Violent Deaths in the National Parks

With the latest debate over whether the National Park Service should allow visitors to carry live weapons in the national park system, much has been made over whether parks are safe. While even one murder is too many, the crime statistics for a park system that last year attracted some 277 million visitors would seem to indicate parks are relatively safe havens from violent crime.

During 2006, when 273 million visitors toured the parks, 11 deaths were investigated across the system. Two involved women who had been pushed off cliffs (one at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and one at Lake Mead National Recreation Area), one was a suicide (at Golden Gate National Recreation Area), and one was the victim of a DUI accident (in Yellowstone National Park).

National Park Service records also show that one of the 11 deaths, reported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, involved a stabbing that was spawned by an alcohol-fueled altercation. Great Smoky also was the setting of a fatal shooting of another woman with three others arrested for the crime.

The suicide at Golden Gate involved a man who "began shooting at hang gliders. He did not hit any of the hang gliders, but then he shot a stranger. Then he turned the gun on himself."

At the Blue Ridge Parkway, a woman parked at an overlook and wearing headphones while studying for final exams "was killed by a handgun by a suspect on a killing spree," the Park Service said. In another case involving the parkway, the body of an individual shot and killed outside the parkway was dumped there.

At Amistad National Recreation Area, a woman was found floating in a reservoir in about 5 feet of water. "She appeared to have blunt force trauma to the head and was possibly stabbed," the agency said.

The last two murders were reported in Washington, D.C., area park units. In one case a victim died from a gunshot wound to the head, in the other U.S. Park Police found a partial human skull, with an apparent gunshot wound, on the shoreline of the Anacostia River, a crime that didn't necessarily occur in the park system.

Most folks, I think, would agree that the suicide, two pushing victims, and the DUI victim couldn't have been prevented if guns were allowed to be carried in the parks. And, of course, there was the victim who was murdered outside the Blue Ridge Parkway. That lowers to six the number of violent deaths investigated in the parks, one of which involved a stabbing in a drunken brawl, an outcome that could have turned out just the same -- or worse-- if either individual was carrying a gun.

During 2006 there also were 320 assaults without weapons, 1,950 weapons offenses, 843 public intoxication cases, and 5,752 liquor law violations. How many of those might have turned deadly were concealed carry allowed in the park system?

I think much of the concern over this move by the National Rifle Association to see visitors allowed to carry loaded weapons does not center on the majority of the "law-abiding" gun owners in the country, but rather around the accidents waiting to happen involving folks who either aren't so law-abiding or so careful.

Comments

I remember the murders in DC and a spree of muggings a couple years ago on the Mall. They eventually caught the people involved with the muggings. It was surprising for DC residents because the Mall is considered one of the safest places in a city - a small city with a huge amount of park land, that averages nearly 200 murders a year, not many of them in park units. You occasionally hear of rapists in Rock Creek Park, but even that is rare. So, in one of the most dangerous cities in the entire country, where class differences are extremely wide and racial tensions huge, parks are usually considered among the safest places to be. A few murders and muggings in park units in DC seems like nothing when you consider the sheer scope of the problem in Washington and the fact that most people I know have been mugged at some time or other.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court may throw out DC's very strict gun laws. Most people in DC don't think that adding more guns to the streets would help the problem but only exacerbate it. When I was mugged for instance, it was by two people who did so before I could act. They would have had my gun in an instant. One reason people think that murders are actually lower than they otherwise might be is because a lot of the people who commit crimes here actually don't have guns.

For me, it's absurd to look at violence by simply looking at people as "criminals", which is not what people are. People commit crimes, but unless they are part of organized crime, they generally aren't inborn as criminals. Crime results from a lot of factors; one reason it occurs so infrequently in the parks is because those factors don't come into play much in parks.

On the other hand, as people know who read me, I have far larger systemic problems with the way that society is formed. I just question the premises that have produced this discussion.

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

The key observation here would be that Women tend to be the victims of these crimes and as a woman who travels alone or with my college age daughter I would feel more comfortable with my gun then without. I remember the 3 women (mom, daughter and daughter's freind) who were killed outside of Yosemite a number of years ago. Had any of them had a gun they might not have been raped and killed. The article does not show how often women are victims of other violent crimes in the park that do not result in murder. Urban parks are troubling for women since the parks have easy access by criminals from the city and seeing a woman alone or a group of women sleeping in tents it an opportunity for them.

Since we are a country set on equality we could not make a law that says just women can carry guns and not men we have to have one that covers both. I support guns being allowed in parks and maybe the violence against women may decrease.

Marie

This link takes you to an article in the L.A. Times. According to the article, "The National Park Service says there were 116,588 offenses in national parks in 2006, including 11 killings, 35 rapes or attempted rapes, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings and 261 aggravated assaults."

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-guns23feb23,0,1267373,full.story

Maybe this is not a very large number. Maybe you don't think that this small number justifies my right to carry a concealed weapon. But, though the odds are pretty small, how would you feel about YOU or your WIFE or your DAUGHTER being one of those small numbers of victims listed here?

I'll keep on carrying my pistol, thanks for your concern.

Not to comment on the merits of the ethical argument regarding protection, I want to reiterate that relative to places where people live (and many are happy to live) with gun laws that are just as strict as they are in the national parks, the numbers are very small. The amount of random crime is much smaller still (though those numbers aren't reflected here), and the demographics of the crime depend on the type of park (for instance, most park units in Washington, DC are National Park Service units - you could be accosted in Dupont Circle (an area in DC with a high rate of robberies, though otherwise very popular) - nothing more than a fountain and a lawn filled with benches surrounded by a traffic circle - and it would go into these NPS stats presumably.

In Washington, DC, a city with just under 600,000 people - (perhaps, triple or quadruple if you count the people who actually work there, but still far, far less than the visitors to NPS units),

This is only through November 2007 (in fact, the number of homicides for instance in Washington were 181; this number does not count suicides or other forms of death in the NPS stats)

171 homicides
294 Sexual Assaults
3,534 Robberies
3,065 Assault with a Deadly Weapon
3,500 Burglary
Theft 6,816
Theft from Auto 6,530
Stolen Auto 5,534
Arson 16

Now, that's a per capita difference that's huge, the gun laws are similar, and yet the numbers are vastly different. Changing gun laws is a red herring argument when it comes to crime in a place. And, perhaps, also protection. On the ideology of gun laws, on protecting oneself and one's loved ones, and the means, those are interesting arguments. But, strictly on the merits of quantity of crime and a correlation to gun regulations, there simply isn't one.

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

Snowbird06
Fred, I just hope that your a decent soul that uses good rational judgement if you have to use your (concealed) hand gun and not someone that is hot-headed with a quick temper. I see too many border-line misfits that are terribly hot headed (with the "outa my way" attitude) visiting the National parks today and basically should be in some kind of anger management class. Stresses in are society today are at the max: the economy, the housing crises, the medical care fiasco and the phony Bush war. How we cope with these issues on a daily basis as individuals is a matter how strong are thresh-hold for stress and pain is. Let's face it, some of us aren't going to make it (or just plain loose it mentally). In my estimation carrying a concealed weapon into the National Parks is NOT a good policy considering the stress mood of this nation. The National Parks are to unload and unpack are weak and weary minds and to leave the heavy metal at home. Who needs more NRA propaganda stress to buy more guns...and more guns...and more guns!!!

I like to think that I'm one of the level-headed guys you mentioned and not one of the stressed-out guys. I carry in case I encounter the one-in-a-million people who should be in that anger management class.

I repeat myself when I mention that these instances are incredibly small. But I wonder what you would say to YOUR daughter in the emergency room if she had been one of these victims; "Gee honey, there was only 35 rape victims in 2006, so I never carry a defensive weapon when we hike the back country". Sounds pretty thin to me.

I'm just trying to point out here that these aren't just numbers on a piece of paper. They represent people just like you and me. I just don't want to take that million-to-one chance that someone in my family might be a "number" on a piece of paper.

Snowbird06
Fred, your taking more of chance of being wiped out in a major car crash then the "million-to-one" chance of being a crime statistic in the National Parks.
Personally, I think the NRA plays on the fears and minds of the common folk (and perhaps create a bit of paranoia) to enhance the profits of the gun industry...and besides it's good for business! I'm sure Fred your probably cool as a cucumber with even temperament but I wouldn't worry to much if you left your hand gun (or get rid of it for good) at home. The odds do give us some welcoming relief that the National Parks are still relatively safe to visit.

Fred, I hear what you're saying regarding the rapes. Still, I would be curious to know the details and locations of those crimes.

How many were in the D.C. metro area? How many were in the backcountry? How many were "date rapes." How many involved women hiking alone by themselves?

Without the full details, I'm not sure we can make a complete judgment on exactly how safe the parks are...but I'd venture they're a lot safer than most parts of the country.

Good questions Kurt. Perhaps these stats are non-issues. But since I know that I am a responsible person, and I've received many hours of expensive training, received three separate FBI background checks, and purchased a quality conceal-carry handgun I'll continue to carry. But I will be responsible and safe. I only wish you and I could say that about everyone. Our Parks and our world would be better off.

Gentlemen,
I am a woman who camps alone or with my college age daughter and I agree with Fred. I have been all over the Southwest camping in a tent and sometimes I do not feel safe. There are long stretches of NV that are like Deliverence Territory. I carry a gun and I will continue to do so for the protection of myself and my daughter. Women are more the subject of violent crime then other men as we are seen as an easy target because we are not as strong. I remember what happen not only to those women outside of Yosemite but the young women who was hiking with her dog back east a few months ago and the guy attacked, raped and killed her. He cut off her head he hit her so hard. You would of thought her dog would have scared him off but it didn't. If she had a gun she might have been able to save herself. Please forgive me but you guys are thinking like guys put yourself in a woman's shoes and you would feel different.

Marie

Marie, I wouldn't say we're "thinking like guys."

My wife won't go out for a run by herself because she fears for her safety, and we live in a pretty darn safe area. I understand her fears, and I can understand the fears of a single woman or even two or three women out hiking in the backcountry. I certainly wasn't trying to minimize a woman's fears. Sadly, they're justified.

But I feel a lot more insecure walking the streets of New York or Washington or Philadelphia than I do the backcountry of a national park. I do think parks are different than national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. For one reason, most parks, unlike national forests and BLM lands, have specific entrances and exits and you have to pay to enter. I think that right there reduces the criminal element in a national park.

But as I said earlier, I'd like more information on crime in the national parks to get a better feel for how safe or dangerous they are. The statistics alone indicate they're safe, and I'd wager that a close examination of where the assaults and rapes occurred would indicate that, by and far, the majority of NPS units are incredibly safe.

I agree, the hot heads etc. are already carrying guns illegally. It is not the permitted weapon carriers that people need to worry about. It is the untold number of people that already carry them illegally. In most states where permits are allowed, brandishing the firearm irrationally is illegal anyway. Not many people that have a permit and carry do so for illegaly purposes. I carry mine for my family's protection. Changing the rules would allow this to be done legally.

I'm curious why we rarely see stories about how "law abiding" gun carrying individuals stepped forward and prevented a crime? If carrying guns prevents so many crimes, it just seems logical that we would see hundreds of stories of this nature. On the rare occasion that we do, it tends to be a Bernie Getz type. It's highly unlikely that any of the crimes listed in this story would have been prevented if the victim was carrying. I too remember the three women who were attacked and murdered OUTSIDE Yosemite. The key here is that they were, in fact, OUTSIDE of the park where guns were legal. Would have a gun saved them? Maybe. Would have pepper spray saved them? Maybe. Would have a taser saved them? Once again, maybe, maybe not. It's not like no one carrying a gun has ever been raped or murdered. When a criminal sneaks up behind you (or gets you in your sleeping bag) and sticks a knife to your throat or a gun to your ribs, all bets are off. One can certainly turn the argument around to crimes where the victim survived, and say: if they had tried to pull a gun, would have they been killed? Maybe. In any case, if this goes through, loaded guns will still be illegal in Yosemite because they are outlawed by the State of California in any park within the state.
Even in areas where carrying guns is legal, the vast majority of people do not carry. The same will be true in National Parks. Probably even to a greater degree, because your average park visitor is a family man with his wife and children on vacation. He wouldn't think of having a gun around his children. If anything, he may reconsider traveling to a park that allowed guns to be carried. There are much safer alternatives for self defense.
I propose that they do a survey of ACTUAL Park visitors. Hand out questionnaires at Park entrance stations across the country. Ask one question: "Do you believe that people should be allowed to carry loaded guns inside National Parks?" I believe that most ACTUAL PARK VISITORS will say "no".
Another alternative would be, if someone feels some overwhelming need to carry a loaded weapon they could stop at a ranger station and apply for a temporary carry permit? At least rangers would have some control.
Personally, I have hiked, backpacked, horseback ridden, camped, run rapids and just generally hung out in National Parks all of my life, from Canada to Mexico and from Washington to Texas, and I have never felt threatened or the need to have a gun. I currently spend over one hundred days a year in National Parks.
Sec. Kempthorne and the United States Senators supporting this should be ashamed of themselves. National Park employees both present and past (individuals who "lay it on the line" day in and day out for us) are pleading with them, literally begging them not to pass this measure. Shouldn't we listen? Shouldn't they listen?

You have to go out seven decimal places on a calculator to determine what percentage of Park visitors got killed in 2007.
I'll leave my guns at home and take my chances.

Millions of women live in big cities with high crime rates, yet they stay safe without resorting to carrying weapons or staying indoors all the time. You can carry pepper spray, an airhorn or mace. Firearms aren't needed.

Frank -
I'm sorry to say that you'll never see stories in the newspapers, etc. about firearms being used for defensive purposes. It just doesn't make "good story" and it's not "news". The media prefers to report bad news because it sells newspapers and increases viewership of news programs. There are many, many instances of firearms used to protect the lives of the innocent, but you won't hear them by watching the 6 o'clock news. Try doing an internet search of "defensive gun uses" and see what I mean. There are several hundred thousand defensive uses each year. But it's not "news".

If you really would like to read some of the actual reports check http://www.keepandbeararms.com/opsd/.

Fred, sending me to a pro-gun web site is kind of like me sending you to an anti-gun web site. Each will have tons of statistics that will "prove" each of our points. I do not believe that if a "law abiding citizen" stepped up and stopped a mass shooting such as the Nebraska shopping mall or one of the school shootings, or a bank robbery etc. that it would not make the news. Especially when we see stories about some kid donating money she raised selling lemonade to charity.
I know that some people have successfully defended themselves with a gun. I know that many have done so with pepper spray, mace or a taser. Many have been killed or injured trying to. Some have had their gun taken away from them and used in later crimes. Some have had their child get possession of their gun and shoot themselves or a playmate.
When this debate started, I decided to ask my friends and relatives. Mind you, I live in Montana where gun laws are pretty lax. I asked simply, "Do you carry a gun with you when you go out?" Some are hunters, many said that they have one or more guns in their homes, but not one said that they carry one for self defense.
This is all meaningless. What is really telling is the quote from Anonymous above, "You have to go out seven decimal places on a calculator to determine what percentage of Park visitors got killed in 2007."
I lived for awhile in Los Angeles. A place that I guarantee you is far more dangerous than Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. I never owned a gun, much less carried one; but I also tried to use common sense. There were certain areas of town that I avoided, especially at night. I would suggest that, if you find that National Parks are just too dangerous, that seven decimal places on the calculator is just more risk than you are willing to take, don't visit National Parks. Meantime, there are 273 million of us, who are willing to take our chances, and will continue to enjoy them.

As I understand it, there are certain National Parks in Alaska where carrying weapons is permitted. It would be interesting to learn whether there has been any abuse of the weapons-carrying privileges in those parks. Have people been murdered there? Have bears been unnecessarily killed there? Have any crimes been prevented by guns there? Or are they just too remote and have so few visitors that any stats from those parks don't correlate to the parks in the other 49 states.

For the same reason, I don't think one can use the stats from DC as reasons for carrying/not carrying a gun in a more typical national park.

The sad fact is that women traveling alone or in small groups or without men are vulnerable to sex crimes or worse. There are no phones, no doors to lock in a tent, no one around to hear cries for help. There is no way I would ever hike alone or with just one or two other women in remote areas in our national parks.

Haven't most of the victims of murder on the Appalachian Trail been women?

It would also be interesting to learn the gender stats on crime in the national parks.

I so hope that the law makers are really listening to those who have spent lived and worked in the many National parks . They have a wealth of experience behind their view points/observations/. I wonder within the stats reported how many incidents were between/involving indivuals who actually live and work within or near the National park area. Some destination /large parks have services within and in the community employing a large base of people . I simply think that the more guns people are encouraged to bring( and a kind of encouragement may occur simply as the product of this proposed law change...there seems to be a kind of fear promoting around why a change is needed) that there will be a higher probablity of tragic accidents...a shot out and about hits another person, children finding a gun in a tent, wildlife wounded by someone showing off. There are law abiding people who do careless things and/ or act with poor judgement. My take is that the increase of events will be primarly between one law abiding person and another law abiding person(s) . I worked many years in 3 large "destination" type parks, in the campgrounds and in the field .Some of those years involved commisioned Law enforcement positions.

Frank -

You're right, sending you a bunch of pro-gun stats is the same as you sending me a bunch of anti-gun stats. The website I listed was for the huge number of news stories you can read about the almost-daily occurrences of defensive gun use, not a bunch of stats. I read the hooey from the Brady site almost weekly. It would only be fair that you glance at some info from the "pro" side once in a while. You might be surprised.

kath,

My point was that there is no correlation between gun laws and crime statistics. That works both ways, whether they are strict or non-existent. I'm not arguing for gun restrictions in national parks. I'm arguing that the issue is a non-issue and that the two aren't connected.

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

The Dc gun control issue is about guns in your home. It has nothing to do with guns on the street.

I have to step in on one comment...."There is no correlation between gun laws and crime statistics". Compare homicide statistics between a U.S. city which has liberal gun laws, and ANY similar-sized Canadian city. Regardless of anyone's pro-or anti-gun stance, there should be recognition that "Guns kill people", and having easy access to 'high-powered guns made for the primary purpose of shooting other humans' IS going to result in more deaths.

Whether that is a price worth paying to uphold the 'right to bear arms' can be debated. What shouldn't be debated is there's a significant price which the U.S. is paying for this right. A comparison of the country to the north of us which takes a significantly different approach to guns/gun control provides sufficient empirical data to make such conclusions, and should be acknowledged equally regardless of one's stance on this issue.

The comparison, correct me if I'm wrong, between Canadian cities with liberal gun laws and a U.S. city with liberal gun laws is that in the U.S. the homicide rate is higher. If that's right, that's actually more evidence to my point because given the same set of gun restrictions, there are different crime rates. Therefore, the cause of the higher crime rates has to do with something else besides gun regulations (and also the lower crime rates). It argues against the correlation, not for it. That was actually part of Michael Moore's point in Bowling for Columbine. He wasn't arguing that the U.S. was more deadly because there were more guns; he argued that guns were dangerous in the hands of Americans because our society has been built from the beginning on a culture of fear. So, he supported gun regulations until the root cause could be addressed. In principle, though, it seems that the arguments about protection and prevention of violence through gun regulations (or lack thereof) miss the point of the underlying conditions that tend to produce violent crime.

This neither supports the NRA position or the gun control advocates in respect to this issue; for me, it suggests that some of the biggest reasons for supporting a change in regulations miss the point and are a red herring for an ideological argument that has nothing to do with what happens in the national parks. That is a necessary discussion to be having, but it doesn't need to be dressed up by legislative stunts (before we heard about the 47 Senators writing Kempthorne about this, this particular issue simply didn't ever come up - it really came out of left field, and what a firestorm it has caused).

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

For once an honest response, I'm not posting my name this time because I am probably over trained and over armed. I am going to be illegal in national parks until they the laws are changed. I travese the roads on the border states and experience smugglers. I avoid them, but you can only do so much. Big Bend Nat'l Park is ignored as a drug import area and yet you can drive across the border in some places. Wonder why I carry loaded weapons? This was edited to remove a superfluous derogatory comment aimed at others.

Good point, Anon. The same could be said for Organ Pipe Cactus. The cross-border human and drug smuggling is very bad there. It's a no-go park for the average traveler.

I'm with Anon and Kath. Some of the Parks I want to visit have backcountry so far "back" that they're probably not visited by Park Rangers more than once or twice per season. I might be illegal when I carry my gun, but i"m going to carry it.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is so dangerous that backcountry overnight camping is prohibited and certain roads are closed due to the danger from illegals and drug smugglers. They trample the rare plants and litter the park. It's more than a little odd that while environmentalists get very upset about snowmobiles destroying Yellowstone, no one ever mentions that hundreds of square miles of this national monument are effectively closed and being trashed by pollution from illegals.

Dear Anon, if you put your personal interest over the law, you are by definition not a responsible gun-owner. By every standard, including that of the NRA, your gun should be taken from you, if necessary by verdict and for life. And those who support him should start to think. If an area is unsafe without a personal weapon, don't go there and demand from the authorities that they resolve the issues. It's their job to keep the country safe.

Frank -

You said, "Ask one question: "Do you believe that people should be allowed to carry loaded guns inside National Parks?" I believe that most ACTUAL PARK VISITORS will say "no".

I was curious, so I counted the comments from this earlier post about guns in the Parks. There were 60 separate comments. Only 12 of those (20%) agreed with you and Kurt. Nine of those were from ONE responder (Snowbird). I get the impression that we would be told "YES" if we were to ask your question at the typical Park entrance, not "NO".

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2006/11/guns-parks-bad-idea

C'mon, Fred, using those comments to project an outcome is about as scientific as Sen. Coburn's "poll" on the question of concealed carry in the parks on his web site. I think it's fairly well-known how organized the NRA and its supporters are on these issues. As soon as I started posting about guns in the parks at least one gun rights site -- The High Road -- pointed its readers in my direction, as did another site that I can't immediately recall.

Valid point Kurt. I was just curious how the folks who visit this blog feel about the issue. I can't help but wonder how the comments will go during the 90-day period after the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is presented on April 30th. If 80% of the comments support carrying loaded guns in the Parks, what will that tell us?

It's not a poularity contest, but it is important to allow people a voice. I certainly wouldn't want folks to avoid the Parks simply because my Dad, my brother, and I were hiking in the backcountry of our beautiful National Parks.

Say, if traveling and choosing to camp amidst deep in the border parks with full knowledge of its danger...so be it..no one said you cant have that gun in your car. If you're back packing there you're probably nutts and you'll probably take a gun any way. So be it. Its likely a good issue to bring to light that the border parks are getting trashed from the illegal entry and/or drug smugglers. I hadnt been aware of such.Could be an issue gun talk has no bearing .......... I really believe Most National Park visitors that actually have a repeat camping, hiking, picnicing...national park experice would say NO, NO, NO for any change to existing law. I spent many years working and living in 3 major west and east coast parks/seashore. (many of those years in L.E. as well as working in campgrounds)

On the "Parks are safer than cities so you don't need guns." argument;
If that is true then drivers in rural areas don't need insurance because there are fewer fatalities - even on a per capita basis.

It also seems like every time I read about a mass shooting / crazed parent / gang shootout (no drugs in parks right?) / or run of the mill assault, the reporter will elicit a response similar to "We're just shocked that something like that could happen here, So-and-so always seemed so nice...".

Crime is not restricted to any particular class of people; not by race, religion, ethnicity or geography. How many grains of sand in a heap? How many murders in a "safe park"?

"Gun crime" (ever hear of knife crime or club crime?) is used by unscrupulous politicians in an effort to control other peoples' behavior and expand government's power in an effort to protect their jobs at the citizens' expense.

Criminals in parks or elsewhere will continue to be armed, even if just with fists, if they plan on raping a wayward hiker. Law-abiding citizens have the right to be armed in defense. This is not a privilege granted by the government, but in inalienable right recognized as such in the national and most states' constitutions.

The argument that law-abiding citizens will all become drunken, enraged murders if "allowed" to be armed has been dis-proven 44 times in the past 30 years or so. That's how many states allow concealed carry. And each time before the law was enacted the press wailed about the rivers of blood to follow. And they were wrong every time. The fact is law-abiding citizens don't turn murderous if they come in contact with a pound or two of steel in the shape of a gun, or a knife (kitchens must terrify some folks), or a club, etc.

It is not the governments job to limit the options of free people unless those people are proven guilty of a crime.

Carrying a handgun for self-defense is a major responsibility that I would not demand of anyone. However, for those of you who have accepted that responsibility and cause even a little caution in the criminal population, thank you.

Nicely said Jim. It is amazing to me that it is so incredibly difficult for some people to understand such a simple concept. Please continue voicing your opinion on this issue. You have a very good way with words.

NRA propaganda? Because the country is so "stressed" at the moment? Right, I'm sure people are thinking"Oh, I sure hope I'm not adding to the stressful situation present in the country when I use this handgun to defend myself against this robber/attempted rapist/physical assailant/rabid animal." If you're being attacked, the stress level in the country has just jumped anyway, because YOU'RE the one being attacked, and therefore STRESSED! Personally, I'd rather the bad guy be the one "stressed" from a gunshot wound, rather than myself from a knife in the heart or seeing a loved one killed in front of my eyes. But because the NPS has made their domain a place to "unload and unpack...leaving the heavy metal at home," guess who sees a bunch of easy pickings in a remote area, far from help?

In those places (indeed, in many places), you cannot count on police, park rangers, or even Good Samaritans. In those cases, YOU...are...IT!

As a woman who often camps and hikes with family and friends, I agree with you! As for those who use statistics to justify denying the right to use a firearm to protect ourselves in National Parks, I have to wonder if based on statistics, they would be willing to forgo carrying certain items when only planning to hike a short distance. For instance, no one I know will hike, even for a few hours, without carrying a lighter or matches, but I have never met anyone who was forced to use those things in an emergency situation. And the many people I know who carry firearms while hiking have never used them either. But that is not the point, is it?

Citizens can always count on wisdom and swift justice from Big Brother. Right? But, oh-by-the-way, some "public land" isn't safe for law abiding citizens because criminals are permitted to reign supreme. Still, it is against the law for law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed firearm in a National Park. Personal interest ahead of the law, you say? No. A right. Just as slaves always had the right to their lives, liberty, etc... In spite of the laws which denied them their freedoms.

Nicely said Hallie.

Frank - you indicated that you were puzzled why you didn't hear more stories about people legitimately using their firearms to defend themselves. Yet, when you were pointed to a reference for those stories you discount it. The stories that are cited all have references to reputable news organizations - it should not matter whether the site that accumulates those references is "pro gun" or "anti gun". I submit to you that everything is just a statistic until it happens to you.

Brad, Russia and Mexico are both countries that limit possession so severely that "normal" citizens are really not allowed to own them (much less carry concealed). Yet the murder rate for both of those countries is much higher that that of the US. Almost no Russian civilians own firearms, but the number of homicides is three to four times as high as in the US. The number of homicides in Mexico also seems to hang around 13-14/100K (5-6/100K in the US). If our neighbor to the north limits firearms and has a lower murder rate, what does that tell us about our neighbor to the south? Perhaps the answer is more beer, less guns, eh? Unfortunately I think that if people will continue to kill each other regardless of the tools that are available - if you take one away they'll find another.

Tim,

If you could cite the sources of your statistics that'd be helpful.

Here's a blurb from a story that ran last year in the Observer newspaper in Great Britain. It's a disturbing portrait of how others see us:


Guns, and the violence their possessors inflict, have never been more prevalent in America. Gun crime has risen steeply over the past three years. Despite the fact groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) consistently claim they are being victimised, there have probably never been so many guns or gun-owners in America - although no one can be sure, as no one keeps a reliable account. One federal study estimated there were 215 million guns, with about half of all US households owning one. Such a staggering number makes America's gun culture thoroughly mainstream.

An average of almost eight people aged under 19 are shot dead in America every day. In 2005 there were more than 14,000 gun murders in the US - with 400 of the victims children. There are 16,000 suicides by firearm and 650 fatal accidents in an average year. Since the killing of John F Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century.

Studies show that having a gun at home makes it six times more likely that an abused woman will be murdered. A gun in a US home is 22 times more likely to be used in an accidental shooting, a murder or a suicide than in self-defence against an attack. Yet despite those figures US gun culture is not retreating. It is growing.

And here are some statistics from the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence:


Gun Deaths and Injury - The United States Leads the World in Firearm Violence

• In 2004, 29,569 people in the United States died from firearm-related deaths – 11,624
(39%) of those were murdered; 16,750 (57%) were suicides; 649 (2.2%) were accidents;
and in 235 (.8%) the intent was unknown. [5] In comparison, 33,651 Americans were
killed in the Korean War and 58,193 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War.[6]

• For every firearm fatality in the United States in 2005, there were estimated to be more
than two non-fatal firearm injuries.[7]

• In 2004, firearms were used to murder 56 people in Australia, 184 people in Canada, 73
people in England and Wales, 5 people in New Zealand, and 37 people in Sweden.[8] In
comparison, firearms were used tomurder 11,344 people in the United States.[9]

• In 2005, there were only 143 justifiable homicides by private citizens using handguns in
the United States.[10]

You can find the entire report here.

Frank wrote: This is all meaningless. What is really telling is the quote from Anonymous above, "You have to go out seven decimal places on a calculator to determine what percentage of Park visitors got killed in 2007."

Actually, it's not telling at all, not in the least place because neither Anon nor you cited any kind of figures to provide a frame of reference. You mention Los Angeles as a comparatively dangerous place, so let's look at that.

In 2006, 1,012 reported homicides occurred in Los Angeles County; the California state government's population bureau estimated the resident population of the county to be ~10.3 million as of 01-Jan-2007. Going by these figures alone, you would (to paraphrase Anonymous) "have to go out four decimal places on a calculator to determine what percentage of Los Angeles County residents got killed [i.e. were victims of homicide on Park grounds] in 2006." But that's not a fair comparison, because we're only looking at the resident population, and not counting visitors to LA County. According to LA Inc., there were 25.4 million "overnight visitors" to LA County in 2006. If you add up the residents and the "overnight visitors," you "have to go out five decimal places."

However, LA Inc. arrives at its number of "overnight visitors" by counting hotel stays. The figure therefore does not take into account "overnight visitors" who stayed with friends or family, and more importantly, it does not take into account residents of neighboring counties (Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino, Ventura) who visited Los Angeles County to work, shop, visit a museum, go to dinner or what have you, and then go home at the end of the day or evening. And to make an adequate comparison with "Park visitors," you almost certainly have to count that sort of visitor to LA County as well. In fact, in the case of "day trippers" from neighboring counties, you may have to count them multiple times, i.e. for every time that they set foot in LA County. Commuters in particualr wouldreally ratchet up the number of "visitors," as they would typically "visit" up to 250 times a year! See, I strongly suspect that when the NPS claims there were 273 million "visitors" to National Parks in 2006, they really mean visits; in website terms, they're counting "page hits" rather than "unique visitors." By which I mean that if a single individual visits five different National Parks in a given year (or visits one Park five times), that one visitor will counted five times in the NPS's statistics. I don't believe that the NPS has the means (nor the inclination) to gather and process the information required to differentiate between five people making one visit and one person making five visits. Think about it; 273 million people is over 90% of the US population. Sure, those visitors include non-US residents, but if we look at the LA County visitor statistics, we see that "international visitors" comprised between 1/5 and 1/6 of "overnight visitors." Even if, for the sake of the argument, we assume that 1/5 of visitors to National Parks in 2006 were non-US citizens resident outside the US, do you think it's credible that over 70% (4/5 * 90% = 72%) of the US population made one or more visits to a National Park in that year? Personally, I'd be highly surprised if that were the case.

The long and short of it is that while one might "have to go out seven decimal places on a calculator to determine what percentage of Park visitors got killed [i.e. were victims of homicide on Park grounds] in 2006," it is not inconceivable that that same statement might be equally applicable to the entire population of residents and visitors to LA County, especially if commuters, diners, club-goers, etc. from neighboring counties are counted as a "visitor" every time they enter LA County.

How about we try approaching the comparison from the other direction? Typically, violent crime rates are calculated by number of incidents per 100,000 head of the resident population. The LA County homicide rate for 2006, based on 1,012 reported incidents in a resident population of ~10.3 million would have been ~10.2. Problem is, the National Parks system doesn't have a resident human population, or at least, not one that bears any relationship to the number of people in the National Parks system at any given time. But at least we can make some approximation as to how many people are present, on average, in National Parks on any given day, which gives us something that resembles a resident population. Taking that 273 million visits figure and dividing it by 365, we can conclude that the average daily population of the National Parks is ~747,945. There were 9 cases of murder/manslaughter that occurred in National Parks in 2006, so (9 / 747,945) x 100,000 gives us a homcide rate per 100,000 head of the population of 1.2. That's significantly lower than the LA County homicide rate, but many rural areas of the US probably don't have significantly higher homicide rates on average (I say "on average" because in a county with a population of 50,000, say, the difference between a homicide rate of 0.0 and one of 2.0 for a given year is literally a single homicide).

Comparisons of the United States to other countries in terms of "gun crime" or "gun violence" serve only one purpose, and that's to obscure the issue. Gun control measures are never sold to the public on the premise that they will only reduce "gun crime," the claim is that they will reduce violent crime overall. If gun control measures lead to fewer people being shot, but stabbings, beatings, stranglings, etc. increase to the point that the violent crime rate doesn't actually change (a process known as "method substitution"), you haven't made anyone any safer. Because of this, groups like the Brady Campaign and the VPC almost invariably employ "bait and switch" tactics, where they claim prior to its implementation that a gun control measure will reduce overall violent crime, and revert to waffling about reductions in "gun violence" to cover up the fact that the reduction in violent crime subsequently failed to occur due to method substitution. Apparently, the Bradys, the VPC cum suis think it's worse to die by shooting than by beating, stabbing, strangling, etc.

The fact is that, aside from the homicide rate, the United States is not a particularly violent country. The 2000 International Crime Victims Survey studied 17 industrialized countries; in victimization levels for "selected contact crimes" (robbery, sexual assault, and assault with force; see figure 5 on page 33 of this document) the United States came fifth last. The victimization rates in the UK and Canada were almost double those of the United States.

The US does have a remarkably high homicide rate compared to western European countries (though not compared to any country in the former Soviet Union, including those that are now members of the European Union), but it's overly simplistic to blame this on availablility of firearms alone. The American non-gun homicide rate is higher than Japan's overall homcide rate, for example, so even if you could eradicate all gun homcides and no method substitution occurred, Americans would still kill each other more often than the Japanese. Clearly, there are other factors at work here than firearm availability alone.

That Observer article is an prime example of lazy reporting. The writer pretty much parrots the standard list of talking points put out by the Brady Bunch and the VPC without any effort to cast a skeptical eye over their claims. Included in the "almost eight people aged under 19 [who] are shot dead in America every day" are teenage members of inner-city gangs killed in turf wars and the like. There are indeed some 16,000 gun suicides in the United states every year, and indeed guns are the leading method of suicide in the US, but the American suicide rate is lower than that of many countries that have tighter gun laws. According to the most recent data available from the WHO, the Japanese suicide rate (24.0 per 100,000 in 2004) is more than double the American one (11.0 in 2002), in spite of Japanese gun laws being some of the most stringent in the world. Most of Europe has a higher suicide rate than the US, tighter gun laws notwithstanding. Evidently, people intent on suicide will find a way.

The "22 times as likely" figure comes from a study by Arthur Kellermann, who has produced a series of studies all of which indicate that privately owned firearms are supposedly a public health hazard. Kellermann first gained attention with a similar study that purported to show that a gun kept for self-defense was 43 times as likely to be used to kill a household member than an intruder. After Kellemann's methodology was thoroughly shredded by various criminologists and statisticians, he insulated his subsequent studies from critique by refusing to make his research data available to anyone. In other words, nobody has been able to find fault with his "22 times as likely" finding because he hasn't let them look. However, this is scientifically unsound behavior. The key to demonstrating research to be scientifically sound is replicability; other researchers, applying the same protocol, have to produce similar findings. At the very least, a study has to be reviewed by other scientists to weed out any obvious faults in the methodology and interpretation of the data.

As for the Observer article presenting "a disturbing portrait of how others see us," I'll say this: I'm Dutch by birth (American by naturalization) and I've spent a fair chunk of my life living in the UK and alongside British elsewhere, and been exposed to British print and broadcast media. In my experience, the British as a collective have never gotten over the fact that they no longer "top nation," and resent the United States for having stepped up to that spot. As a result, no British media outlet will ever pass up an opportunity to get in a dig at the United States, especially when it draws away attention from the British' own shortcomings. In spite of their stringent gun control laws, violent crime has risen dramatically in the past twelve years, including gun crime, but rather than admit that maybe theyve taken the wrong approach, they console themselves that it's so much worse in the US (which actually it's not, see the point regarding violent crime rates I made earlier).

You know what's remarkable about the number the number of guns (and gun owners) in the US? That given how many of them there are, so very few of them are misused. According to the 2000 Census, there 105,480,101 households in America. Between 35 and 50% of these are estimated to contain one or more firearms, so that lower end of the estimate that's ~37 million gun-owning households. At the rate of gun deaths of 2004, it would take over 1,250 years for one person from each current firearm-owning household to fatally shoot someone; it would take over 3,000 years for each of those those people to fatally shoot someone other than themselves. Kind of creates an interesting perspective on how greatly at risk you are from your gun-owning fellow citizens, doesn't it?

tim wrote: Almost no Russian civilians own firearms [...]

Correction: almost no Russian civilians own firearms legally. With the various brush-fire wars that accompanied the break-up of the former Soviet Union, there are plenty of illegal firearms knocking around the Russian Federation (not to mention the other former Soviet republics), especially in more unstable areas like the northern Caucasus.

A lot of the posters on this subject are members of the "Flat Earth Society" when it comes to guns.

You don't have to wonder what will happen if civilians are allowed to carry guns in national parks. There is literally about 20 years of data in every part of the country to show what happens when civilians are allowed to carry guns in public.

There are 48 states in the US that have some version of concealed carry laws. Currently only Illinois and Wisconsin have no version of concealed carry at all.

Of those 48, around 32 or so are "shall issue" states, meaning that if you meet the minimum requirements for a permit, the state "shall" issue you a permit to carry, not might, not maybe, not perhaps, but shall.

My own state of Arkansas has had concealed carry for 13 years. It's been a total and complete success. Concealed carry permit holders typically do not commit crimes or random acts of violence.

A few years ago, an anti-gun group tried to create some buzz by showing how many Texas concealed carry permit holders had been arrested. Not convicted, but arrested....too many parking tickets will result in arrest.

A week later, a Texas pro-gun group released its own press statement proving that Texas concealed carry permit holders were getting arrested at a rate less than half that at which Texas law enforcement officers were getting arrested.

In Texas, concealed carry permit holders are more law-abiding than the cops.

In most states, concealed carry permit holders are trained, finger-printed, background-checked, and pay all sorts of fees before they get their permits.

They don't cause problems.

They do have the chance to save their own lives, or the lives of those with them.

Mr. Frank N.Law

Pick up a copy of "The American Rifleman". Within the first 10 pages of EVERY issue there is column called "The Armed Citizen". It is comprised of 4 or more clippings from newspapers around the nation every month reporting about just such Law Abiding people that you seem to believe are imaginary. The articles are not old or "re-used" but new every issue with the date and the source news organization printed at the bottom of each one. Here is a link to a sight that will give you an example: http://www.nrapublications.org/ac/Index.html. Of course a dyed in the wool Hoplophobe like yourself will probably continue to find fault with citizens who choose to exercise their 2nd Amendment Right and use YOUR First Amendment right to tell everyone about it! Oh, bye the way, my late father was a Minnesota Department of Resources District Forest Ranger in northern Minnesota from six months after I was Born in 1959 right up until he retired and, against all the proscribed rules, ALWAYS carried a Colt Model 1911 in his day pack. Why? Was he afraid of "bad guys"? No. But he had run-ins with bears, wolves, rabid badgers, and even rutting bull moose (more than once, I might add)! You don't run off a bull moose in rut by yelling "BOO". So I hope you continue to enjoy your many days in the wilderness without event but I know that treks into the woods don't always go the way man plans.

I think your all missing the point, while I agree that parks are relativity safe and one probably has more to worry about from some drug or alcohol induced person than being eaten by Smokey the bear both are possibilities. Lawfully armed citizens in the home and on the streets prevent, stop or help aprehend thousands of criminals a year. On average over three thousand a year. You are not aware of them because the media in general does not want you to be and you don't bother investigating it for yourself, probably because it's facts you don't want to know. As the government institutions are to be by the people and for the people the same government institutions should not limit or infringe the constitutional rights as outlined in the second amendment to bear arms. In keeping with the framers intent National Parks or Wildlife Refuges should allow citizens to protect themselves to the extent necessary to protect and perserve life if needed. It is not possible to prevent the loss of or protect life from harm in certain circumstances without the aid of a lawfully carried firearm. If you want to take the your chances and be a victim that's your right to end up in bear scat or with your head banged in while your money is fueling someones drug habit but for those of us who believe in the constitution and understand how to use a firearm I'll take the chances that carrying one while an inconvience may be the difference in you or me living to see another day, and seeing the kids or grandkids growing up. Not many decades ago kids as young as 8 years old took guns to school to hopefully acquire something to eat on the way home, if kids understand guns and know their purpose there is no danger. There were no kids killing each other just because they had the ability, the problem is our society and it's moral decay not guns. Guns are not the problem people are, when they don't have a gun they use a knife, or a rock, or a bat or a hammer or whatever, less than 50% of murderers use a firearm, if guns did not exist the murder rate would not change much, just the method, guns are a tool and like any other can serve for evil as well as good. You have no chance if you meet a grizzly who is intent on eating you (probably only a 50% chance if you have a gun) and probably about the same chance if a a couple of drug fueled guys with a knife want to kill you and you have no weapon. There are over 30k murders a year in the US, its foolishness to be concerned with lawfull citizens carrying firearms, worry about the criminals intent on doing harm who will have a gun anywhere, anyplace, anytime they want, it only makes them bolder to know their victims are not allowed to have one, they don't care about the law or your life. In 2006 FBI statistics there were; 17K+ murders, 92K+ rapes, 447K+ robberies, 860K+ assults, 2.18M+ burglaries in the Unided States. Washington DC is the fourth most dangerous large city in the US 14th overall, 80% of the murders are comitted in metropolitian areas. All of that is irrelevant, bottom line, it's our constitutional right, we live in America, you can chose not to carry and take your chances just don't chose for me. Our nation was founded on the principles of liberty we are the most free and properus nation on earth better to ask why that's a problem and why some want to change that.

".....against all the proscribed rules, ALWAYS carried a Colt Model 1911 in his day pack."
".....I might be illegal when I carry my gun, but i"m going to carry it."
".....I am going to be illegal in national parks until they the laws are changed."
So much for the highly touted "law abiding citizens should have the right...blah, blah, blah!" By their own admissions these individuals are not "law abiding citizens".
Personally I don't like guns. I wish that they did not exist. If they did not, there would be zero gun related deaths or injuries; I don't think that anyone can argue with that. However, they do exist, and I am not arguing against anyone's second amendment "rights". Nor am I arguing for the abolition of guns. I have no problem with my next door neighbor owning several hunting rifles, or a store manager carrying a gun while transporting money (even though, as a store manager for several years, I transported 30 to fifty thousand dollars in cash and checks daily without one); nor do I have a problem with someone owning a gun for self protection in their home (though, once again, I think it's a bad idea with children around....just my PERSONAL opinion, not to be forced on anyone else). There will ALWAYS be, however, certain places where guns are inappropriate. As gun happy as the current Supreme Court is, for example, I sincerely doubt that any of the Justices would care to see lawyers and defendants packing heat in that august institution. The same is true for other courts and government buildings (I wonder if we will see metal detectors go up at park visitor centers?) Schools are another example. Even though some would argue that, if students and faculty were allowed to carry guns, Columbine or Virginia Tech could have been stopped; I really do not believe that the majority of parents in this country want our schools turning into shooting galleries; especially as unstable as your average teenager is: "What do you mean you are breaking up with me?!" BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!! Nor do I believe that teachers became teachers because they wanted to be police officers. Surprise attacks by sick individuals who are ready to die are never going to be stopped by, I don't care how many, terrified people pulling guns and blasting away themselves. If anything armed, professional security people or metal detectors are a far better answer. The bottom line is in the statistics in the article above: "During 2006, when 273 million visitors toured the parks, 11 deaths were investigated across the system." There simply is no need to change this law (and I don't give a darn how many of those visitors were repeat, that's still a ton of people!)
"So I hope you continue to enjoy your many days in the wilderness without event but I know that treks into the woods don't always go the way man plans." Thanks, Doc. I intend to. I do it by being smart. By being cautious. By always knowing where I am and by always paying attention. I do it by making plenty of noise where viability is poor, and by not thrashing through the willows during the fall rut! I do it by attuning each one of my senses to the environment around me....good advice in the city or the mountains. A fellow that I respect very much once told me that bear spray is a two edged sword. On the one hand it can save your life (proven more effective against attacking bears than guns BTW), but on the other, people tend to carry their bear spray and leave their common sense in the car. I'd rather they did the opposite, he'd say. That's how I feel about guns in National Parks. I'd rather carry my common sense than a false sense of security strapped to my shoulder.
My Daddy used to always tell us kids, "You can spend your life worrying about what MIGHT happen, or you can just spend your life LIVING!" I prefer to do the later.

Point to ponder about a "gun-free" utopia: In 87% of rape cases, the assailant is UNARMED. The only protection the victim has is to kick and scream. I'm buying my wife a gun for Christmas. Don't tell her; it's a surprise!