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Former National Park Service Directors Urge Interior Secretary To Keep Guns Out of Parks


Seven former National Park Service directors have written Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne with a request that he not change current gun regulations in the national park system.

If you were Interior secretary, how would you respond if seven former National Park Service directors lobbied you on an issue? In the case at hand, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is being urged not to allow national park visitors to carry weapons.

The seven former directors today sent a letter (attached below) to Secretary Kempthorne in which they argue that the current regulations, which allow guns to be transported through parks if they're unloaded and stowed out of reach, are reasonable and should be continued.

The National Rifle Association disagrees, and has succeeded in getting the Interior secretary to rethink those regulations, which, somewhat ironically, were adopted by the Reagan administration. A much earlier version of the regulation was established in 1936 to prevent the poaching of wildlife, and was included in the Park Service’s first general regulations adopted after the creation of the agency in 1916.

"Informing visitors as they enter a park that their guns must be unloaded and stowed away puts them on notice that they are entering a special place where wildlife are protected and the environment is respected both for the visitor’s enjoyment and the enjoyment of others," reads the former directors' letter. "While most gun owners are indeed law-abiding citizens, failure to comply with this minimal requirement can be a signal to rangers that something is wrong. Removing that simple point of reference would seriously impair park rangers’ ability to protect people and resources, and if necessary manage crowds.

Signing the letter were former NPS directors Ronald Walker (1973-75), Gary Everhardt (1975-1977), George Hartzog (1964-1972), James Ridenour (1989-1993), Roger Kennedy (1993-1997), Robert Stanton (1997-2001), and Fran Mainella (2001-2006).

A similar position already has been voiced by the National Parks Conservation Association, the Association of National Park Rangers, the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Former Director Mainella, who served during the early years of the current Bush administration, believes "it is critical to leave the current regulations in place if we want the best protection for our resources, visitors, employees and volunteers."

In November, current Park Service Director Mary Bomar told U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, that she believes the current regulations "provide necessary and consistent enforcement parameters throughout the national park system."

In December of 2007 and then again in February of 2008, Secretary Kempthorne received two separate letters orchestrated by the NRA and signed by multiple U.S. senators asking that he re-open the firearm regulations for national parks and national refuges and allow for state firearms laws to be applied instead. The letters misstate current law, erroneously stating that firearms are prohibited in national parks. As a follow-up to the senators’ letter to Secretary Kempthorne, Senator Tom Coburn, R-OK, filed an amendment and later introduced a freestanding bill that would prevent the Secretary from enforcing current firearm regulations for the parks.

“Our national parks are some of the safest places in the world-in fact, the probability of becoming a victim of a violent crime in a national park is less than being struck by lightening during one’s lifetime,” said Bryan Faehner, former park ranger and legislative representative for the NPCA. “NRA politicking must not be allowed to trump the limited and reasonable regulations that have proven effective against combating poaching and keeping our parks safe for families.”


Distorting my comments is one thing, but at least please quote me correctly: "equating an individual right to arms [not tyranny] with mob justice" is my exact phrase. And that's exactly what you did when you asked the rhetorical question, "Or are you suggesting we return to the days when the lynch mob and the posse were the lawkeepers in this country?"

Attempting to apply a 17th century set of values and regulations to a 21st century dysfunctional society is an exercise in futility. The thought processes that were involved in the basis for the Bill of Rights were derived from a repressive and expansionistic model of world domination...

Here you state that we cannot apply 17th century (although, again, it's 18th century) values encapsulated in the Bill of Rights to today. I gave some examples of the modern relevance of the Bill of Rights. I suggest that you stop lecturing on tangential topics and stick to the discussion at hand.

Another brief history lesson. The Nazi Party was in existence prior to Adolf Hitler being elected Chairman. One tends to equate the Nazis with Hitler, but in actuality, he was nothing more than a catalyst, giving the people what they wanted, and in many cases, what they needed after suffering though their own trials and tribulations post-WWI. He was a strong personality, a nut-case promising all the right things to a country ripe for the picking. Don't blame the Nazi Party for Hitler's nuances and paranoid ranting. We've had our share of "strong personalities" elected to high office as well, who were also responsible for killing tens or hundreds of thousands for the sake of the "expansionistic" good of the nation.

The internment camps I have no problem with at all. Not being able to tell your friends from your enemies in times of war leads to uncomfortable situations, but that's war my friend. The biggest problem today with conducting wars is the idealistic, romanticized notion that wars can be fought cleanly, with only the "bad guys" being killed, wounded, maimed, etc. The whole notion of war is to inflict tremendous, unbearable casualties on your enemies, such that they lose the will to continue. That's how wars are, and always have been, won. This BS about fighting "clean" wars is why Viet Nam and Iraq are the debacle that they were / are. The landscape has changed, and as long as your enemies are willing to use civilians as combatants, you have two choices. 1) Kill them too. 2) Have them kill you first. The sooner we understand that, the better off we'll all be, and the sooner we can come to grips with the "modern" methods of war. Wars aren't meant to be pretty. They're meant to be avoided at all costs, a last resort in conflict resolution. And they should remain as ugly as possible.

And just where do I say that everyone should turn in their weapons? But by the same token, most pro-gun replies to the various threads on this topic admit to willingly breaking the law to carry their guns into areas where they already know guns are banned, just in case. And the most commonly quoted reason is so that they can protect me and my family in case we're attacked in the remotest backcountry, miles from civilization and professional assistance, and won't I be glad when the cavalry arrives. What the hell sense does that make? What are the odds in both being attacked, and having one of you handy when it occurs? As the saying goes, "We have met the enemy, and we are them".

And by the way, it wasn't I who "equated tyranny with mob justice". Since a number of you like to produce quotes that allege to support your views, I wish that you would read a bit more of those who hold opposing viewpoints, from the same time period you like to throw in with your "moral high ground". I'll paraphrase the quote that applies to the above reference for you, and save you some time doing research that is obviously distasteful to you:

"I fear that bestowing these same liberties upon a society that does not maintain its moral compass is nothing short of accelerating the processes of political tyranny and social discourse. If we, in our future, strive not to maintain a level of honesty and decency amongst all of our citizenry, but put forth the good of the individual above the common good, then all we have worked so hard to establish will be dashed into the furnace of hell, and history will comment most unkindly upon this experiment in freedom which we call the United States of America".

From another one of the Founding Fathers.......a statesman, NOT a politician. An ambassador of good-will, intellectual, scientist, inventor, and keen observer of nature, both flora and fauna. From one who could see both sides of a situation, and draw meaningful conclusions prior to the inevitable. One who knew the true nature of man, and was disturbed by those tendencies. I'll leave his name to your intelligence.

By the way Fred, the nation has been in chaos for decades. Our refusal to grant civil liberties to ALL, and not limiting them to males of the WASP persuasion was the initial driving force, NOT gun laws. Just another quick history lesson. And our insistence on maintaining our "historical place" as the world's melting pot is doing more currently to stir the pot than anything else. You cannot have both internal security in this 21st C world model and the freedoms that have been granted in certain amendments to the Constitution. The time is rapidly approaching to choose which is more important, life or liberty.

And you're right ranger. NOT ONE of those original set of conditions outlined above applies to this society. Maybe you should reread and stick with the specific set of circumstances outlines instead of drawing broad-based conclusions. I make no reference to "due process", which in our judicial system is a joke, or "right of assembly", which is still regulated by politics and riot police, and is again, a joke (ask any pro-lifer or civil rights activist), nor do I make direct comments pertaining to what we all enjoy within the scope of today's electronic media, limited freedom of speech, which in spite of it's implications, still has editors and is subject to censorship depending on the political muses of those managing any given site, paper, journal, periodical, etc. Those are the realities of the world in which we live. For all of your "guaranteed rights", your leash is still quite short.

Ranger Tyler -

Thanks for taking the time to address this issue in such a intellectual manner. I totally agree with you. If people don't like what the 2nd amendment says, they should look at changing it or repealing it. To ignore it or violate it is what is leading our great nation into chaos.

Lone Hiker: You've gone down the slippery slope of equating an individual right to arms with mob justice.

"NOT ONE of those original conditions exist in modern society."

If that's the case, then you should work to amend the Constitution. Ignoring it tends to land us in trouble (think Japanese Internment during WWII, invading Iraq without a formal declaration of war, spying on US citizens without a warrant, etc.).

"Attempting to apply a 17th century set of values and regulations to a 21st century dysfunctional society is an exercise in futility."

Actually, they were late-18th century values, but leaving that aside, your point seems to be that the Bill of Rights has no relevance today. I find it hard to believe that we cannot apply the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly, etc. to modern circumstances. I find it hard to believe that Due Process has lost its relevance. I find it hard to believe that we can't apply the idea of being free from self-recrimination to today's society.

The Founders included the Second Amendment to protect citizens against the tyranny of government.

Consider: The Nazi party banned weapon possessions by Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other populations. Why? An unarmed populace could be more easily "managed".

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. --Adolph Hitler

We are in danger of forgetting that the Bill of Rights reflects experience with police excesses. It is not only under Nazi rule that police excesses are inimical to freedom. It is easy to make light of insistence on scrupulous regard for the safeguards of civil liberties when invoked on behalf of the unworthy. It is too easy. History bears testimony that by such disregard are the rights of liberty extinguished, heedlessly at first, then stealthily, and brazenly in the end. --Justice Felix Frankfurter

Given the current Executive Branch's power grab, given the genocide in Darfur and other places around the world, given the rabid anti-immigration sentiment in our country, given the civil rights violations that continue throughout the world, given police excesses across the country, it seems that the Second Amendment--including the Founders' thoughts and statements about it--is more relevant than ever.

This same set of quotations you would like me to expound upon has been posted previously within the confines of this site. Attempting to apply a 17th century set of values and regulations to a 21st century dysfunctional society is an exercise in futility. The thought processes that were involved in the basis for the Bill of Rights were derived from a repressive and expansionistic model of world domination that was the English, French and Spanish "standard way of doing business" in the 14th thru 18th centuries, a model not unique but rather stolen, or copied from the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Mongols, Ethiopians, Moors, and countless other power-hungry societies throughout the course of recorded history, and no doubt in prior times as well. In the initial stages of the United States political (and social) framework being outlined, certain freedoms that the Founding Fathers believed were being withheld from the masses for purposes of subjugation under various European monarchy were deemed required by our country in order to found "a more perfect union", that being one of equality across all barriers, with no one man or sect (i.e., elitist minority, as in king, lord, military junta etc.) holding dominion over the masses, hopefully eliminating or at the very least, severely disabling the prospects of such wannabe "rulers" to mold a society in their own image, thereby again, assisting to ensure the equality of all citizens.

During this period in our history, there was also a notable lack of internal security against both foreign and domestic threats to our nation's sovereignty. The newly founded nation possessed no formal defense in terms of military or naval capabilities, nor any manner of internal keepers of the peace (e.g., National Guard, police,, which the "world powers" used as their primary means to foster their particular brand of expansionism throughout the known and expanding world. It was reasoned that if your little corner of the world was not previously laid claim to by one of the existing super-powers, you were fair game to be "claimed" by the first idiot that was able to hoist their nation's flag on your soil. From that instant, and nobody cared what your opinion was, or what your history was, or what your political or religious methods were, or how well developed or advanced a society you possessed, you automatically became subjects of whatever Queen of This or King of That was represented by the banner affixed to your shores. Bow down and pay up, or die. Sound suspiciously like the current US governmental system, doesn't it?

The political, religious, and other personal freedoms that were endowed upon the initial citizens of this country were bestowed for two reasons. First to instill loyalty and a sense of "oneness" amoungst the new inhabitants, to show that a new beginning has been achieved by those willing to risk the hardships of life on the new frontier. Second was more to ensure that these citizens possessed the ability to function as both care-takers AND defenders of their new homeland. (Hummm, HomeLand Security, what a concept!) Empowering those most able was not just an empty exercise in "bestowing freedom", it was an absolute necessity. A major contributor to the success of the Continental Army were both new tactics (the old hit and run method learned from the Native Americans) and the ability to field a quickly mobilized "army" from the masses of blacksmiths, farmers, trappers, traders and any other with something to contribute to the war effort, from specialized skills in making weapon, owners of boats, horses and wagons, seamstresses, plus, and maybe most notably, enlisting the assistance of the "locals" who best knew the topography of the new land.

Fast forward to modern times. NOT ONE of those original conditions exist in modern society. For better or worse, our military is quite well funded and equipped to handle both domestic and international disputes concerning our "national security", whatever that hell that means. (Actually, it means whatever those in power need it to mean at any given instant, just to keep us guessing and in the dark, which is where politicians need us to be kept.) We now also have well-developed state and national peace-keepers, and at least at the state level, they are not beholden to the federal officials. Of course, we are also stuck with our FBI and CIA, amoung other lesser-known acronyms that "assist" in keeping the peace, both internally and externally. We are also blessed with both a National and Coast Guard contingent, who are far more trust-worthy internally than certain other law enforcement agencies and political groups, such as the Democratic Party and the GOP. As the complexity of our society has evolved, so also has the requirements of those with whom we entrust to enforce the laws. It wasn't optional, it was and still is an absolute requirement of civilized society. Or are you suggesting we return to the days when the lynch mob and the posse were the lawkeepers in this country?

As an aside, the above "documentary" is not one man's opinion. I suggest you, and any who would prefer a lynch mob find me, study IN DETAIL both Western Civilization pre and post-1500, and take an in-depth look at US History from it's inception thru the 20th C. I have not put forth any new or radical concepts in this most abbreviated outline of our nation and societal development. But maybe the oldest notions of mankind are true......."if you can't outwit your enemies, you're bound to be subjugated by them". I'll leave it to you to find the author of that quote, since you all seem rather adept at that type of thing.

Since you fancy yourself a scholar of political verbage. Maybe you can interpret the following for us, and tell us how the founding fathers really were trying to say that we didn't have the right to carry guns individually: (Good Luck)

*First, Thomas Jefferson: No Freeman shall ever be disbarred from the use of arms.
*Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion in private self-defense, John Adams.
*The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed with Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, where the Government are afraid to trust their people with arms, James Madison.
*Arms discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world as well as property. Horrid mischief would ensue if the law-abiding were deprived the use of private arms, Thomas Payne.
*Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined, nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants. They serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides from an unarmed man, may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man, Thomas Jefferson.
*A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves. They include all men capable of bearing arms. To preserve liberty is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms and be taught alike how to use them, Richard Henry Lee.
*The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms, Samuel Adams.
*I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them, George Mason.

Your constant quibbling over the verbiage in the 2nd Amendment is taking nit-picking to new extremes. First, nobody want to admit that the statement regarding forming a well-regulated militia being necessary to the defense of our nation even exists. Second, the text of the amendment states that you can indeed own firearms to support said militia and its operations in defense of the nation. Nowhere does the amendment guarantee your "rights" to carry said firearms anywhere you damn well please. The amendment requires little change. The real change is relegated to those who try and interpret law, religion, history and countless other nuances of man for their own benefit. Try considering the "good of the whole" instead of your personal freedoms. As stated too many times to mention within this site, your freedom of speech is limited so as to not cause undue harm to others, and to encourage thought processes to proceed verbal outbursts that might be dangerous in a given set of circumstances. The rights of those who CHOOSE to smoke are being pared away in state after state. You also may CHOOSE to own weapons, but you do NOT have the "right" to do with them as you please. To do such would be purposefully ignoring your responsibility as a gun-owner. If you feel such a need, or desire to constantly have your little friend strapped to your thigh, why not join today's militia, the National Guard? They would welcome you with open "arms"!

By the way, I am proudly neither a Liberal Loser NOR a Conservative Crybaby. You should distance yourselves from said political affiliations and try to see the world, the ENTIRE world, without the Labels of Limited Intelligence.

I suggest that Ranger Tyler, if he doesn't like the ANPR take on guns, present himself as a candidate for a leadership position in the organization. He is making the same argument that others make when they say if you don't want guns in parks, amend the second amendment. Give me a break.

Rick Smith

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