Critics: Changing Gun Laws in National Parks Would Open a "Pandora's Box" of Problems

Gun rights advocates say a drive by the National Rifle Association to change rules against the carrying of loaded weapons in national parks would help simplify gun laws across the country and make park visits safer.

Critics of that position strongly disagree and believe such a regulatory change would open a "Pandora's box" of problems.

Over the coming months gun owners and national park lovers -- groups that are not necessarily mutually exclusive -- will hear those two countering arguments quite a bit as lobbying intensifies over Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's decision to consider a change in the existing ban against loaded weapons in the parks.

There are plenty of subplots to this controversy:

* The National Parks Conservation Association sees the battle as entirely political, with nothing to do with Second Amendment rights, and believes Secretary Kempthorne's decision was directed by the White House, although it offered no concrete evidence of that.

* Gun rights advocates contend that national parks can be dangerous places, both because of the resident wildlife and unsavory sorts of humans.

* Gun rights advocates also see this as a sound Second Amendment fight.

* The Association of National Park Rangers and the U.S. Park Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police worry that more guns in the parks will lead to more accidental and emotionally charged shootings as well as wildlife killings.

* The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees sees no need for park visitors to arm themselves and believes most Americans view national parks as sanctuaries.

During a conference call Monday with reporters that ran more than an hour, representatives from the NPCA, ANPR, Park Police, and retirees' coalition raised issue after issue with the NRA's proposal. They pointed to the relative safety of the national parks, to illegal shootings in the parks that killed wildlife and injured other park visitors, and to conflicts that could arise under the NRA's proposal in parks that span multiple states and, potentially, multiple sets of gun laws.

Is there crime in the parks? Yes.

According to the National Park Service, during 2006 -- when an estimated 273 million visitors headed to the parks on vacation -- there were 11 killings, 35 rapes or attempted rapes, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings and 261 aggravated assaults investigated.

There also were 320 assaults without weapons -- a scenario that had Scot McElveen, president of the rangers association, wondering what the outcome of some of those crimes might have been were the combatants carrying guns -- 1,950 weapons offenses, 843 public intoxication cases, and 5,752 liquor law violations.

What the report does not reflect is where those crimes were committed. Were they concentrated in urban parks, such as the National Mall in Washington, D.C., were they committed in the iconic western parks such as Yellowstone, Glacier, Rocky Mountain or Grand Canyon, or were they concentrated in national seashores? The report also could not, obviously, forecast what the numbers would be like if park visitors were allowed to arm themselves.

Wherever the crimes occurred, the four groups on Monday's call don't believe the park system is so dangerous that a change in existing guns laws is warranted. Under those laws, guns can be transported through parks, but they must be stored out of reach and unloaded.

"This is not about guns, or parks, this is about politics," said the NPCA's Bryan Faehner. "We're very concerned and feel it's very unfortunate that the NRA has chosen the national parks ... to flex their political muscle during an election year."

Doug Morris, a representative of the retirees' coalition, called the NRA's effort "a terrible idea for many reasons."

"First of all, it represents an attempt by the NRA to advance their agenda by inventing a problem that doesn't exist," said Mr. Morris, who spent 40 years with the Park Service. "Loaded guns have been prohibited in the national parks since the 1930s. These rules work, and have long contributed to the indisputable fact that our national parks are among the safest places in America. They also have been an essential part of our efforts to protect wildlife and prevent poaching."

Park visitors, including hunters and gun owners, he added, "seem to understand that parks are special places and that loaded guns are not needed and are not appropriate."

"... We know that more and more of our visitors are urban-based and often are out of their comfort-zone while enjoying their national parks. Unfortunately, we have seen incidents where an impulsive and inexperienced visitor has used lethal force when perceiving even the slightest threat from a bison, a bear, an alligator or even a much smaller animal," continued Mr. Morris. "Under the regulations advocated by the NRA, park wildlife would be in far greater danger as more people would arm themselves with a gun and a false sense of security.

"Routine disagreements in campgrounds, parking lots, restaurants and lodges are more likely to turn lethal, just as they often do in the cities and rural areas around parks where state laws provide for easy access to loaded firearms," he added.

Beyond that, Mr. Morris said it's "ludicrous" for the NRA to contend that existing gun laws in the national parks are hard to understand.

"What can be easier to understand than regulations which apply a long-standing single set of rules throughout our national system of parks?" Mr. Morris asked. "Apart from these practical considerations, however, is the greater concern presented by this proposal, for it demonstrates total disregard for how our society values its national parks. The propaganda of the NRA suggests that we should regulate firearms so that parks are no different than other federal and state lands. Their proposal seems based on the notion that national parks are no more than an extension of the state they occupy. I trust that the outcome of this debate will be that they are wrong.

"... Our national parks should not become simply another notch in the NRA gun belt."

Mr. Morris also recounted how a black bear in Sequoia National Park was killed by a young man who became scared and shot and killed the animal when it stood up on its hind legs. "That bear was causing no problems. The person with the gun caused grave problems and killed the bear," he said.

As for using handguns for protection against wildlife, George Durkee of the Park Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police said a shot from a pistol would only "piss off a grizzly."

"We don't need any scared kids with loaded guns running around the woods," said Mr. Durkee. "I've heard that some are trying to justify this change by saying that people need protection against grizzly bears in places like Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. The rangers there are just adamant that thinking a gun will protect you is much more dangerous to both the visitors and bears. Getting shot at is just going to piss off a 500-pound grizzly, and it will attack. The rangers there themselves carry and recommend pepper spray against aggressive bears, not guns, which they don't consider at all effective in a sudden encounter."

Mr. McElveen of the rangers association recounted a story of two men who went into the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, got into an argument while drinking, and one shot the other in the arm.

A bit later in the call he pointed to the problem that could arise if the regulatory change took place and a ranger arrived on the scene of a shooting. "Think of it from a law-enforcement ranger's perspective. If I get called to an incident, and there's someone with a gun in their hand, I have to first determine who the person is that's the bad guy," said Mr. McElveen. "That's a bad situation to put the law professional in."

Yet to be seen is how NPCA and the other groups build their campaign against the NRA. Will they use a media campaign by taking out ads on television and in newspapers and magazines, or will they rely primarily on email alerts? Will they seek non-traditional allies, such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and its network of "Million Mom March" chapters?

On Monday that wasn't entirely clear.

"We're developing that as we move along here," said Mr. Faehner. "Some of our allies are very natural. For instance, of course, working with the ranger lodge and ANPR and the Coalition of Park Service Retirees. We're going to continue to be working with them and others moving forward."

ANPR officials also hope to gain permission from the NPS to inform park visitors about the comment period that will arise once Interior officials propose a rule change. "We want them to know about it, we want them to be able to send their comments in on a timely fashion," said Mr. McElveen. "

Comments

The National Parks are already the only places I feel safe hiking during hunting seasons. Now that won't be safe either.

Boring!.....Yawn......This issue has been killed and rehashed to no conclusion. There are already guns in the parks. They belong to criminals who you are not aware currently carry them. Would you like to be aware of people carrying guns in the parks? If yes then you are for this legislation. Do you feel that citizens (like police officers) can carry guns in national parks if there state government has approved them to carry a weapon? If so, you're for this legislation. If you feel that criminals shouldn't carry guns then you are among 99% of our society. I hope your new legislation keeps criminals from hiding their guns. Good luck.

No one is asking for open hunting seasons in the parks just allow guns. I don't agree with carrying concealed weapons but I see no harm in allowing weapons in a persons vehicle for protection

As a National Park Ranger with over 30 year's experience, I can tell you conclusively that allowing the possession of readily-available firearms by all park visitors is a bad idea. While some people who have training in the use of firearms might be qualified to have them at hand, the reality is that most people don't. Any idiot without a criminal record (and some who do--at some gun shows) can purchase a gun. Another reality is that some park visitors are idiots when they get out of their urban environments. Rangers are called to the scene of many drunken fights every year, especially in campgrounds in the recreation areas. More of these would now end in gunplay instead of fisticuffs. When the first fool starts banging away at a campground bear with his new .22, we can only hope the bear wins, and the fool doesn't hit a kid in the next campsite.

Joel, above, is typical of people who wn't listen to reason. All the logic in the world is not key enough to unlock a closed mind. It's just unfortunate that we presently have a Secretary of the Interior from Idaho and 47 gutless Senators who are afraid to cross the NRA.

Just a question because I'm curious (and perhaps because I suspect this issue is a red herring), does anyone know what the Park Service does to enforce the current gun regulations? Is there actually active enforcement?

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Jim - I'm told that there is no way that an active enforcement of any concealed weapon ban could take place. How would that be done? There would have to be "wands" and metal detectors EVERYWHERE you go in a National Park! But the sad reality is that IF you get caught with a concealed weapon under current regulations, you will be guilty of committing a FELONY, punishable by imprisonment in a Federal penitentiary. Seems a little severe to me. So your choices are: take a chance on being unarmed when you encounter a bad guy, or a chance of getting caught with a loaded weapon. Pretty lousy choice, huh? That's why I feel that this archaic continuation of a "gun-free zone" has got to stop.

Mr. Fred Miller,

I'd like to make one correction to what you wrote. Possession of a loaded firearm in an NPS area is a misdemeanor, not a felony. While jail time up to one year is possible for a misdemeanor, I know of no instance in my 25 years in NPS law enforcement where anyone served jail time for a first offense of simple posession of a weapon in an NPS area. A small to moderate fine is a more likely outcome for a first offense. For a second or third offense you are most likely to receive a higher fine and forfeit your firearm to the court.

During my career I contacted thousands of park visitors, and while a percentage of these contacts were for law enforcement purposes, I never felt it necessary to cite or arrest any person for violation of the current firearms regulations unless there were more serious associated criminal violations involved such as poaching or threatening other persons with a firearm. I believe many national park rangers would have comparable results. I always felt that a warning and having the person(s) unloaded and store their weapon was appropriate for a first offense. But, if I found the same person(s) again at some later time with a loaded weapon then a citation or arrest was more likely.

Mr. Jim Macdonald,

There is active enforcement of the current firearms regulations in parks, but that almost always involves firearms in plain sight observed by a ranger or by another visitor and then reported to a ranger. Loaded firearms are also sometimes located in visitors' motor vehicles when they have been stopped for some other infraction and a search incident to that infraction ensues.

Scott - Thanks for the information. I do hope that you are right and I am wrong. I can't speak for every CCW holder, but in my case if I go to a National Park NO ONE will know I have a weapon except my wife, and anybody who tries to hurt her. Otherwise it will remain totally out of sight at all times.

As a Park Ranger I would think that you would understand that criminals are going to carry guns anyway whether you like it or not. These same people have no respect for you and your government position. There are people out there that do support you and as a fellow Law Enforcement Officer I find it comforting to know that there are law abiding citizens out there that will stand up for you. These "renagade" citizens are able to protect themselves, and by doing so they are not causing you to risk your life saving theirs. It's a wilderness location for god's sake. We are not talking about the County Courthouse or State Senate Buildings. Don't fall into that victim mentality or you surely will become one.

Mr. Fletcher James,

I do understand your position, and I believe ANPR has answered it, but I will repeat. We do agree that the majority of gun owners coming into parks would never use their guns to illegally kill or injure wildlife (law abiding citizens you reference). We also recognize that a small number of gun owners will illegally use their guns to kill or injure wildlife no matter what the regulations or laws concerning guns in parks are (criminals you reference). However, a regulatory change to allow loaded weapons in parks in plain view will make it more difficult to apprehend these individuals (the criminals) because possession and display of a weapon would no longer be probable cause to initiate a search for evidence of wildlife or wildlife parts (I know you understand probable cause as a law enforcement officer yourself).

We also believe that there are a significant number of gun owners that fall in the middle of the two groups mentioned above. They are often tempted into an illegal act of killing or harming wildlife if the right opportunity in parks presents itself. These are the "opportunistic poachers" that the regulation specifically addresses, and I can personally attest to contacting many in this group over the past 25-years.

When you say, “It's a wilderness location for god's sake” it seems clear to me that you still do not really understand our position. The current regulation is a wildlife protection regulation. The National Park Service is mandated by Congress to do all it can to preserve wildlife with its management policies an regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously upheld that protection and management of wildlife on federal lands is of substantial importance to society so that it is protected under the Property Clause of the Constitution.

You are arguing public/personal safety. The current regulation is primarily a wildlife protection regulation. Is there a trade off? Sure, but a very slight one. “The probability of becoming a victim of violent crime in a national park [in 2006] was 1 in 708,333,” said Kathy Kupper, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service -- less likely than dying from contact with a venomous snake, according to the National Safety Council. “In 2006, there were 384 violent crimes, including 11 killings and 35 rapes, reported in the more than 272 million visits to the nation's 390 national parks,” Kupper said. Many of those crimes were reported to the United States Park Police, which covers metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco [which means even less out in the “wilderness” that you reference]. I, and the majority of ANPR members, are willing to accept that slight level of risk of violent crime to continue to enjoy and have American families enjoy the maximum amount of watchable wildlife in units of the National Park System. We are sorry you don’t agree with this position and can only hope that you can at least see the rationale behind it.

Pandora's box of problems eh? Give me a break. Believe it or not most people who carry guns are not wild crazies out to kill random people and animals. I can see the headlines now, "Random drunken wild west style shoot outs at camp grounds". Dumb, dumb, dumb. Now I can't speak for every state, but here in Wisconsin, the land of beer, during deer season there are quite a few people who drink and hunt. I am not saying drinking and firearms together are a good thing, but it happens. So if any one can tell me of an example of a hunting party suddenly getting ticked at each other and shooting up all their friends please enlighten me.

Where I live (Central Wisconsin, Clark County) we have a fair amount of county forest. Everyone here wants an answer to the million dollar question, what happens when guns are allowed at any time in a publicly owned forest. Well since guns are allowed in the Clark County Forest I think I can answer that.

Absolutely nothing. Thats right, nothing! I haven't heard of any wild shoot outs, people getting mysteriously murdered while hiking, and rampant poaching. I mean sure there are always retards who shoot wild animals just for fun, but then there are plenty of people who run down deer and other wild animals in their cars too. Maybe we should ban cars in national parks as well.

So why do people carry guns out in the county forest? I myself carry rifles into the county forest from time to time to practice shooting. I am by far not the only person that does that, I have met more than a few people who do the same. There are other people who carry guns for personal protection, but I think that is a little overkill since I have yet to hear of any one getting mauled by a black bear or attacked by a cougar. However, being out in a National Park where there are documented cases of people getting killed by grizzlies and cougars I can see where having something to protect ones self would give one a little piece of mind. However I think that ones chances of getting killed by a nut job toting a gun in the national forest are pretty slim. I myself would be more afraid of having a tree fall on me and being killed than of a physco wandering the woods.

Now what happens when I meet someone in the woods carrying a hand gun or rifle. Well it usually goes something like this:

Me:"Hey how is it going?"

The Gunslinger:"Fine, nice day today eh?"

Me:"Yeah not bad."

Then we part our separate ways. There is no tension, no face off. Just two people having a civilized conversation. I think too many people get freaked out when they see a gun. From my personal experience people who freak out about such things typically come from the big city. I guess it never enters their minds that not everyone that owns a gun is either a Virginia Tech shooter or a retarded big city gangbanger. I personally feel way more tension when walking around the streets of Milwaukee by groups of suspicious characters than when I meet hunting parties in the woods.

If I ever met a bear in the woods, first thing I would do is see if the bear is angry or merely curious. But if there was a bear charging at me I would not have any qualms about shooting it. I wouldn't carry anything less than a .44 revolver. In my opinion anything less would just piss off the bear and at that point you would be better off with bear mace.

So after having seen real life experience with guns in a public forest, I can confidently say that allowing guns in parks is a moot point.

Thanks again Scot for correcting me. I hope everyone who read my statement also read your response and found out that I was wrong. I have done a lot of research since you posted this correction. I have not been able to find anything to dispute your statement. I was wrong and you were right. Carrying in National Parks is a misdemeanor, not a felony.

With all that said, I guess now I must decide between not going to a National Park (lousy choice), hiking in the backcountry un-armed (unacceptable choice for me), or carry in violation of NPS policies. So I guess I'll carry and make sure I'm very discreet.

Take this from a retired lawman and current minister:

Let the ordinary citizen carry his/her gun in the park!
It makes me sick to hear some of the rangers,etc. use the argument that people will draw their gun and fire at everyone they have an argument with. How sad when they take the ELITIST attitude like that.
What the officials are saying is that ONLY trained police have the sense to know when to draw a gun.
Police training has NOTHING to do with teaching morals. The only thing it does is teach gun retention, legalities and accuracy training. MOST of the lawmen I worked with had horrible temper problems and many o f them, quite frankly scared me when they got into an argument.

The public officials that oppose such legislation should be removed as they think their constituents are dumb,ignornant sheep that need to be led by them.

The most dangerous place you can go is in the mountains and remote areas of our nations parks. Why?
Because the predators KNOW you are a sitting duck out there. I would NEVER take my family or myself
ANYWHERE that I couldn't carry my weapon. If you knew what I knew was out there walking around free,
you's carry TWO guns.

Remember this: an armed society is a polite society!

Excuse me Dave! What church do you preach from? I hope these comments of yours aren't coming from the sermon at the mount...if they are I'm aghast!

With 90 registered firearms per 100 people in this country, I'd say we pretty well qualify as an "armed society". Gun advocates would have us believe that since "bad guys" are generally in possession in illegally obtained firepower, and don't bother to obtain the required FOID and subsequent registration and permits, it follows that the vast majority, if not the entirety of those 90/100 are in the legal possession of their owners. Nobody is suggesting that 90% of the citizens of this country actually own weapons. Statistics suggest that well less than half of Americans are firearms owners. I'd say that makes a strong case for most of those who acutually own some sort of gun being armed to the teeth, to say the least. If, in spite of all your ordinance, you can't feel "safe" under the current standards, nothing can possibly be changed to alleviate your paranoia of the world around you.

If A=B and we are also therefore a "polite society", why all the fuss about needing to carry concealed weapons to feel safe when you leave your house? I guess polite doesn't equate to civilized.

“In 2006, there were 384 violent crimes, including 11 killings and 35 rapes, reported in the more than 272 million visits to the nation's 390 national parks,”

That's a really neat statistic, but like many of them, it's a bit misleading. First off, consider that most of those "272 million" visits to the national parks were fat tourists in RV's and minivans, hanging out at crowded campgrounds.

"I, and the majority of ANPR members, are willing to accept that slight level of risk of violent crime to continue to enjoy and have American families enjoy the maximum amount of watchable wildlife in units of the National Park System."

Well I'm not willing to risk getting killed -- and it has nothing to do with wildlife. The people that are killing wildlife are doing so illegally, and are carrying guns illegally. One example was cited of someone killing a bear that was "standing up on it's hind legs" -- but I have a feeling that events like that take place much less than women being raped, and unable to defend themselves, because they are supposed to be relying on Park Rangers -- who are hours away, and have no idea what is happening -- to defend them.

If you are willing to let yourself or one of your loved ones be killed, raped, robbed, or beaten -- you are entitled to your own opinion. But I don't think it's fair for you to decide whether *myself* or *my* loved ones are going to have it happen to them -- I care about them, and would appreciate the ability to defend them from all of the other people that are already carrying guns, knifes, and bad attitudes out there anyway.

Besides it would make your job safer and easier -- you'd have some armed *law-abiding* citizens out there to help you make the Parks safer, in addition to all of the armed criminals that currently roam the parks unhindered.

-J. Taylor

Thank you Mr. Taylor. I couldn't have said it better myself. Actually, I wish I COULD say it as well as you.

I too would be right there to back up a Park Ranger if the need ever arose.

Don't forget to repeat these viewpoints next week when the NRPM for changing the rules about concealed-carry in the Parks is released.

If a person wants to carry in a park for protection it should be legal. If i shoot an animal illegaly I should be punished. If I shoot an animal or criminal(one in the same) then justice is served I will always have the right to defend myself and loved ones no matter what the poloticians think.

I live in Colorado and every time I cross NPS ground i do not unload my weapons because the criminals and drug addicts that frequent the road I travel and the the trails and canyons where they grow there crops do not unload theres. I love to sport hunt but i do understand that government land is off limits to any sort of hunting so any one shooting on government land is still prohibited. I want my hundred pound wife or my two daughters to feel like they can defend there persons against all threats that could cause injury or death. Any one carrying a gun on NPS or other wildlife refuge should have a permit to carry and keep it out of sight, if an incident happens and the party dose not have a permit there should be repercussions. The right to defend my self should not be an issue, the park service in my area is way under staffed and very young i think there are only two armed rangers on our 70 sq mile park, that to me is not vary comforting. I am a full supporter of being less dependent on someone else to save my life or my loved ones and more self reliant let us legally carry.

The Heller case just decided by the supreme court gives us the right of being able to keep and bear arms. In other words, it gives us the constitutional right to own a firearm as long as it is not unusual. It also was ruled that we have a right to use these firearms. As long as the use is for a law abiding act. It was also ruled that rules that totally ban us from having firearms, or laws that make our firearms useless are unconstitutional.

Being able to carry a pistol on national parks is are given right. A pistol is not unusual and is one of the most popular firearms used for the law abiding act of self defense. A national park is not a sensitive place such as a school or court room or police office.

We have a constitutional right. And I believe that the gun rules for national parks violate our right. They must be updated to give our rights back.

There must be other ways to solve both sides to this problem then taking our constitutional right away!

I'm a female and believe in carrying a weapon, whether its on the road or in a park. I am not about to let some ciminal violate me or hurt me. I value my life way to much. I carry a weapon and I know what is right and what is wrong unlike some people out there. I dont think I'm a threat to anyone except to the criminal who is out there to hurt me. I know how to use a weapon. I was a police officer and served 8 years in the military with expert (weapons) medals. I want to feel safe and I would never hurt any innocent people. I'm responsible and I know there are a lot of people out there that are just like me. If you dont look out for yourself, nobody else will.

From what you've said, Anon, I judge that you're a very trustworthy individual who, by virtue of your fine training and long experience, could be expected to act very responsibly if allowed to legally pack in the national parks. I assure you that it's not people like you I'm worried about. I do admit it disturbs me to hear an ex-police officer like yourself say "If you don't look out for yourself, nobody else will." Is the situation really that bleak? Do we all need to pack, even when we're in a national park?

BTW, Anon, I had occasion to fire a variety of weapons myself during basic training and the rest of my stint with the U.S. Army (three years and 13 days, mostly spent overseas) back in the Stone Age. With one notable exception, I qualified expert with every single one of those weapons, too. The .38 caliber, two-inch barrel police revolver that was my TOE weapon when I served with the 513th MI was darn near completely useless. I developed a plan for using that metallic piece of crap if I was ever called upon to do so in an emergency -- if, for example, a horde of Commie tanks burst through the Fulda Gap and descended on Oberursel/Ts. My two-step plan was to do this: (1) Fire one round when my assailant got within 30 feet -- preferably lots closer; then (2) throw the revolver at him and run like hell. Thank goodness that I never got the chance to do that. Anyway, for greater piece of mind I got myself (notice I didn't say "bought") a .45 automatic. It was heavy and ugly, but very competent.

Bob says, "I do admit it disturbs me to hear an ex-police officer like yourself say "If you don't look out for yourself, nobody else will."

You, and those folks who take a trendy, holier-than-thou anti-gun stance, should take these words very seriously. People who are astoundingly naive enough to believe that they are safe just because there are police on duty somewhere may be in for a very rude surprise some day.

When you call 911, the police usually end up investigating a crime that's already happened. If you believe your life and the lives of your loved ones are worth more than some scumbag willing to maim or kill you then you need to take responsibility for your safety. The police are paid to enforce laws, not protect you.

I still laugh when I see all the brouhaha from the anti gun crowd proclaiming concealed carry permit holders will suddenly start poaching when the park regulation are finally changed. Masters of FUD, these folks.[Ed: FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt -- at least, I think that's what Rick means here.]

Ms. Anon,

Thanks for your down-to-earth account of the importance of personal protection.

I not only disagree with Bob Janiskee, that it is somehow disturbing or that something is amiss to hold that "If you don't look out for yourself, nobody else will." - but worse, I hold that he is fundamentally & factually mistaken on the point, both in principle & in practice.

Law enforcement' purpose - as I'm sure you know, M'am - is not to provide personal protection to the populace. Never was, never will be. They are here to enforce the laws of the land, which in no way extends to making sure that no harm comes to any of us individually. The Police' duty is to the law, not to the person. The responsibility for taking care of oneself rests with oneself.

The confusion might arise, because we expect to pick up the phone and call 911 if something bad is happening ... then an Officer comes and protects us addresses the bad that we have brought to her attention. The Officer comes to enforce the law ... and all too often, merely to make a report of the offense, which already harmed the caller.

The Secret Service guards the person of the President, etc, but they aren't "law enforcement". The rich & the celebrated hire commercial guards to protect them from threats, and to shield their privacy. All the rest of ya'll, indeed M'am, "look out for yourselves".

There is also the matter of restraining orders, etc, which attempt to confer protection by temporarily abridging the Constitutional rights of a 3rd party (to stay away from a spouse, etc). This too, though, is not the Police' business, but the Court's. And all too often, graphically displays that protection cannot be assured, by writ of any kind.

No, firearms opponents have it wrong, in the Parks & outside them. The Liberal ethos is suffering from the effects of both delusion and denial, grasping at straws to justify an essentially erroneous view of both the practical realities and the basic principles of the law, with respect to firearms.

If one has a concealed weapons permit one is allowed to carry a concealed weapon in the jurisdiction in which it is issued including its national forests. Would someone explain to me why a national park is any different? For that matter why is it any different for a non-concealed weapon? A park is a park is a park!

A national forest and a national park are two entirely different critters. I suggest that you read the NPS Organic Act. National parks are generally held to a higher standard of conservation and maintenance of the unimpared character of its units. Each park has its own special enabling legislation that sets forth exceptions to the guidelines of the NPS Organic Act. In general, national parks are not considered multiple use conservation units. What may be appropriate in a national forest or a national wildlife refuge might not be permitted in a national park. There is a dynamic tension between the goals of preserving park resources and values for future generations and providing for visitor enjoyment. An earlier commentor spoke of the tendency for people to have a different attitude when armed. I have found that to be true. A gun can too often give someone a false sense of security and power, and he or she may push their luck when it would be wiser to simply back away. A gun can become an extension of a person's ego and can exacerbate a situation rather than minimize it. As stated earlier, if you feel unsafe without a concealed weapon go where it is permitted to carry.

Well said Ray, I am in 100% agreement!

Fred,
How nice that you are able to protect yourself and your family. I wish I was afforded that "right" myself. Too bad our supreme court doesn't understand the phrase "shall not be infringed." Sign me, unprotected and wondering why....

While I am an avid supporter of the rights of citizens to carry a firearm for peace of mind in the parks and anywhere else, I also understand the concerns of those who are against it. Most of us gun toters have wives who come from that perspective (the perspective of caution). There are so many idiots out there with guns, blasting away carelessly, never having been taught just how absolutely deadly a lead projectile can be. Even a .22, as small and unintimidating as it might seem, can do horrific damage to a person. We forget that Ronald Reagan came to within a few centimeters of death, all from a .22 LR bullet that had deflected off of the vehicle.

On the other hand, I also take comfort in knowing that there are a growing number of responsible citizens carrying weapons out there. These folks are well trained, repsonsible people who would never even set their finger on the trigger unless they had an extremely good reason. These are folks, like me, who would never just start firing at a bear without first considering where the bullet would go once it has missed its target or fully penetrated the target. These people know how absolutely ineffective ANY handgun is against a Grizz. A handgun would be used only as a last resort against an already angry and charging bear, and probably when the bear is very close and the pepper spray hasn't been effective.

With all of this being said, firearms users and carriers have their work cut out for them in the area of public perception. We have a great responsibility to change the negative perception that folks have toward guns and their owners. We need to put our best foot forward and be willing to comply with rules and regulations and know the difference between laws set forth to protect and laws set forth to be a government power grab. I support legislation to allow open or concealed firearm carry in national parks, but perhaps their should be a simple requirement that the carrier has completed an applicalble hunters (firearm) education course.