National Parks Conservation Association: Interior Buckled to NRA Over Park Gun Laws

NPCA officials have criticized the Bush administration for caving into the NRA over national park gun regulations.

In a sharply worded statement the National Parks Conservation Association accused the Bush administration of caving into the National Rifle Association in deciding to reexamine current regulations that prohibit the carrying of loaded weapons in the national parks.

"Today's action is alarming. Overturning Reagan-era rules that struck the right balance between the rights of gun owners and the safety of families and wildlife is a blow to the national parks and the 300 million visitors who enjoy them every year," said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. "It is truly unfortunate the National Rifle Association has chosen this issue to flex its election-year political muscle."

At the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Bill Wade also was disappointed by the turn of events.

"There is no indication that the American public is at all supportive of the idea of loaded guns being readily available in the campgrounds, visitor service areas and the backcountry of the nation’s parks," said Mr. Wade. "This clearly is an election-year attempt on the part of the National Rifle Association to push it’s agenda and it’s unfortunate so many elected officials, including some of those in the White House and the Department of the Interior, have caved into the pressure. It’s a terrible idea for the nation’s parks and the visitors to them."

The current regulations, which require that weapons be broken down and out of reach when being transported through national parks, date to the Reagan administration. Late last year the NRA stepped up its campaign to have the regulations rewritten to allow permit holders to carry their weapons in the parks. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today agreed to have a new regulation proposed.

According to the NPCA, the gun restrictions in the national parks date to the 1930s when they were intended to prevent wildlife poaching. The group says the regulations were "carefully revised during the Reagan Administration to be as narrowly restrictive as possible, while also assisting park personnel to prevent unlawful killing of wildlife."

NPCA "believes the current regulations strike an appropriate balance between the rights of individuals to possess firearms under state and federal laws and hunt in areas of the national park system where it is permitted, and the safety of national park visitors and wildlife."

Here are some of the NPCA's points:

* Park safety and enjoyment: We believe that enabling individuals to carry loaded guns in national parks will alarm families visiting the parks, and heighten the possibility for deadly visitor conflicts.

* New responsibilities for overtaxed park rangers: In a post-9/11 environment, where the safety and security of our national parks and visitors is pre-eminent, park rangers will now have to be alert to the fact that individuals are carrying loaded guns in the parks. The potential for conflicts to become deadly could increase, and park rangers would likely view visitors with loaded weapons suspiciously. Moreover, burdensome new enforcement responsibilities will be added to an already strained ranger corps and budget.

* Increased opportunities for wildlife poaching: A genesis for the Park Service's original firearms regulations, wildlife poaching is still a serious concern in our national parks, causing the decline of nearly 30 species. Poachers could operate with impunity because rangers would lack the authority to question individuals about their loaded weapons.

* Deferring to state laws creates confusion: The Federal Government has a unique responsibility to set the rules for and manage our national parks. This is to ensure the safety, protection, and enjoyable experiences of nearly 300 million visitors annually. Deferring to divergent state laws, some of which permit loaded weapons and others that do not, will result in confusion for rangers, and visitors who travel to the parks from every state in the nation, and from countries around the world.

"The existing regulations were adopted after a thorough review, and we will be diligent in insisting that any proposed change undergoes the same thorough, legal procedural review and allows for public input," said
Mr. Kiernan. "We are convinced when the review process is complete, it will show the existing regulations are not unduly burdensome but are limited, reasonable, and necessary to enable park rangers to carry out their duties of protecting the millions of families who visit our parks every year, and the wildlife that inhabits them."

Comments

Our national parks have many visitors, some of them families, some of them illegals (armed) and growing their drug crops, some of them human predators looking for weak victims.

Our world is a dangerous place due to many factors; whether or not to arm ourselves is an individual decision; where to exercise this decision , and under what circumstances to do so, is a matter of judgement left to the individual by our constitution.

The armed person may, or, may not be a threat to his fellow man; that depends upon many factors; the armed person is a threat to those he believes have harmful intent towards him, or, others; the armed and un-lawful person is a universal threat and a predator upon weaker citizens.

The arguement could be made that the odds of being attacked in our national parks, and needing a gun for defence are so large that there is no chance on average of this happening.

"We believe that enabling individuals to carry loaded guns in national parks will alarm families visiting the parks, and heighten the possibility for deadly visitor conflicts."

You believe or you have empirical evidence to support this statement? The presence of a firearm does not imply a greater level of danger.

"New responsibilities for overtaxed park rangers: In a post-9/11 environment, where the safety and security of our national parks and visitors is pre-eminent, park rangers will now have to be alert to the fact that individuals are carrying loaded guns in the parks."

Actually, by restricting fire-arms you are foisting this requirement upon them now. If everyone is allowed to carry (a 2nd amendment right) then no checks are required. In the event a criminal is carrying (they will not care about carry laws) then would it not be prudent to have a unknown number of law-abiding citizens able to respond if said criminal decides to act according to his or her nature?

"Increased opportunities for wildlife poaching: A genesis for the Park Service's original firearms regulations, wildlife poaching is still a serious concern in our national parks, causing the decline of nearly 30 species."

Poachers are criminals and unlikely obey any of said laws anyway. If carry laws are allowed but hunting is still banned how is this any different than the current laws?

"Deferring to state laws creates confusion: The Federal Government has a unique responsibility to set the rules for and manage our national parks."

The 2nd amendment is pretty clear in this regard and national parks are under federal jurisdiction. Most states have explicit carry regulations and should be more than sufficient. The Fed cannot arbitrarily violate our second amendment rights any more than our 1st amendment rights. Suggesting they can invites all sorts of abuses by the Fed in the future (say maybe no demonstrations or rallys?). This cuts both ways and depending on the administration in power you might find your pet rights being violated if you persist in weakening our constitutional rights in this manner.

The NPCA's arguments seem to be feeble at best and hint at a political agenda. If you truly seek the correct approach then begin the process of repealing the 2nd amendment.

Mr Anonymous -

I only wish I could make a point as well as you do. Your statements here are right on the dot.

May I use some of your stuff in my own arguments? If I do, I will be honest enough to say, "I didn't say that, but I wish I had!"

Fred, feel free to use any of my comments.

I'm afraid ignorance of our Constitutional rights and their continued erosion by both liberals and conservatives because of personal prejudices are a ticking time bomb. Each has foisted constitutional abuses on the American people. Conservatives are guilty of abusing the Commerce Clause to support the war on drugs and liberals have introduced various gun bans that are clearly un-Constitutional. These represent the slowly warming water that will ultimately boil us to death.

I think it was said best by one of our brightest founding fathers.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

American's need to grow a thicker hide and stop looking to government to solve our problems, because we all know they create more problems than they solve.

I have been a regular visitor at Organ Pipe National Monument for 45 years. I hike a lot, and regularly see illegal activities, mostly groups of illegal immigrants. Although the area roads are heavily patrolled, it is extremely rare to see a park service enforcement officer in the backcountry.

I would strongly support having the legal right to carry a gun while hiking in this park. Any assertion that the status quo is a safe situation is ridiculous. I would suggest that allowing concealed permit holders, who have undergone a training process to carry a handgun discreetly in a backpack or other concealed location might even improve safety in places such as Organ Pipe.

THis is ridiculous. There are a humungous about of Americans that support guns in parks. THerefore do not look over us.