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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.


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

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.

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?

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.

"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. - 21k - - 74k - 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 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.

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.

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.


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