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Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks


Interior Department officials on Tuesday published in the Federal Register a proposed regulation that would allow national park visitors to carry concealed weapons.

Moving at a politically expedient speed, Interior Department officials are proposing to allow national park visitors to carry concealed weapons with them.

Whereas the National Park Service has been dragging its feet on endorsing Glacier National Park's decision not to allow a railroad to use explosives to control avalanche danger, Interior moved practically at light speed in proposing the gun language. Put up for limited review today, it will formally be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, barely two months after Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne decided to open up the regulations for possible recasting.

"This is truly changing the culture of the National Park Service in literally one stroke of a pen," says Kristen Brengel of The Wilderness Society.

The proposed regulation calls for a 60-day comment period, but there was no mention of plans for public hearings on the change. Interior Department officials were not immediately available to comment on the proposal.

The highly controversial change has been opposed by seven past Park Service directors, the Association of National Park Rangers, the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and the National Parks Conservation Association.

The coalition wasted no time in criticizing the proposed regulation.

"We think the proposed rule is manufactured and driven politically to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. Data show that parks are among the safest places to be in this country. Moreover, we believe it will create more problems than it can possibly fix," said Bill Wade, who chairs the group's executive council. "It is likely to alter, over time, the friendly atmosphere visitors look forward to in parks, where they go to get away from the day to day pressures and influences of their everyday lives, including worry about guns.

"How many visitors want to be concerned about whether the person next to them during a ranger-guided walk, or that shares a backcountry campsite, has a concealed, loaded gun? Reliance on impulsive use of guns in the face of perceived threats or disputes, such as in campgrounds will increase the risk to visitors and employees," continued Mr. Wade. "Impulsive uses of guns in response to being startled by or by perceived threats from wildlife will increase the risks to wildlife and to visitors, such as from wounded wildlife or shots fired at wildlife, such as in campgrounds, that miss and connect with nearby campers.

"Administrative requirements related to this rule in parks will become complicated. Issues of reciprocity of authorities for guns between states will have to be sorted out. Decisions about how to keep guns out of administrative and concession buildings will involve signing, further cluttering the developed areas; and potentially even security screening. The existing regulation works just fine, and has for decades. This is a proposed rule that deserves to be shot down!

At The Wilderness Society, Ms. Brengel said the "argument for revising the regulation seemed poorly thought out and rather short."

"So, you can carry a gun as long as the state allows concealed weapons and the analogous state lands allow for possession," she said. "And this is supposed to clear up confusion? Or, is it supposed to create confusion?"

Indeed, there are a number of national parks that cross state boundaries. Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Death Valley, and the Blue Ridge Parkway come immediately to mind. The proposed regulation made no allowance for how rangers were to police the various gun laws in those parks.

While the proposed regulation said DOI officials were uncertain whether a review under the National Environmental Policy Act would be required, Ms. Brengel thought a thorough review was necessary.

"Rather than directly addressing potential harm to wildlife, the agencies didn’t even mention poaching, off-season hunting, and other possible problems with this proposal," she said. "The public deserves to know if Park Service professionals, not political appointees, think there will be impacts to cherished wildlife and hunting opportunities due to this change in the rules."

If the decision to make guns more available in national parks stands, it will be interesting to see not only how it impacts domestic visitation to the parks, but also international tourism in light of how many other countries view America's pervasive gun laws.

Somewhat curiously, in light of the building debate over how this change would impact national parks, comments on the proposed regulation are being directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose lands also would be open to concealed carry under this change.

A copy of the Federal Register notice is attached below. Comments are being directed to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: 1024-AD70; Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, Virginia, 22203.

Secretary Kempthorne's decision to consider concealed carry in national parks came in the wake of lobbying by the National Rifle Association, which got U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, to introduce legislation that would overturn the current regulations, which allow weapons to be transported through parks as long as they're broken down and stored out of easy reach.

Additionally, roughly half of the Senate's 100 members wrote to the Interior secretary asking him to reconsider the regulations.

Somewhat ironically, the current regulations 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.

In opposing a change, the seven former Park Service directors told Secretary Kempthorne in a letter that, "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."

"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," the letter continued. "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).

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Thats what we say about you! LMAO!

The word "is" coming to end! Because of fools like yourself! If you don't want to be able to protect yourself and your family from crazies or wild animals then so be it. Survival of the fittest or shall we say the smartest!

Jewelee, there is no way I could possibly understand the trauma of rape. I have known rape victims, but that certainly does not make me an expert on the issue. I have had verbal threats to my life, had a plane that I flew sabotaged with the intent of causing loss of control after takeoff and have been attacked and injured by an individual high on meth. Prior to retirement I held a law enforcement commission and am trained in the use of firearms for self protection. I support the right to own legal firearms. However, I feel no need to carry a concealed firearm for personal protection, and I cannot support the carrying of concealed sidearms in national park settings.

If you were a woman who had been gang raped you would understand the need for concealed carry. No one is safe anywhere on this planet, and as long as I know there are people out there willing to hurt me for there own gain, or pleasure I will always push for the right to bare arms and the right to carry them concealed for my personal protection. It is a right I want to see extended to all National Parks.

Interesting artical the what if's are unsupported though. People can have a gun in thier car now as long as it meets the unassecable requiremnets so the illegal uses such as poaching or commiting a crime has been able to happen for many a year,so thats not a reasonable grip....In all places that concealed carry is allowed crime has went down...."The proposed regulation made no allowance for how rangers were to police the various gun laws in those parks". they don't need to be an allowance either you posses a permit thats allowed in that state or you don''s policed just like a driver's licenes......."How many visitors want to be concerned about whether the person next to them during a ranger-guided walk"....people are around you everyday in most the US that carry...The Park would be no different.......The number of people entering the park want be effected at I said they are around people carrying every day already..."Impulsive uses of guns:....the people that carry just have to access the weapon,and load it to use it anyway,it would take a couple of minutes longer is the only difference, so this is another unjustified what if.....if your going to be against something you should have real reasons instead of blow out of porportion what ifs

I never met Timothy Treadwell, but I am quite familiar with the area and circumstances relating his and his companion' demise. Personally, I consider Treadwell's fate the outcome of a death wish. From any objective perspective, Treadwell's behavior was bizarre and self destructive. He did almost everything wrong in re: to his interaction with bears. He literally set up himself and his friend for a fatal attack. Being armed would not have changed the outcome. I once encountered an individual camping at a site on the Katmai coast. He had established a long-term camp in a location with intensive bear activity. There was a resulting buildup of human waste and other debris around his camp. I informed him that he had to move the camp and clean up the mess. Fortunately he decided to leave. You might be interested to learn that park visitors and brown bears regularly interact at close quarters in the park, including the primary developed visitor facility, Brooks Camp. Visitors to Brooks River are not permitted to carry personal firearms, even though bears may approach them within a few yards. This facility would likely have to close if park visitors were permitted to carry personal weapons and to use them at their own discretion.

When I was young..... my dad used to take me out hiking for long 3 or 4 day weekends. We used to hike in for an entire day and never see anyone. I haven't gone in years. I have recently decided to start going again with my son. I also remembered my father used to carry a little revolver in his hip bag. I only saw it acouple times... he called it his snake shooter... we have some fairly poisonous snakes around here. I always assumed it was for overall protection of the family. Long story short, I never thought twice about it and I purchased one for my outings. I was very surprised to find the issue in such in uproar. I guess it where you are from and how you were raised. fearful or not fearful of firearms. I agree. maybe people who are against them are just generally against them in all circumstances. I just always seemed unprepared not to have it. a compass, utility knife, water, rations. Were not all picnic basket carrying all wheel drive station wagon park people. some of us could actullay live off the land if we needed to and sometime choose to on occasional weekends. I do not see this creating anymore confusion than the overally politically interested people

don't ask me... inner city chicago is a sewer to me. lots of crime and lots of poor upbringing and bad examples or no examples in alot those families. however, this has nothinng to do with the issue. whether you are pro or anti gun sums up most peoples response on this issue. ..but it shold not be about that. The question must be... if it is legal to carry in a state, what is the reason for not allowing it in the park. In this scenario... fear of irrational people does not fit... because these are the same people allowed by law to carry all over the rest of the state. There is no real environmental impact as the concealed weapons can not be fired unless in self defense or actually even displayed. I know the parks department is against it and I also personally know the heads of the departments are also against concealed carry carry in general... yet it is the legal in almost every state subject to each what is the argument for not allowing it to be state regulated...the only reasonable argument outside of who feels the right to carry is a true right and those who think they should be gone as much as possible... is multi jurisdictional parks... which I am sure can be easily worked out....hell in case of two different states with different policy... agree to not allow them in multi state parks. I do not care... but make a good arguement ... all i hear is the same old speech. I do not own a firearm.. but even I can see the lack of an argument. they need a reason why it should be less legal in the parks... and fear of rampant poaching doesn't seem to work.... poaching will ocur at the same rate as always. I recall the same warnings of massive violent crime increases with concealed carry legal. hahahaha!! I love when people spread idealogy by spreading fear.... please. hahaha!

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