Is the National Park Service Obligated to Better Promote Proposed Change in Gun Regulations?

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
, 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.

AttachmentSize
Ranger_Groups_letter_to_Park_Service.pdf48.79 KB

Comments

"or strolling across the Colter Bay campground in search of a cold beer."

Are you kidding me? You just innocently throw in the "cold beer" reference I assume? I am sure it has nothing to do with you trying to paint the mental picture of a beer drinking, irresponsible gun owner to anyone who may wander across this page. Come on Kurt...at least pretend to have some kind of journalistic integrity. The fact is most that carry a gun and have a concealed carry permit are extremely responsible and fanatical about safety. The kind of folks you are trying to lump them in with will carry a gun no matter what the law and most would not waste the time to get a concealed carry permit. So please, before you try to paint all gun owners in the same light, take the time to get to know one so that you can speak from a place of honesty and knowledge rather than ignorance and sterotypes.

Sorry Neil, but I think that's a very realistic possibility.

Even you yourself point out that "most ... are extremely responsible and fanatical." The concern here isn't the behavior of "most" permit holders, it's of those who are more cavalier.

Well, first, you don't even try to deny your slanted viewpoint, good for you. But, you missed the whole point of my post. The folks who take the time and care enough to get a concealed carry permit will not cause a problem. If there are people who walk around acting like idiots (and who happen to carry a gun), then a permit is of no consequence. They are going to do it anyway...permits and park rules be damned. The only time you will even know that the law abiding gun carriers have a gun is when they are put in a life or death situation and are forced to use it. Allowing people with a CC permit in the park will in no way endanger others but will only create an environment where a CC permit holder can possibly save a life should the situation arise. They are not going to be getting drunk and shooting their guns in the air like they are in Tombstone, AZ at the O.K. Corral. That is just a ridiculous picture that your anti-gun brethren like to paint to make your weak case against guns and carry permits.

In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out that the NRA and every gun shop in the United States is telling folks about the necessity to post comments SUPPORTING the regulation change. IF someone OPPOSES the rule change, they should be told by SOMEONE that they can post a comment if they want to. The OPPOSERS will be in very lonely company though, IMHO.

I'm pretty sure that comments can be posted anonymously.

Neil, I hope you're right.

But across the country there are more than a few gun incidents involving those holding CCW permits.

In 2006 there were 1,950 "weapons offenses" in the national parks; in 2007 that number dipped to 1,495, which still is a staggering number. Unfortunately, the NPS can't say how many of those involved permitted gun owners.

Here's a stat that'll I'll wager you'll dispute, because it comes from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

...an August 2000 study by the Violence Policy Center revealed that, from January 1996 through April 2000, the arrest rate for weapon-related offenses among Texas concealed handgun license holders was 66% higher than that of the general adult population of Texas. CCW license holders are committing crimes - including murder, rape, assault and burglary - but because the gun lobby makes it difficult if not impossible for the public to determine if a shooter has a CCW license in most states, the full story has not yet been told.

Fred,

I have no doubt the NRA has mounted an enormous campaign. Unfortunately, my guess is that only those folks entering gun shops or holding an NRA membership would learn the details. That leaves an awfully huge population out there.

Wouldn't you suppose that, just as the NRA is an obvious disseminator of the proposal, that the National Park Service would be an obvious candidate for spreading the word as well? And wouldn't the entrance gates to the parks be an obvious place to distribute information?

Absolutely. I don't know WHO would spread the word, but if folks are OPPOSED they should find out somehow. The NRA has over four million active members.

As for CCW permit holders, they are NOT involved in altercations like you mention here. Such action would result in immediate permanent loss of permit. I understand that only only 183 permits have been rescinded. Most (98%) of those were because the holder picked up their child at school while carrying.

NPCA has put out an action alert giving people info on the rule change and how to comment in opposition to the gun regs.

Past posts from a variety of CCP holders admit that they have been and will continue to bring weapons into public lands. Fred was the only one who had the stones enough to openly admit to it, kudos to him. But I'm curious as to whether we're now supposed to consider those who knowingly and willingly disregard the law as "extremely responsible and fanatical about safety", simply due to their position that they're carrying is allegedly making the environment a safer place for us all? That qualifies as a more than a mildly "slanted" position as well. Be being as this isn't exactly what you might call a "news" site, not akin to AP, Reuters, Fox(?) and the like, opinions are more the case here than at your local ABC affiliate, editorial policy not withstanding, so "slanting" is more par for the course anyway. Certainly not worth getting your shorts in a knot over, is it?
I'm more than mildly fascinated with all this talk based around numbers, like there really exists any reliable source of data on these issues. Neither side has any real credibility when quoting statistics......it's like trying to determine how many rapes, child or spousal abuse occur when you have no idea how many victims don't come forward. Of COURSE each side has inflammatory numbers, what good would the stats be if they simply mundane? I suggest there is NO way to determine how many crimes can and have been prevented by your CCP holding folks, NO way of telling how many incidents MIGHT happen with additional firepower in close proximity to the unsuspecting masses, NO way of telling the numbers of existing members of the Chicago Outfit regularly patrol the backcountry.
One thing is certain though. NEVER has this issue been about scare tactics that the NRA supporters like to post, that regarding the "they're taking our guns away" cry-baby mentality. Never, in all that has be written surrounding this topic, has anyone on the "con" side said anything remotely close to removing the "right of people to defend themselves and the brothers" (insert puking soundtrack). The ONLY issue is the "where" you can and cannot, not anything to do with your ability or right to own. Public places, be they airports, sporting events, marathons, and other gatherings of the masses are simply inappropriate locations for your display. Or is the real interest the "right to carry" where and when as you damn well please? If it is, at least have the cajones to fess up and stop hiding behind these childish rants about somebody taking away your toys.

Thank you, Lone Hiker for injecting some sense into the debate. I'm sick of hearing the crap that people put out about how the big, bad, liberal government (or is it the gub-ment?) is out to ruin America by placing reasonable restrictions on guns.

Is there any word yet what the Department of the Interior (DOI) decided was proper procedure for this proposed rule change? The official notice for the proposed rule indicated that DOI wasn't sure what its legal obligations were in regard to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Depending on what DOI determines is the proper NEPA process--and whether that determination holds up under public scrutiny--there could be additional public notification and public comment.

My opinion has been, and remains, that the Park Service should hand out a questionnaire at the entrance station of each and every National Park. Ask the people who actually go to our National Parks. This should not be decided by politicians, the NRA or internet blogs. It should be decided by those families, individuals and foreign visitors who actually visit the Parks, with strong input from Park Service employees, especially law enforcement rangers, who are going to have to (and will be expected to) deal with this.
How many of the Senators and other politicians suggesting this change actually spend any time in our parks, for anything other than a photo op?

Kelly,

I've been getting conflicting signals. The most optimistic is that there might be an EA.

Kurt -

What is an "EA"? Is this some means of informing folks about this proposed rule change?

Due to the ever increasing threat to citzens in our parks systems as well as in everyday life.i strongly support carriying of legal and trained pepole in our parks system.including our park Rangers.We have to many wack out maniacs that want to commit violent hanus crimes agaist the innocent and agaist wild life without a permit.I see no reason as long there are responsible adults that have the experience and the trainning shouldn't be able to carry them(firearms).

Fred,

"EA" stands for Environmental Assessment. This is a measure of review -- short of a full-blown, much more encompassing and costly, environmental impact statement (EIS) -- that examines how a management action will impact a park's environment.

In the Yellowstone snowmobile situation, they conducted three EISes and one EA (at a cumulative cost of about $10 million) over the course of about eight years. All reached the same conclusion -- that snow coaches presented a more benign impact on the park's resources than did snowmobiles. But politics won out in the end. Kind of, that is, as the lawyers for both sides have this football back in the courts.

In this case, apparently the ongoing debate is whether there's even a need for an EA. If there is one, it will push the outcome of this matter more than a few months down the road.

Dear Anon, there is no "ever increasing threat to citzens in our parks systems as well as in everyday life". The crime rates are dropping, the violent crime in the parks is virtually nil. There may be valid reasons to carry a gun in a National Park (even though I doubt them), but there is no threat of violence to visitors that would make self defense a necessity. If you argue for a revision of the existing rules, please stick to the facts and don't use straw man arguments.

Thanks Kurt. One thing's for sure: the lawyers and bureaucrats ALWAYS win.

The answer to the title of this post is quite simple - actually. The answer is "no", the NPS is not obligated to better promote proposed change in gun regulations. The NPS has followed the statutory procedures for public notice-and-comment by publishing the proposed regulation in the Federal Register, it is then up to the stakeholders to respond and to promote additional public interest in filing comments. It seems like the NRA has done just that, and it appears that the NPCA and blogs like the NPT are doing the same.

being that this is the election count down, does this have anything to do with a kind of holding back on promoting more public response/attention.... god forbid if the candidates have to address( make a decision) the regulations/ or a change of such !!!! hey, isnt it somewhat slanted to paint a picture of some concealed weapon gun wearing expert to happen to be at the same place at the same time as some one needing to be rescued in that same moment?! The knight in shining armor simply looking to save !!! What a visual! Stat wise there are likley quite a few folks out in those campgrounds/ hotels/dorm rooms sitting around the campfire toasted on a few cold beers that have received their share full of reprimands etc..about their state of mind ( and/ or punching out a park neighbor). Seems like the more guns anywhere is asking for a greater % of accidents/mishaps involving others/ perhaps involving kids. The regulations as they are now are fine. Go ahead and wear that concealed gun if you think you have a mission; if you happen to save the moment you likely wont be charged. If you are so fear full about being where you are while on your way to no where while your gun is packed away in your vehicle( as it currently can be) , you've likley been watching too much TV . Having an informative hand-out/ survey given out to those actually visiting/coming thru the parks is a great idea.

MRC:

With all due respect, Wake Up! The Los Angeles Times reported in a story about the possible National Park rule change, “The National Park Service says there were 116,588 reported offenses in national parks in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, including 11 killings, 35 rapes or attempted rapes, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings and 261 aggravated assaults ...” I think there is VERY clear reason why one should be allowed to carry a self-defense firearm in a National Park.

Remember: When seconds count, the Police are minutes away. And in a National Park, the Rangers are often many, many miles and minutes away.

You've made a good point here Doc. I believe that most of those who oppose this rule change are those who are mis-informed or totally UN-INFORMED about guns and gun issues. How else could you cause someone to be so afraid of their next-door neighbor who has completed a background check, received the training, and borne the expense of acquiring a CCW permit?

They don't know anything about this proposed rule-change simply because they don't try to keep up with current events and other important news. The section of the L.A. Times you mentioned was probably used to line the bird cage while they were reading the Entertainment news.

C'mon, Fred, you're using a pretty broad brush with your characterizations and accusations. More than a few folks know what's going on.

By the way, did you know that Utah has the most liberal concealed carry provisions in the nation?

If your wallet contains a Utah concealed-weapon permit, chances are good you live in California.

Since a California concealed-weapon permit is virtually impossible to come by, the Beehive State permit is seen as the next best thing. It’s good in 33 states and also is a badge of honor. It’s a permit from the most permissive gun state in the country. Ours is the only state in the nation to allow guns in schools and increasingly a hot spot of the “open carry” movement of residents who strap on a six-shooter and walk into banks just to show they can.

Source: the Salt Lake Weekly.

Did you also know that a licensed concealed weapons instructor here in Utah quit his job after shooting himself in the foot while teaching a class? Or that your odds of being killed by lightning are greater than those of being murdered in a national park? Does that last tidbit cause you to avoid going outside?

At the end of the day, you're more likely to die in a car accident, from cancer, from poor health and exercise habits, illegal drug use, and illicit sex than from roaming a park unarmed.

Let's try to keep some perspective here.

A Utah permit is not terribly difficult to get. I have one in my wallet. Only cost me $200. I had to attend an all-day class. I waited 5 months for my permit to come in the mail; background checks take time. It is NOT valid in California. Check this website: http://carryconcealed.net/legal/reciprocity.php

"At the end of the day, you're more likely to die in a car accident, from cancer, from poor health and exercise habits, illegal drug use, and illicit sex than from roaming a park unarmed.

Let's try to keep some perspective here."

The perspective we should keep is that of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The Second Amendment, as with all the amendments, does not allow for probability and statistics. The Bill of Rights limits the power of the government. Period. In short, the right to carry firearms has nothing to do with the likelihood that one might need to use that firearm. Faulty reasoning, based on probability and statistics and not the law, ignores the fundamental reason why the founders penned the second amendment: protection from tyranny. The likelihood of needing to use arms to overthrow a tyrannical government might be small. But take away the right to bear arms (as was done in Nazi Germany for Jewish people), and the likelihood of needing to overthrow a tyrannical government might increase. Odds mean nothing when it comes to Constitutional Rights. I may never need to invoke the 5th Amendment's protection from self-incrimination, but god bless America, I'm glad it's there for me just in case. Just like the 2nd Amendment.

Thank you.

One of the best comments yet on this issue. Not your usual NRA spiel or gung-ho and gun-ho comments like Freddie pistol hugging pete.

"At the end of the day, you're more likely to die in a car accident, from cancer, from poor health and exercise habits, illegal drug use, and illicit sex than from roaming a park unarmed.

Let's try to keep some perspective here."
I'll give you car accident and cancer, but do you really believe the rest of that sentence? I am someone who hikes our National Parks. I've met others on trails and in campgrounds. I've never met anyone who spends time in the parks alone or in small (2-4 persons) groups who I believe is more likely to die from those things. I have, however met men in the parks who have quite frankly scared the hell out of me. I have pulled the big knife out of the mess kit while praying to God that that crazy s.o.b. that had just entered my campsite drunk and demanding that I remove my shirt didn't have a gun. I want to continue to enjoy MY National Parks. I don't want to be killed or raped. Bad people do not care about laws. They don't need permits to carry guns. Please try to understand that those of us who want to use our 2nd ammendment right to carry firearms aren't bad people.

Frank,

Is not just about everything we do in life based on some form of probability and statistics? We grade our kids on how well they studied, make a split-second decision on the probability of running through the yellow light before it turns red, have doctors give us the odds of dying from disease, decide whether to fly or drive depending on whether we believe there's a probability that the plane will crash, and every four years let statistics determine who will reside in the White House.

We want to know the probability of rain today so we can dress accordingly, the odds of whether our offspring will be male or female, or the odds of winning the Lotto so we can gamble on being able to quit our job. If the odds of being murdered or accosted in a national park were incredibly high, the arguments of those who want to arm themselves would not only be more reasonable but, probably, more palatable.

Heck, statistics even went into the Bill of Rights and the recent Supreme Court 5-4 decision on guns in Washington, D.C. What's the probability of that one swing vote going for the D.C. law and allowing local governments to ban weapons?

Beyond that, though, you point out a very good aspect of the Bill of Rights: The 2nd amendment was intended to counter tyranny, not to make each and every American a judge and jury in the blink of an eye. So if you want to couch the 2nd Amendment on that point, and if you accept the recent Supreme Court decision that Americans are allowed to arm themselves in their homes and that reasonable laws pertaining to access to weapons are permissible, then what are the odds that someone will claim the 2nd Amendment still allows them to pack anywhere at any time?

Would that be the faulty reasoning you refer to?

Kurt, excellent rebuttal and it helps reading between the lines better on thee issue.

As I grew up on the Sol Duc River of the Olympic Peninsula, Lyle Cowles - a lead Park trail-crew foreman - raised his kids next door. My family subsisted largely on deer & elk, with lots of choice fish & beach-food (plus a huge garden & wild fruit). The Cowles were vegetarian 7th Day Adventists. Lyle went ashore with the Marines on Guadalcanal, and his weapons hung on the bedroom wall, though he did not hunt.

I did not experience an urban environment until about age 5 ... and thought the whole world consisted of forest, mountains, and small roads threading little towns together. I was shocked to see streetlights burning along the freeway ... and everywhere in the city when we got up at 5am in the morning!

The Park is a sample of how I'd prefer everything to be, but without the borders and extra rules. I therefore like the Park & wilderness. The NPS is far from perfect, but at least on account of it we have decent reminders scattered through the western States.

I always knew it was goofy to suspend the 2nd Amendment, within Parks, but the irregularity of it never really percolated up the priority queue through other issues, for me. That it (somewhat strangely..) now obviously has, for Congress and the Dept. of Interior, should probably serve as a clue to all of us that there may be more than one side to any particular coin. That seemingly-simple moves may arise from/reflect complex motives & factors. (Indeed, Congress has been prominently 'experimenting' with Park-policy, for many years.)

Many (contemporary) career Park-people and folks of related liberal-environmental viewpoints have taken positions with regard to Parks and their personal role in & identification with them, which are at odds with various important facts & realities. Park personnel are employees not of an ideal or theoretical notion, but are servants of the truck drivers and waitresses of our nation. Park lands aren't the holdings of abstracted entities, but are the property of the public. Additional layers of rules & red tape might obscure the situation, but we shouldn't let ourselves misconstrue the basic facts. The great unwashed public is the boss. Even Congress is only the trail-crew foreman.

My off-hand interpretation of the recent DOI ruling to allow local (State) laws to set the firearms regulations on Park lands within their jurisdiction, is that it may be intended as a corrective, to bring career Park people (and additional circles of close sympathizers) around to a more reality-based posture, with respect to whose land it is they are caring for, and who's viewpoint & needs are ascendant. It looks like it could be a 'shot across the bow', to me.

To let the new ruling induce one to take sides in a conflict between opponents and supporters of gun ownership, is to invade Iraq when the problem is clearly not there. It is a diversion and a misapplication of resources. The options open to Park professionals and like-minded preservationists do not include making a call on the 2nd Amendment (and since D.C. vs Heller, this is plainly a fall-back & regroup point for opponents, anyway).

Instead, the available actions for the Park & allies mainly center around how to successfully & competently manage the presence of firearms within Park facilities, and how to more-broadly inform & guide the general public (once the formal comment-period & appeals-processes are completed).

I believe the fear of firearms within Parks is largely a matter of perception, and that what goes on in the Parks will remain close to what takes place now. I - like others who are knowledgeable on the matter - know that certain individuals have long elected to discretely tuck a pistol in their backpack. Few problems arise with such individuals, and few will arise henceforth.

Thus, what is a stake is not the safety of our Parks, nor the disposition of the 2nd Amendment. Instead, it appears to be a question of who really has the ultimate proper authority to set basic policy. Park firearm policy has been guided by the personal beliefs and lifestyle positions of a dedicated & excellent few, who nonetheless were never elected, do not represent the citizens, and acted beyond their authority. That appears now to be under reconsideration.

I am a pilot/bear guide in Alaska and am not required to have a permit to carry a gun. A gun doesnt replace knowledge planning and common sense. Which is a good reason to not allow just anyone capable of obtaining a permit the privelage to do so. I know a few and have met too many gun carrying people in the lower 48 with permits and Alaska who wish for an excuse to shoot any wild animal that moves. I witnessed just recently while watching several brown bears feeding on a beached whale carcass, 2 planes fly directly over my head at 200 feet scaring numerous bears away. Then after landing they approached on foot quickly scaring more bears then were nearly charged by a disturbed bear who got quite close to them. They [the irresponsible pilots] felt safe, their guns providing a very false sense of security. After the bear walked away one of the pilots pointed his gun in the air and pretended he was shooting it, looking like he was a child.... I also know alot of responsible gun carriers but, it only takes a few to completely ruin everything. I witness so many tourists here in Alaska who when seeing a moose stop their cars run across the road nearly being run over by other cars and place themselves a few feet from the moose, sometimes near its calf and shoot pictures. Others I guide dont listen to me and show no common sense. These kinds of people DONT FREAKING NEED A WEAPON!!!!!
There are just way too many irresponsible & ignorant people out there that just cant be educated. There is a reason we've had gun control all these years. It is the irrational, unreasonable, narrow minded fool who believes we dont need control. Open your minds please. Alaska is a different kind of example and another debate. & I am a gun fanatic but, an open minded reasoning one....

cwp holders should be allowed to carry any where,all you jurlnist think you speak for everyone but the ones that cause problems in parks don' usually use guns to kill you with,there knives,rock ,sticks, even cliff you going to keep all that out also get real . atleast we should have the right to protect ourselves