violation of my rights? If you insist on carrying a loaded weapon, don't visit the White House, a gun show or Yellowstone. How hard is that?
I backpacked in Big Bend National Park, which is right on the border. No drug crazed, insane, wild drug runners! Just one young couple from California all week!
Of course crime happens everywhere, even in parks. (Ever think that there are FEWER in parks because loaded guns aren't allowed?) Many victims of crime are carrying weapons at the time. (As Kurt points out (I believe) in another article, the beheaded female in Yosemite was actually kidnapped outside the park where guns could be carried.)
Of course you COULD come across drug runners or a drug farm; but the chances are very slight. And if you did, I guarantee you that you would be dead long before you ever knew what you had stumbled on.
If you think that guns stop crime, I would ask, "So, how's that working out in America's inner cities?"
Be real. If I were going to rob, rape, kill someone in the back country, I would never give them a chance to pull their "protection" piece. I would shoot him from cover (especially if I knew there was a good chance that he was carrying), whack him on the back of the head with a rock or tree limb after he passed on the trail, get him in his sleeping bag at night, blast him with bear spray, or have MY gun already aiming straight at him when I approached. I'm not a crook and I can figure this out!
No one is talking about taking anyone's gun away from him. Just like at the gun show, guns ARE OBVIOUSLY ALLOWED. They simply have to be unloaded and, in a park, packed away. There is NOTHING that you can legally shoot in a National Park. Millions of people visit National Parks (and gun shows) every year safely, without pack'n loaded heat. Taking a loaded weapon into a National Park is kind of like taking one into Disneyland (another place where your rights would be violated I'm afraid). Does crime happen in Disneyland.....yeah, sometimes. Does that mean that we want everybody packing loaded weapons in the happiest place on earth, around our kids and millions of visitors?...........NO!
I am so glad that I don't live in such fear. Remarkable considering where I came from in life. I don't know that I could leave the house if I did.

Folks, it's the philosophy of fear that's deeply entrenched and portrayed by the NRA and the Bush & Cheney administration. Scare tactics with crime helps to sell guns! The NRA and gun nuts will exploit this to the fullest extent. The next visit to the National Parks they may ask you:"Where's your papers"? Carry a gun? God forbid!

I'm not a member of the NRA, nor do I own a handgun, nor do I support the current administration. I am, however, a Constitutionalist and believe the job of every American is to defend the Constitution, not just part of it.

Frank N.: malls, gun shows, and city parks are NOT federal land and are cases of private parties or local government regulating guns and are thus permissible under the Constitution. Remember, the Constitution is a limit to federal power and doesn't apply to Disneyland or the other flippant and ill-conceived examples listed.

Thes arguments continue to ignore the Second Amendment's guarantee of the People to bear (or carry) arms on federal land. Your arguments continue to ignore the Founders' intentions. If you believe that the federal government should be able to prohibit law abiding people from owning and carrying guns, then you should work to have the Constitution amended.

Ignoring the Constitution is what the current administration is doing by trying to bypass Congress to negotiate a treaty with Iraq. Ignoring the Constitution is how Japanese-Americans ended up in prison camps on American soil. Ignoring the Constitution leads to a loss of rights.

Frank N. makes some good points here. I'm glad he's never felt endangered while hiking the backwoods. I hope I never do either. I hope I never need to start a survival fire, but I carry a magnesium fire-starter anyway. Does this mean that we need to outlaw fire-starters because they could be used for arson? C'mon. give me a break!

The Disneyland comment doesn't carry much weight with me either. Disneyland has metal detectors and security guards. The backwoods where I hike has neither.

"The text of the Second Amendment is, 'A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.'"
Where does it say, ".........on federal land"? Where does it say, ".....However, such rights may be infringed on private land or in federal buildings, or by state and local governments"? (Federal buildings, last I checked, were on federal land BTW.)
Are you SURE that my arguments ignore the intentions of the founding fathers. Many scholars believe that the INTENT was that members of an organized militia could bear arms...not necessarily the general public. I tend to agree that the intent was the general public, but this has never been settled. One could even argue, I imagine, that within the National Park the Park Service rangers ARE the "militia".
I only used Disneyland as an example of a place, just like our National Parks, that has millions of visitors every year, and where we take our children to recreate.
This law, as it stands, is pretty much an honor system "don't ask, don't tell" law anyway. If you have a gun under your jacket (because you simply can't go anywhere without your security blanket), no one is going to pat you down. No one is going to search your car (without just cause). I'm not an idiot. I know that lots of people are, no doubt, already carrying loaded weapons in parks...just as they do everywhere. NO ONE IS TAKING ANYONE'S GUNS AWAY FROM THEM!! However, the law as it stands, makes them think very hard about firing it or brandishing it. That whole "federal offense" thing. (Yes I know that most gun owners are responsible....those individuals who are responsible for making gun related deaths the second most common cause (behind automobile accidents) of unnatural death in the United States are not.)
Our National Parks are sacred places. The last thing that we want is for them to start looking like many of our National Forests and BLM lands: signs shot full of holes, squirrels and birds with their heads blown off, rusty tin cans full of holes along trails. My opinion is that this law should remain unchanged. You are entitled to your's
Thank you, Kurt, for letting me ramble on with these long comments. I promise I'm done now!