Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's rationales for potentially opening national parks to concealed weapons are "hypocritical in some cases and just plain wrong in others," according to the president of the Association of National Park Rangers.
While the Interior secretary, in outlining his decision, talks of "enhancing local control and respecting an individual's Second Amendment right to bear arms," that perspective is skewed, believes Scot McElveen.
"If you truly believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, then that right applies to all places at all times including federal buildings, airports, schools, and any area prohibited by state law," Mr. McElveen says. "If the argument is a Second Amendment argument, then federal law, federal regulation, state law, and state regulation must all fall in the face of the Constitution as amended. This what the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution states.
"It seems hypocritical to me to say that the Second Amendment applies in the national park system without exception, but exceptions are okay in other places."
Furthermore, he points out that Congress specifically directed the National Park Service "'to regulate' use in the national park system for the fundamental purpose of preserving park natural and cultural resources."
"These provisions are found in federal statutory law and are supported by federal case law. Nowhere has Congress told the National Park Service that 'enhancing local control' of the National Park Service is a priority," notes Mr. McElveen. "In fact, just the opposite has occurred. In 1953, 1970, and 1978 Congress passed amendments to the NPS Organic Act of 1916 that directed the agency to manage the national park system for the national interest, not local interests, except where specifically directed by Congress."
While Mr. McElveen recognizes that Congress has given the Interior secretary the authority to promulgate regulations for the national parks, he also believes that "those regulations must support the 'fundamental purpose' defined in the NPS Organic Act until such time that Congress decides to amend the Organic Act again."
"I think it will be interesting to see how the Assistant Secretary can craft a revised regulation that changes a 72-year course and purports to support that 'fundamental purpose,'" he says.