And you thought the presidential campaign promised to provide enough excitement for the rest of the year. Now you can add a Second Amendment battleground to the calendar.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today called for a review, and possible overhaul, of federal regulations concerning the carrying of guns in national parks. He wants to see a draft regulation on proposed changes by the end of April.
This administration supports the long-standing tradition of affording states the right to determine those who may lawfully possess a firearm within their jurisdictions while preserving an individual's right under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and the federal government's authority to manage its lands, buildings and facilities," Secretary Kempthorne wrote to Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, and Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin.
I have directed Assistant Secretary Lyle Laverty, who oversees regulatory matters for parks and refuges, to develop and propose for public comment by April 30 federal regulations that will update firearm policies on these lands to reflect existing federal laws (such as those prohibiting weapons in federal buildings) and the laws by which the host states govern transporting and carrying of firearms on their analogous public lands.
Today's news shows that the National Rifle Association and its membership have succeeded in making this an election-year wedge issue, in part by portraying the national parks as dangerous places where wild animals and brazen criminals lurk.
The NRA was behind U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's proposed legislation that would prevent the government from banning concealed carry in the national parks, and also helped craft the letter that 50-some members of the Senate sent to Secretary Kempthorne asking for a change in gun policies in the national parks and national wildlife refuges.
Opposing a change in the existing regulations have been the Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Parks Conservation Association, just to name the most prominent groups.
There's no word yet on whether there will be hearings around the country on this issue, or simply a way for people to submit comments.
But as this goes forward you can be sure more groups will come out against a change. One that wouldn't surprise me by taking a stand against a change is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. This group, organized in the wake of the attempted assassination of President Reagan, devotes a full page on its web site to the dangers of concealed carry.
I'm sure, of course, the NRA can counter with its own page. Indeed, if you Google "concealed carry" you quickly find tens of thousands of articles, mostly pro-concealed carry.
As I've said previously, it's sad that the national parks are being pulled into a Second Amendment debate. National parks long have been viewed, and even promoted, as family friendly destinations. Will that view remain if you're left wondering at night whether the group in the campsite next to yours has loaded firearms?