U.S. Senator To Make Bid to Allow National Park Visitors to Carry Guns

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn wants to make it OK to carry guns in the national parks.

Why would a doctor be determined to provide more access to guns in the country?

U.S. Senator Thomas Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, will try to do that by introducing an amendment that would bar the Interior secretary from enforcing the current ban on carrying weapons in the parks.

The attempt by Sen. Coburn, who specializes in family medicine and "has personally delivered more than 4,000 babies," has drawn the attention of the Association of National Park Rangers, the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police, and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Sen. Coburn's effort, which you can find attached below, would prohibit the Interior secretary from enforcing regulations currently in place that require gun owners to have their guns unloaded and stored while visiting most units of the park system.

In a letter sent to other senators, (and also attached below) the three groups say Sen. Coburn's amendment not only could lead to an increase in poaching in the parks but also impact the safe atmosphere that currently exists.

Senator Coburn’s amendment could dramatically degrade the experience of park visitors and put their safety at risk if units of the National Park System were compelled to follow state gun laws. For example, since Wyoming has limited gun restrictions, visitors could see persons with semi-automatic weapons attending campground programs, hiking down park trails or picnicking along park shorelines at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Moreover, many rangers can recite stories about incidents where the risk to other visitors – as well as to the ranger – would have been exacerbated if a gun had been readily-accessible. This amendment would compromise the safe atmosphere that is valued by Americans and expected by international tourists traveling to the United States.

There is simply no legitimate or substantive reason for a thoughtful sportsman or gun owner to carry a loaded gun in a national park unless that park permits hunting. The requirement that guns in parks are unloaded and put away is a reasonable and limited restriction to facilitate legitimate purposes—the protection of precious park resources and safety of visitors.

You can contact Sen. Coburn via this site to let him know what you think of his plans.

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Comments

First of all, if someone is in a National park to poach wildlife this bill will not bother them at all, They are there to break the law what do they care about anyone who may be legally carrying a weapon. Have you people been living under a rock or what ? Most people who carry guns legally don't go around flashing them like some school kid, I think most of you people need a reality check .

This amendment is a really bad idea, Its hard to beleive that someone would be stupid enough to even consider this. Just what we need is another gun fanatic to make things worse for the general public. You would think these people would learn from all the tragedies that are caused by guns. I can just imagine the negative impact this is going to have on the safety and enjoyemnt in OUR National Parks. I don't wan this to pass for sure.

Only a crazy man would introduce that kind of law.

I sent the comments below to the Senator. Please take the time to send your comments to the Senator as well. It can make a difference.

Senator,

Guns do not belong in our national parks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The potential for some beer drinking Neanderthal mistaking a person for a bear is to great a risk. This idea would be dangerous for visitors and rangers. I visit our national parks as often as I can. They are our national treasure. I have met many world travelers while in these parks who all ready have fears of visiting many of our cities because of our less than useless gun control laws. These parks bring millions of tourist dollars into the USA and in particular to the surrounding communities. If your truly conservative than you must consider the economic impact this will most certainly create. If this a ploy to collect PAC money from the gun lobby for your next election than SHAME ON YOU!!

Sincerely,

James Curzio

Thank you Senator Coburn for introducing common sense legislation concerning firearms for the National Parks. I applaud you.

This is great news! Good for the Senator.

Criminals are going to break the law no matter what law is put in place. If poachers are wanting to poach they will poach. If armed robbers want to threaten people at gun point to rob them, guess what they are going to use? They don't give a flying flip about what gun control law they are breaking, because they know the law abiding citizens are stuck obeying the laws and are defense-less which make them the easy victim. If everyone carried a gun, you would be amazed on how much crime would not exist. Who's dumb enough to try and rob the liquor store that the owner keeps a shotgun under the counter and a .45 on their hip? What criminal with a deathwish would try to mug and rape a woman that has a 9mm under her jacket? If poaching in National parks is that big of a problem, do what the game wardens in africa do, Carry AK-47's and if you see them do it, shoot first and ask questions later. Problem solved. Alot can be accomplished from a kind word and a gun, than a kind word alone.

This is beyond belief. The National Park System is just that....it's a park...created for the enjoyment of natural beauty by everyone: young, old, Mom and Dad, Gramps & Gram's, family outings, friends, camping, hiking, y'all git the picture.
In a park, one should not have to worry about if the person down the trail or across the parking area is toting a fully loaded, semi-automatic pistol. And furthermore, why would anyone going to a park want or need to carry a weapon, unless that park has been specifiically designated and posted as allowing hunting during proper seasons. In which case, I would be able to steer clear of those areas during season and let the hunters go at it.

I hope Coburn is able to get this done. I live in an area surrounded by National Parks and it in inconvenient and I think dangerous to the citizenry to ban firearms. As shown by the fact that state concealed carry laws have not resulted in mayhem as the Fraternal Order of Police and other anti-gun groups warned, the law abiding public can be trusted. Laws against guns should only be aimed at criminals and criminal behavior.

For those who only stop at park visitor centers or for lunch at a roadside picnic area, guns may have little or no utility. For those who enjoy hiking or camping, particularly in the more remote areas of parks, a gun might provide welcome protection from predators of both the two- and four-legged variety.

You're right. It's absolutely insane to carry a firearm miles from civilization. The mountain lions won't hurt you. Unless they do.

You would think these people would learn from all the tragedies that are caused by guns.

Tragedies are not caused by guns. If you want to stop violence in this country banning guns won't do that, but changing the way we interact with each other will. As far as carrying weapons in a National Park goes, the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens who only want to protect themselves. Do you really think that gangbangers are going to unload their pistols and lock them up at the entrance to Yosemite?

My views haven't changed on this issue. Read my other posts. I am NOT an arsonist. But I do carry matches. Do you want to ban those too? Legal gun-owners don't poach nor do they indiscriminately shoot at anything they see. You're thinking of those irresponsible people who ignore laws and regulations anyway.

Comparing matches to guns is the most asinine statement I think I've ever read. Matches have several uses -- guns have 1 use: to kill. That is what they were created for. The point isn't for "irresponsible people" who would ignore laws anyway; the point is that even in the hands of law-abiding citizens, people end up dying from senseless gun violence. Personally I would NOT feel safer in a national park knowing that there are other people who have the "right" to carry guns legally in the parks. This is why I don't backpack in national forests -- where idiot hunters who might mistake me for a bear, squirrel or elk (yes, it happens a lot), and who hang out at night around a campfire drinking beer and taking pot shots might mistakenly put a bullet in my back. Sure, I know that non-law abiding citizens are right now roaming the national parks with guns, poaching animals and maybe even using their guns against people. But I still feel safer knowing the number of guns is a lot less in a national park than it is even walking down a street in Anytown, USA. How many more senseless deaths from gun violence do we need?

"In a park, one should not have to worry about if the person down the trail or across the parking area is toting a fully loaded, semi-automatic pistol. "

No, you just have to worry about the person you meet on the trail bashing your head in like those poor people in NC and GA.

"the point is that even in the hands of law-abiding citizens, people end up dying from senseless gun violence.

Source, please.

Criminals will carry and misuse guns regardless of the law. All gun bans do is disarm law abiding citizens leaving them vulnerable. I applaud Senator Coburn for his common sense when it comes to these issues. Keep it up Senator.

Well, it might interest some of you to know that 47 senators have asked the NPS to conform to the gun laws of the state(s) in which a park is located.

Quote: "why would anyone going to a park want or need to carry a weapon[?]"

Well, for the same reasons that one would want or need a gun in any other area: for protection from criminals and wild animals.

I think its a good thing to allow citizens the right to carry firearms of their choice in parks to protect themselves from 2 AND 4 legged predators.

Our National Parks are nothing less than another "Gun Free Zone" where 2 legged predators are free to attack people that are guaranteed to be defenseless under current law.

People that have an irrational fear of people exercising the choice to carry firearms also used to scream and yell that the streets would turn into the Wild West with shootouts everywhere if we were to issue concealed carry permits to all persons that do not have a criminal background....in fact Concealed Carry has turned out SO well that most states that are now "Shall Issue" also enjoy lower rates of violent crime.

I just wish more people would stop acting so irrationally about a simple tool like a firearm.

If national parks are such safe places, why are many park rangers now carrying handguns? Criminals love places where honest citizens are not allowed to be armed; it makes their job so much easier!

If you feel you need protection from the wild animals in a National Park, then stay home. One purpose of the parks is to protect those animals. If you think you might need to shot one, stay away.

"the point is that even in the hands of law-abiding citizens, people end up dying from senseless gun violence.

Source, please."

How about just last weekend in Baltimore County, MD, when a 15-year old kid took his father's legally owned gun and killed him and his entire family? His father was a law-abiding citizen and owned the gun legally. And yet 4 people are dead. Can you not envision a situation in a campground where something similar could happen?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The more people are allowed to carry guns, the less safe I feel.

Our right to self defense as a Person, a state, as a nation is inate. Our right to arm ourself is also inate, and constitutionally protected under the second amendant. Our constitutional rights are protected under Federal law. Namely Title 18 chapter 13 sec 242. If we as a person, dont have the right to arm ourselves then niether do all policemen. The parks are there for everyones enjoyment, but one persons life is more important, and more valueable than all the animals on earth. And should be defended, and should have the right to be defended. The senator from Ok is right.

I live on the edge of the Everglades National Park. It is one of the largest areas in Florida that bans ordinary law abiding citizens from carrying firearms. There are hundreds of thousands of law abiding gun carriers in Florida who walk around everyday without commiting violence. These people are more law abiding than your average citizen without a concealed weapons permit. We must get finger printed, an FBI background check, and several other requirements. To prohibit these people from carrying the same inanimate object while in a national park is without logic.

I applaud Sen. Coburn and the others for taking a stand for what is right.

I have had to use a gun to save the life of my infant son from a vicious dog attack while walking down my own street. I live in a nice part of town and the police arrived in less than 5 minutes. Had I been unarmed and waited for the police I could have been seriously injured and my son killed within that five minutes. Far worse could occur while in the secluded vast wilderness of a national park.

The Everglades has alligators, bear, panthers (though not many), poisonous snakes, dangerous wild boar, and the potential to run into two legged predators is there too. For the federal government to not allow law abiding citizens to legally do what they may throughout the rest of the parks in Florida is criminal and unconstitutional. This bill is long overdue, but better late than never.

http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Federal/Read.aspx?id=3439

"in Baltimore County, MD, when a 15-year old kid took his father's legally owned gun and killed him and his entire family?"

This kid's father stored his gun in an irresponsible manner. Taking MY gun from ME wouldn't have helped here, and it's not what we were talking about. But FYI, my gun is either in my holster or in the lock box.

This link will get you to the information about the most recent report about guns and crime. Read it for yourself; I won't tell you what it says.

I don't have a bone to pick in this argument. I'm at once a pacifist, but I'm also an anarchist - so I don't really care about government rights versus privileges. I don't like guns; I don't like hierarchies asserting their power by hording arms in themselves while at the same time denying it of people they control. I don't like any of it on any of the traditional sides of the argument.

However, I do care a great deal about what's said to be innate.

When Anonymous writes: "Our right to arm ourself is also inate..."

What is the argument for saying that? What is the argument for any right whatsoever being innate?

I wrote a series of essays on John Locke and the influence of his thinking on why there are national parks (forget about what one does in them), and I wrote against the very basis of Locke's thinking, that there is a certain innate right that people have that they cede over to government; that right being what it is, they can do with land as they will. Those for government and against government both seem to accept Locke's basic arguments about natural (innate) rights.

What gives you reason to believe that there is an innate right to arm oneself?

And, for those on the other side, what gives government "the right" to stop people from being armed?

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

Can you not envision a situation in a campground where something similar could happen?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The more people are allowed to carry guns, the less safe I feel.

Only in a campground where you continued blathering.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The more people are allowed to carry guns, the less safe I feel."

I hate that you feel this way, but I'm sure you have your reasons.

Something to consider: I'm sure that we agree that a gun is just a THING, incapable of being GOOD or BAD. I think we also agree that a BAD person with a gun is a BAD thing. Is it too much to extrapolate that just maybe a GOOD guy with a gun is a GOOD thing? Just a thought ....

How ironic that a response I posted yesterday in favor of allowing carry in the Parks was not posted here. I stated that many of the arguments against allowing guns in the parks are based on emotions, not fact. I also stated that I disliked being characterized as a Neanderthal or a beer swilling slob because I am a gun owner. I have never mistaken a human being for an elk, a bear or a squirrel as one of the first posters stated has happened to him in a National Forest. The argument that we need to continue the ban on guns in the parks because tourists would stay away from the parks and we would lose millions of dollars of revenue is absolutely mind boggling.

The parks don't exist to generate revenue. The parks are public land. We have a right that is affirmed by the Constitution and that right is being infringed here. If I want to carry a gun for protection that is my right and my business. The comment about our "nearly useless" gun control laws doing nothing to control violence is absolutely correct. Restrictive gun laws only affect law abiding citizens. If you want to stop violence address the society that causes those problems, not the tools by which that violence is enacted.

Take a look at Great Britain. Restrictive gun laws did nothing to curb violence so they enacted restrictive laws against edged weapons such as knives and swords. That has done nothing to curb violence. Now they are moving towards banning toy guns! This is insane! Wake up Americans, the problems with our violent society are not caused by guns they are caused by people with no inhibitions against hurting others. But I guess that by banning guns you can feel like you are doing something about the problem.

The real question is whether or not THESE comments will make it past the censor and get posted. Not only are my 2A rights being infringed, so are my 1A rights!

Don,
The non beer swilling, non Neanderthal, hiking, camping, cycling, skiing, shooting on our federal lands enthusiast.

Don,

For starters, there is no record of you submitting a comment to this story yesterday or even the day before. Secondly, I'm afraid you have no First Amendment right to have your comments published here:

In Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo (1974), the Court unanimously struck down a state law requiring newspapers criticizing political candidates to publish their responses. The state claimed that the law had been passed to ensure press responsibility. Finding that only freedom, and not press responsibility, is mandated by the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled that the government may not force newspapers to publish that which they do not desire to publish.

(You can find the source here.)

And....

The First Amendment by its terms applies only to laws enacted by Congress, and not to the actions of private persons.


(You can find the source here.)

Now, as to your rights to carry a gun on public lands, in the case of the national park system you don't have that right under current laws and regulations. You do have the right to transport your firearm across a national park, as long as that weapon is stored safely away.

As for your 2nd Amendment rights, there's much debate over exactly what the 2nd Amendment truly means. Did the founders intend it to mean that states could arm a militia, or that individuals had a right to bear arms? A case that, hopefully, will shed much light on that question currently is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Honest people carry firearms for self defense for the same reasons they carry fire extinguishers and first aid kits.

A handgun lawfully carried for self defense is equivalent to a fire extinguisher or first aid kit. No one claims that a fire extinguisher is a substitute for a fire truck nor a first aid kit for a doctor, and I won't claim my handgun is a substitute for a police officer. But the fire department says to have an extinguisher, and my doctor says to have a first aid kit, because they allow people the opportunity to help themselves while waiting for additional help to arrive. The same is true for a handgun. Police can't be everywhere at once, they will always respond to a violent crime too late to prevent the violence.

While you can run from a fire, and may be able to 'make-do' till medical aid arrives, if you're caught-up in a violent crime there is no substitute for a handgun. The farther from "civilization" you are the more true that fact becomes.

Dennis

“The Everglades has alligators, bear, panthers (though not many), poisonous snakes, dangerous wild boar, and the potential to run into two legged predators is there too. For the federal government to not allow law abiding citizens to legally do what they may throughout the rest of the parks in Florida is criminal and unconstitutional. This bill is long overdue, but better late than never."

So-if I read this statement correctly you, joe public, feel you have the right to defend yourself against dangerous nature found occurring, quite naturally, in the parks? If this is true, how do you decide when you need to defend yourself? Do you pull out your gun when careless campers leave food out in the campground and the curious bear comes to investigate? How about when the elks are in rut and they come to close to a public area, or even when a cougar crosses your trail in the backcountry? These situations occur daily in park units across the country and for 99.9% of the cases, you never hear about them because they resolve in a peaceful manner. When they don't resolve peacefully, the investigation often reveals human error (people feeding the animals in Death Valley are then attacked, bears becoming habituated to human garbage become aggressive). When parks make the decision to deal with aggressive animals, its after conditioning, consultation with wildlife experts, and careful consideration. How is the visitor trained to make these decisions?
Many of these animals, even by your own admission are rare. Let’s not encourage the public, which is often not prepared to deal with the wild megafauna, to shoot first and ask questions later. If the public was being eaten by bears at an alarming rate each year, I would support your argument to arm the public, but with the exception of the bear man movie of a few years ago, I know of no case of visitors being eaten by bears, large cats, or alligators in our national parks.

In my opinion, the senators supporting this care neither about the gun rights or national parks. They are just placating the NRA so they can get re-elected. Repealing the gun restrictions in the parks is a bad idea, but in the grand scheme it is a non-issue. To read a lengthier comment that I've written on this issue, you might read the following article on my web site:

http://www.yellowstoneecology.com/blog/?p=56

Mike Tercek

Kurt,

I posted twice yesterday, once anonymously and once using Don M. The comment about my 1A rights was sarcasm, I realized that I have no right to free speech here. Your comments about my 2A rights are flawed. The rights in the Bill of Rights are individual rights. Nobody ever argues that the First Amendment, or the 4th, or 5th are collective rights. Why would the 2nd be any different? The debate isn't over my right to carry on public lands, it is over my right to keep and bear arms.

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. " The wording is simple and clear. The same people in this amendment are the people who have the right to freedom of speech and assembly, the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches. The same applies to the 5th, this is not a collective right but the right of an individual to due process.

To muddy the water by stating that there is a debate about what exactly the Second Amendment is about is unfair. There seems to be no debate about the other 9 amendments, they are all acknowledged as individual rights. I'm cringing right now because I'm waiting for somebody to state that the founding fathers didn't have machine guns or rocket launchers in mind when the wrote the amendment and that we need to change with the times. The founding fathers never envisioned us using television, radio or the internet to communicate either. If we start restricting 2A rights when are we going to start restricting 1A rights?

For the record I am well aware of the laws concerning the transporting of guns through National Parks, I transferred from CA to MI this spring and passed through 4 national parks on my way out here, with all of my guns in my truck, nice and legal like.

Kurt,

I forgot to address your comment about 2A cases before the Supreme Court. I'm inferring that you're are talking about DC vs. Heller. DC is appealing because if you don't like what you hear, appeal and appeal and appeal some more. I'm hopeful that SCOTUS is going to put this to rest for once and for all but I'm not holding my breath.

Allowing me to carry legally in a NP is not going to increase crime one bit but there is a chance it could decrease crime. I also have no intentions of using a weapon against a bear or cougar. If I end up in trouble with one of them it was because of my own neglect. Avoiding trouble with wild animals is pretty simple. My guns are for protection against other humans.

Mike - I read your post on Yellowstone Ecology. Funny stuff. I assume you also support amnesty for illegal aliens?

This bill is long overdue. It would make a lot of park visitors legal park visitors. I know people who have concealed carry permits and are just not going to put their lives in danger by not have either a sidearm or shotgun nearby and an unloaded gun is useless. I have it on good authority that Yosemite has it's own jail or just a holding cell and it's not there for the four legged animals.

Ever been on the far back roads of Death Valley or Big Bend parks where you can go weeks without seeing a ranger? Been camping and seen some scary people out there and you just don't know what chemical they are on or what they might do. There are occasional animal attacks too, but if you keep a clean camp, that shouldn't be a problem.

As for an increase in poaching, where did this come from? Poachers are going to commit a crime no matter what if they are so inclined. I'd like to hear the reasoning on that.

This bill would not stop crime in the National Parks, but I believe like Texas and Nevada most people just assume someone in certain states are armed and it just might not be a good idea to do the crime.

Fred,
No. Not sure I see the connection you are making.

I own several guns, and wouldn't support a ban. Let's face it, though, that's never going to happen. Nobody is going to take away anyone else's guns. This is just an election year issue designed to placate voters that want a simple litmus test for their candidates. This country really has much more important things to worry about.

Mike

This has been debated as naseum, and I know that this logic will go over your head Don M, but comparing the 1st amendment and 2nd amendment, exactly how they are written, shows what the founding fathers had in mind. Why would they put the preface, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" before "the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"? If they felt that everyone had an individual right to keep and bear arms no matter what, why wouldn't they phrase the 2nd Amendment just like the first and say, "Congress shall make no law infringing on a person's right to keep and bear arms"? Why would the preface concerning a militia be needed at all? Unless, of course, they felt that the only reason free people would need keep and bear arms is due to the fact that there was not a national military at the time the Bill of Rights was written, and if the time came when a state militia was needed, that militia needed to arm themselves. Thankfully we don't ask our Marines to bring their own machine guns into battle any more. The country has changed, the needs have changed, and unfortunately 200 years of letting people arm themselves won't go away any time soon.

I have a problem with guns in Parks with lots of wildlife such as Yellowstone. My concern is not regarding poaching. My concern is having someone see an animal such as a coyote wander close to their campsite ( which happens many times ) and someone who isn't used to this panicking and shooting the animal. I can see the excuses now, "Oh my kid was outside". You will have situations like this if this is allowed to happen. I can also see instances of people mistaking a rustle in the trees as a bear and possibly shooting a person. In Parks such as Yellowstone, many people I see have a "bear paranoia" and I can totally see accidents and also the shooting of simply curious bears that mean no harm.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I brought up the First Amendment so I'll respond to Teddy Mather even though this article is about carrying guns in National Parks. The text of the amendment is just as clear to me as in the 2A. Stating that "I know that this logic will go over your head Don M," is the same as calling me a Neanderthal or a beer swilling slob (read Teddy Mathers post towards the top), just because I disagree with you. I'm willing to listen to facts and well reasoned arguments but insults don't belong here.

A few posters talked about the safe atmosphere in the parks and how having guns in the parks would ruing that feeling. I googled "crime in national parks" was amazed and disturbed by what I read in the first two articles. Three Park Rangers have been shot to death since 1998, drug smuggling and crime are on the rise in Big Bend NP, Organ Pipe NP and Padre Island National Lake Shore. Gang activity is on the rise at Lake Mead NRA. Park Rangers are 12 times more likely to be assaulted than an FBI agent, and the number of violent confrontations with Rangers rose from 98 in 2002 to 106 in 2003 and 111 in 2004. I will provide links.

archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/1/14/162412.shtml - 21k -

www.csmonitor.com/2005/0808/p03s01-ussc.html - 74k

www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/08/08/national/main765404.shtml - 75k -

These were just the first three articles that came up. I would submit that crime is indeed on the rise and that National Parks are not as safe as they used to be and that we need to take a hard look at whether or not to allow the carry of weapons in the park. This is a decision that should be based on fact, not emotion.

I had the experience of witnessing a poaching in the Cades Cove area of Great Smoky National Park many years ago. I had just started out on a hike with my buddy, and was about a half mile from the ranger station when the incident occurred. The poacher shot a large buck but didn't immediately kill it.

I sent my buddy to the ranger station, and I stayed with the deer. The poacher, who initially drove off when he saw us, came back while I was waiting, and just sat there in his car for several minutes about 200 yards away. I was scared stiff, because I knew he had a gun, and I didn't.

The ranger arrived while the poacher was still there and the poacher fled. There was a car chase, and an attempted roadblock, but the poacher escaped.

My point is, these kind of things can happen. In this case I didn't get close enough to the poacher to identify him. Had we been 1 minute later on the scene, the story could have been different, and the poacher could have made a different choice.

This incident occurred before cellphones. Had we then been further along the trail, we would have been cut off and at the mercy of the poacher completely.

I do not favor guns in National Parks. While in this instance, it would seem to be an example of a need for a gun, the reality is that a handgun is not a very good defense against a high power rifle at 200 yards, so it really wouldn't have mattered much. What is much more important is communication. I need to be able to call for assistance anywhere, and while cellphone towers are disturbing, they provide far better defense that carrying a weapon.

It seems to me that we really have two separate issues. The first is the issue of what the laws currently say and what the courts have interpreted them to mean in case law. The second issue is our own individual opinions, perceptions, and assumptions based on our own experiences and what we individually desire the laws to say and mean.

Kurt points out appropriately in a previous post that the courts have not definitively decided yet whether the Second Amendment is an individual right or a societal right for militias. Until a federal court makes that decision and establishes case law, all our comments on the Second Amendment are just personal opinion, none more valid than the other.

What the federal courts have decided in relation to laws that infringe on rights in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is that such laws are not unconstitutional unless their specific intent is to abrogate the right. If the courts had not used this rationale in deciding constitutional law cases, there could be no law that exists that infringed on any of the constitutional rights in any way. In other words, individual citizens could say anything they want to, anywhere, any time, no matter how vulgar, treasonous, violent, obscene, untrue, dangerous, etc. Of course, there are such laws that prevent us from saying some things at certain times and/or locations. These laws have been found by the courts to be constitutional in many cases because their intent was not specifically to infringe on free speech, but to protect some other important societal value. There are similar laws and court decisions relating to expressing one’s freedom of religion and to the freedom of the press.

In relation to possessing and carrying arms it is clear that our society has decided that there are places and times where “bearing arms” is not appropriate. The most recent example is that private firearms are not permitted beyond the security checkpoint in airports and not allowed in carry-on luggage on the plane. If the Second Amendment were an absolute right then these prohibitions could not exist, no matter what your personal opinion is. In examples like this the courts have found that the intent of the laws was not to specifically abrogate the right.

Once you get the legal issue framed, then the questions become: (1) is the NPS regulation a valid assertion of federal power under the Constitution, and (2) was the intent of the NPS regulation to specifically abrogate the Second Amendment?

To answer the first question you must look to the Constitution. Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution states: “The Congress shall have the Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States;…..” Concerning NPS lands, Congress delegated this rulemaking authority to the Secretary of the Interior in section 3 of Title 18 United States Code. One might also ask are federal parks even valid under the Constitution? The Supreme Court has found they are under the general welfare clause of the Constitution in an 1896 case titled United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Company.

To answer the second question you must look to the June 30, 1983 Federal Register in which the revision to the current NPS firearms regulation was adopted after a public comment period. The stated reason found in this document for adopting this regulation was “to ensure public safety and provide maximum protection of natural resources by limiting the opportunity for unauthorized use of weapons.” While one’s personal opinion may be that the NPS was not telling the truth in 1983 about their intent, the official written intent was not to abrogate the Second Amendment (unless you believe that there is an individual right and it applies in all places and at all times). Congress delegated the authority to promulgate this regulation to the Department of the Interior and government employees of the department followed all regulations in establishing it including accepting and considering public comment.

That is the legal side of the issue. Whether you agree with the current regulation or oppose it, Congress certainly has the right to rescind the delegation of authority they previously passed in federal law.

Now for the opinion part of the issue based on my individual opinions, perceptions, and assumptions based on my own experiences. For the record I own two firearms. I do not regularly carry them in public having purchased them primarily for personal and family protection on my own property.

I believe the regulation is constitutional based and supported by federal case law. If you believe that bearing firearms is an individual constitutional right at all places in this country and at all times, I respect that opinion. The courts have not decided on such an opinion yet. I am unconvinced that you can make a Second Amendment argument against this regulation while supporting other firearms restrictions at other places and times.

I believe the regulation serves the valid public purpose of “providing maximum protection for natural resources” inside units of the National Park System. Based on my experience I do agree with what many of you have said that a significant percentage of gun owners coming into parks would never use their guns to illegally kill or injure wildlife. I agree with what many of you have said that a small percentage of gun owners will illegally use their guns to kill or injure park wildlife no matter what the regulations or laws concerning guns in parks are. But, I believe Senator Coburn’s amendment will make it more difficult to apprehend these individuals because possession or display of a weapon will no longer be probable cause to initiate a search for evidence of wildlife and/or wildlife parts. Finally, I ask you to consider that there is a large group of gun owners that fall in the middle of the two groups mentioned above. They are not outlaws or everyday poachers and they are not those that will obey the law in all circumstances no matter what. They are sitting on the fence and can be tempted into an illegal act if the right opportunity in parks presents itself. Often such illegal acts of opportunity require two elements ― desirable wildlife to be present and a readily accessible, loaded firearm. When either of these two elements is removed from the equation it dramatically reduces the chance that park wildlife will be poached by this opportunist group. The NPS regulation was specifically targeted at this group of gun owners by limiting the opportunity for unauthorized use of weapons. Opportunity is the key word in this justification.

My last opinion in this post is that many of you confuse the legally defined purposes for federal lands administered by different agencies. Comparing what has happened to you or in the news on National Forests or lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management with what could happen to you on lands managed by the National Park Service is comparing apples to watermelon. The National Park System was created for a preservation purpose with specific federal law direction to regulate the use of parks. I cannot dismiss your fears that you could be hurt or killed from a violent act by another person or an animal inside a national park. Having spent much of my adult life inside national park units I can only say that I have far fewer of those fears inside national park units as opposed to when I’m outside them. The crime statistics and injury-by-animals incidents inside parks are incredibly low compared to almost all other segments of our society. But there is always a chance that such an incident can occur even inside a national park unit. For me the trade off of protecting wildlife to a greater degree from opportunist shooters is worth the low risk that I will be less able to defend myself should an incident of violence happen to me inside a national park unit.

My reality and life experience is not yours, but can’t we all articulate our own reasons to be for or against an issue like this without name-calling or disparaging remarks about those on the other side? Doesn’t reasoned, respectful debate lead to reasoned, respectful public policy?

Everyone seems to forget the good ole days and what principiles our country was founded upon.To bear arms is a responsability of the invidual and the group of like minded law abiding citizens.who have a greater admiration for nature as well as human life and wouldn't stray outside that context of common sense use of self defense of oneself from any form of preadtors wether he be man or beast.I believe what our real concerns is the govt taking away our rights in order to control dictate to the american people what they want us to do for the wrong reasons all in the name of glory of th eall mighty dallar,and over a self power trip problem to overtake and dominate the world.obvious th enatl park system is yet another milestone of that hitler-neo stalism and socialist communism they betray.What is needed is people that understand the difference of selfdefense,hunting as a sport and these fearful nature freaks oh no guns.We have a right to protect our families,ae;from the intimate thrat of danger wehn and if that ever occurs as stated as above.because law enforcement and or park rangers are not always around to interced until after the violent crime has already taken place. I really think that the issue is being blown out of proportion by some but logically backed by common sense americans in knowing what they talk about and actually live and teach that.

Thank you Senator Coburn. Hopefully you will get this bill passed.

I would rather fend off a person attacking me with a rock than a person with a handgun anyday.

Your comments suggest you haven't really spent much time in a national park. I'm no tree hugger but the last thing I want to see when I'm hiking in any park is some idiot who thinks his constitutional right to bear arms somehow makes him look cool by carrying a weapon. Obviously poachers exist, all you have to do is read park newsletters. Yes they obviously live by a lower moral standard than the rest of us, and no this bill isn't going to rid the world of poachers...another no brainer. The question is why would you need one? Protection? From what? If you claim an animal threatened/attacked you, then you were too close and stand a good chance of being arrested for poaching, since its illegal to shoot anything in the park if there's no open season at that specific time, or if you happen to shoot a protected species, well you're screwed. Protection from other people who are carrying guns in the park? Hmmmmm. Obviously you miss the point of a national park and what they really stand for and what people visit them for. This "senator" apparently hasn't been to many parks either, or at the very least, his idea of a national park does not jive with the reasons we have them.

I'm not sure that the author is getting the responses he had hoped to see here. Senator Coburn just might be doing his job, exercising the will of the people.

Don,

If the NRA put as much effort into actually supporting the parks, rather than seeking unrestrained access with its weapons, think of how wonderful the parks could be.

As for Senator Coburn, I find it curious and perplexing for a doctor who boasts of delivering more than 4,000 babies to want to increase access to weapons.


People should read up on Teddy Roosevelt. Traditional American liberties, like law abiding citizens carrying guns, are not incompatible with conservation & a love of our national parks. The real irrationality is coming from people who are hysterical about guns, but never about protecting innocent people from criminals. You cannot take some freedoms away without losing many others.