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.