Does the National Park Service have an obligation -- before the public comment period closes -- to better inform the general public about proposed changes to the existing gun regulations? While those who closely follow national park issues and gun issues more than likely are aware of the proposal to allow park visitors to arm themselves, does the general park-going public?
Those changes[/url], of course, might allow holders of concealed weapons permits to carry their loaded weapons with them while admiring Old Faithful, hiking into the Grand Canyon, or strolling across the Colter Bay campground in search of a cold beer.
That question about alerting the public to the possibility that the park visitor standing next to them might soon be armed was raised this week by the Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police. In a letter to Park Service Director Mary Bomar the groups asked her what "specific steps have you taken or will you take to ensure that National Park System visitors and National Park Service employees will be informed of this proposed change to a regulation that has been in place in some form for 88 years?"
"Will you provide them with the opportunity to know that they have the ability to officially comment on this proposed change?" the letter adds.
Disconcertingly, according to the groups, top Interior Department officials specifically prohibited Park Service employees from commenting on the proposed change in their official capacities. Wouldn't you hope that if such a drastic change were being made to your workplace environment that you'd be able to voice your opinions on it?
"Their professional expertise in managing parks should not be ignored in making this decision, nor should it be hidden from the public as they weigh their individual decision on whether to oppose or support the proposed change," reads the letter.
At the Park Service's Washington, D.C., headquarters, Communications Chief David Barna says the agency went about publicizing the proposed change the same way it publicizes other proposals up for public comment.
The Interior Department "did put out a press release announcing the public comment period and articles have run in over 200 newspapers. That's the process we use for all public comment issues," said Mr. Barna.
Some no doubt would argue that a proposed change of such magnitude and with such potential wide-ranging impacts would merit more publicity during the ongoing 60-day comment period and would gain more visibility if notices explaining the proposal were inserted into park newspapers given to visitors as they enter parks and were placed on park websites.