Traveler's View: Concealed Weapons Have No Place In Our National Park System

Editor's note: The public comment period on the Interior Department's proposal to allow national park visitors to carry concealed weapons runs through June. If you haven't already commented, please consider doing so at this site before the deadline. This is a high profile, emotionally and politically charged issue, one that figures to affect all visitors to our national parks. Don't let it be decided without your voice. What follows is the Traveler's position on this proposal.

Dear Secretary Kempthorne,

There are many fine centennial projects under way, and proposed, to help the National Park Service prepare itself and the 391 units of the National Park System for the agency's centennial in 2016. Hopefully there will be many more in place before that celebration arrives.

While there are many concerns about the risks of commercializing the parks along the way to 2016, so far things seem to be under control. Except, that is, for one glaring example that could bring the likes of Smith & Wesson, Glock, SIG and other brands of handguns into our National Park System.

Mr. Secretary, forgive those of us who might think the National Rifle Association's full-court press to see the National Park Service's gun regulations tossed out the window is its version of a centennial project. I'm sure it's merely a timing thing -- the NRA's election-year gambit pitted against your Centennial Initiative.

National Parks Do Not Have a Crime Problem

Joking aside, Mr. Secretary, there simply is no need to change the current gun regulations for our national parks. The National Park System is not crime-ridden. Far and away, the majority of the hundreds of millions of visitors who entered some unit of the National Park System last year did not place their lives in danger from other park visitors nor from wild animals when they did so. You can look it up. I did. This is what I found:

While even one murder is too many, the crime statistics for a park system that attracts more visitors than Major League Baseball, the National Football League, professional basketball, soccer
and NASCAR combined would seem to indicate that parks are relatively safe havens from violent crime.

During 2006, when 273 million park visits were tallied, there were 11 criminal deaths across the system. Two involved women who were 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; three people were arrested for this 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. This crime 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 national 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?

Last year, 2007, the numbers fell lower. There were nine criminal deaths across the park system, 1,495 weapons offenses, and 974 public intoxication cases.

Mr. Secretary, before you opt to change the current restrictions, consider the input from your National Park Service professionals, both those in Washington and those spread across the National Park System. After all, the agency is not calling for this change that would allow visitors to carry concealed weapons at the ready, nor is the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, nor is the Association of National Park Rangers.

More so, all seven living former National Park Service directors (appointed, by the way, by presidents of both parties) are on record saying this proposed change is unnecessary (see attachment).

Why is the NRA Pushing For Armed Visitors in the Parks?

So why is it necessary to rewrite regulations that already allow gun owners to transport their weapons through our parks? True, those regulations require that the weapons be unloaded, broken down, and stored out of easy reach, but is that unreasonable? From here it seems as if only the self-righteous NRA, ever anxious to boost its membership, feels that the only safe national park is one where the visitors are armed and ready.

So anxious is the NRA to see this change that it changes its stance when the circumstances dictate. For instance, the NRA freely admits that it "initiated and worked closely" with U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, on a letter the senator sent to you asking for concealed carry to be the lay of the federal landscape. A portion of that letter claims that inconsistencies between state and federal gun laws are "confusing, burdensome, and unnecessary." And yet, NRA spokeswoman Ashley Varner, told the Smoky Mountain News that rangers in parks that touch multiple states shouldn't have trouble keeping track of varying laws.

“I think that’s a bogus argument,” she told the newspaper. “Our park rangers know the laws. They are fully capable of understanding where they are within the forest.” (Judging from Ms. Varner's choice of words, could it be that the NRA doesn’t know the difference between the national forests and the national parks?)

So, on one hand the NRA says those who are permitted to carry concealed weapons are confused by the current laws, and yet if rangers are required to memorize more than one set of gun laws and all their intricacies and nuances that's not a problem.

Is the NRA implying that gun owners aren't capable of understanding when they leave state lands and enter national parks?

Allowed Concealed Carry in the Parks Will Complicate, Not Simplify, Matters

Mr. Secretary, since at least 1936 (earlier gun prohibitions were instituted at many individual parks, as the attached file shows) it's been clear that visitors are not allowed to carry weapons in national parks, unless that park allows hunting, of which there are relatively few. But under the proposal you are endorsing, concealed carry in the parks would depend on myriad state laws, some of which carry quite a few nuances. Scan the laws out there and you can certainly see where your proposal would make for a much, much more confusing landscape than currently exists in the National Park System.

Jim Burnett, a commissioned law enforcement officer during much of his 30-year Park Service career, discovered the significant challenge that exists for sorting out all of those conflicting regulations. Here's a sampling of his findings:

The State of Wyoming Attorney General's website sums up this problem: "It is extremely important for all concealed firearm permit holders to be aware of the requirements and laws of all reciprocating states. The permit issued by your state does not supersede any other state’s laws or regulations. Legal conduct in your state may not be legal in the state you are visiting."

The State of Florida website on concealed weapons permits notes, "The Division of Licensing constantly monitors changing gun laws in other states and attempts to negotiate agreements as the laws in those states allow." Even if someone took time to sort out the concealed weapons laws of all the states he'd be visiting, some of those laws may have changed recently, so the process has to be repeated before every trip.

Here's only one example of the problem: Florida has reciprocal agreements to honor concealed weapons permits with only 32 of the 50 states. Visit the other 18 and you're out of luck, so don't forget to lock up your gun when you cross the state line. To make matters worse, Florida's official website notes seven different exceptions to those agreements, so even among the 32 states with agreements, guidelines vary. Are you a resident or non-resident? Are you over the age of 18 but under 21? Are you from Vermont, which doesn't even require a concealed weapons permit? (Sorry, you can't "carry" in Florida under the reciprocal agreement guidelines, since Florida can't "reciprocate" if a permit doesn't exist in the first place.) The list of exceptions goes on.


So, Mr. Secretary, not only will rangers have to be knowledgeable about federal laws, but also the laws of the states that their parks fall within. And then, of course, there are the parks -- Yellowstone, Great Smoky, Death Valley, and the Blue Ridge Parkway just for example, as there are several more -- that span more than one state. As a result, rangers will not only have to be schooled on those states' gun laws but also, presumably, carry a GPS unit so they know in which state they're in when they're in the backcountry so they'll know which set of laws to apply to armed backcountry travelers.

Professional law enforcement rangers, at least, are trained to pay attention to jurisdiction and legal authorities; can we reasonably expect the average visitor to do the same?

2nd Amendment Rights Are Not in Jeopardy Under the Existing Guidelines

Mr. Secretary, in arguing for this change of regulations, the NRA and more than a few of its members would have you believe that their 2nd Amendment rights are being trampled by the national park regulations. Really, Mr. Secretary, this isn't a 2nd Amendment issue. No one is trying to deny folks the right to carry arms, although you couldn't tell that by listening to the NRA. Nor are you denying that weapons can be prohibited in federal buildings, or that states – if they choose – can decide to prohibit them in the national parks within their states.

So this isn’t a 2nd amendment issue. If it’s anything, it’s a states rights issue. But where in federal law does it say that the states should make decisions about how national parks are managed? In fact, the law says quite the opposite:

16 US Code 1-1a says that the National Park Service (not the states) “shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks.”

Why did this issue crop up now, 2008? Could it be because this is an election year, one that not only has members of Congress up for re-election but also the president's office? Could it be that the NRA is trying to use guns in the parks as a wedge issue, to force politicians to kowtow to the almighty weapon to be re-elected?

What should be at issue here is some sanity and reasonableness. Just as the 1st Amendment carries restrictions concerning where you can voice your right to free speech -- after all, there are prohibitions against inciting violence and yelling "Fire!!" in a crowded theater -- there are and should be reasonable restrictions as to where you can carry your gun, if you choose to carry one at all.

Statistics Show More Guns Are Not the Answer

Mr. Secretary, more and more it seems that as gun violence escalates the NRA believes the only answer is to respond with more guns. Seemingly, we live in a gun-crazed society. If the NRA isn't evidence of that, just look at the publicity surrounding the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, one of the more controversial video games that actually awards points for murder.

Or, look at the statistics. According to a 1994 study performed for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States "has by far the highest rate of gun deaths -- murders, suicides and accidents -- among the world's 36 richest nations ... The U.S. rate for gun deaths in 1994 was 14.24 per 100,000 people. Japan had the lowest rate, at .05 per 100,000."

In response to those statistics a Johns Hopkins University researcher who specialized in gun violence remarked that, "If you have a country saturated with guns -- available to people when they are intoxicated, angry or depressed -- it's not unusual guns will be used more often. ... This has to be treated as a public health emergency.''

The statistics point to just such an emergency, Mr. Secretary. Here are some sobering numbers, 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. In comparison, 33,651 Americans were
killed in the Korean War and 58,193 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War.

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

• 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. In
comparison, firearms were used to murder 11,624 people in the United States.

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


Mr. Secretary, as you well know national parks are widely popular backdrops for family vacations. During the summer vacation months the sounds of laughing and giggling children can be heard throughout the park system as they run and play. Do you also know that more children and teens died died as the result of gun violence in the United States in 2003 than all the U.S. military deaths in Iraq from 2003 to 2006? If we can’t prevent such tragedies in America, can we not at least try to keep the national parks as sanctuaries from such violence to the degree possible?

Mr. Secretary, it seems you want to make it even easier to carry guns in America in general and our national parks specifically.

Here are some more statistics compiled by the Brady Campaign that point to the flawed logic that an armed America is a safer America. In fact, looking at these numbers, an argument could be made that arming more Americans with more weapons isn't decreasing murders but is leading to more suicides, accidental deaths, and accidental shootings. Plus, as the Brady Campaign points out, more and more youth are being killed because of our gun culture:

Gun Violence - Young Lives Cut Short

• In 2004, nearly 8 children and teenagers, ages 19 and under, were killed with guns
every day. (My emphasis)

• In 2004, firearm homicide was the second-leading cause of injury death for men and
women 10-24 years of age - second only to motor vehicle crashes.

* In 2004, firearm homicide was the leading cause of death for black males ages 15-34.

• From 1999 through 2004, an average of 916 children and teenagers took their own lives
with guns each year.

* Each year during 1993 through 1997, an average of 1,621 murderers who had not
reached their 18th birthdays took someone's life with a gun.


Mr. Secretary, you claim that, “The safety and protection of park and refuge visitors remains a top priority for the Department of the Interior,” and that the proposed revisions are intended to make gun regulations in the parks more consistent with state laws. On that second point, about making the national parks more consistent with state laws, should we also make them more consistent in terms of logging, and mining, and hunting? Why have a national park system if the goal is to diminish the parks distinctiveness from other places? That too, seems to violate Congress’ clear intent, codified again in 16 US Code 1a-1:
Congress declares that the national park system, which began with establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every major region of the United States, its territories and island possessions; that these areas, though distinct in character, are united through their inter-related purposes and resources into one national park system as cumulative expressions of a single national heritage; that, individually and collectively, these areas derive increased national dignity and recognition of their superb environmental quality through their inclusion jointly with each other in one national park system preserved and managed for the benefit and inspiration of all the people of the United States…

Will More Guns Really Make the National Parks Safer?

Mr. Secretary, will allowing concealed carry in the parks give parents peace of mind when they put their children down for the night in campgrounds where those in the next site might have a weapon? Will it make it safer for visitors riding on shuttle buses if many of their fellow riders are armed? Will it make it safer for rangers responding to drunken fights in campgrounds? Will you require concessionaires to install gun lockers in their lodges? Will restaurant and convenience store patrons have to check their weapons at the door? Will it be OK to knock down a couple shots of Jack Daniels and chase it with a beer at the Bear Pit Lounge in the Old Faithful Inn while you're packing?

Mr. Secretary, many gun owners are quick to proclaim that they are as skilled and tested as Park Service law enforcement rangers when it comes to handling guns. Is that so?

As I understand it, the intensive training program for law enforcement rangers is 18 weeks long. Then, once the ranger completes their basic law enforcement training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center their next stop, after a short break at their home park, is to report to a field training park for an additional 10 weeks of mentored, hands-on experience. The Field Training Officers are experienced rangers who are specifically trained to provide field training. They are with the trainees in the field, but the trainees make all the law enforcement contacts while the training officers serve as observers, back-up, and evaluators.

Mr. Secretary, if violence breaks out in a national park, whether in the backcountry or the front country, are you comfortable with the possibility that some park visitor, armed with a Smith & Wesson or a Glock, will either try to bring things under control on their own or rush to the aid of a ranger, who then will be in the uncomfortable position of having to decide in an eye-blink who can be trusted with a firearm and who can't be?

What, Mr. Secretary, would you tell international visitors, many whose home countries have extremely stringent gun laws, to make them feel safe in our parks if concealed carry is permitted? Should you sign off on this change, how would you explain it to visitors to Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park?

Mr. Secretary, don't you think that as we move towards the National Park Service’s centennial in 2016 one thing we should strive to do is use the national parks to instill in visitors not just a feeling of safety, that they’ve entered sanctuaries, but to convince tomorrow’s generations that they don’t need to arm themselves to feel safe?

Mr. Secretary, can you honestly say, after considering all the facts and after closing your eyes and ears to all the political pandering, that increasing the number of loaded weapons in our parks is a good idea? I urge you to reconsider. Stand up to the NRA and for the national parks.

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NPS Firearms-history.pdf149.38 KB
NPS Directors-Guns.pdf93.94 KB

Comments

Wow. Nothing like anti-gun hysteria backed with false statistics and groundless claims of doom and gloom. It seems that you have clearly fallen victim to the political pandering of none other than the Brady Bunch. You should rename this webzine to National Parks Sheepdog. You certainly have staked your claim as leader of the sheep in the National Park System. It's really a shame that you people cannot find your way through the emotional muck and distinguish between the law-abiding and the criminals who prey on them. There is already blood on your hands.

It just proves how dumb the people in Washington DC really are. This has to be the dumbest thing that I ever heard come out of that town yet. The National Parks to me are one of the last places in this country that we can take our children on a safe vaction. Having concealed weapons within the parks does nothing to provide safety to the visitors that visit there from other people or the wild animals.

Let's use some common sense here. People are their worst enemy when they go to the National Parks. They want to get close up pictures of the wild animals and they themselves are putting themselves in danger. And if you think that you can draw a concealed weapon faster that a charging animals than you are better that I am. There's no getting away from an animal that thinks he or she is being threatened by invading their space.

The parks were set aside for us to enjoy the beauty within the parks. To allow concealed weapons takes away that beauty for I see a rise in crime from people that shouldn't have guns in the first place. Therefore I am totally against this bill and hope that people with some common sense puts an end to it

I enjoyed reading your column until this staunch view. I support concealed permits and carrying them into any back country in the US. I will now delete the feed from my homepage.

"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people...that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed." --Thomas Jefferson

It takes more than legislation to bypass the Second Amendment. It takes another amendment, ratified by 2/3rds of the states. Claim what you want, but legislation that forces citizens to keep their arms broken down and unloaded in the trunk infringes on the People's right to bear arms.

At least Traveler finally took a stand on something and changed the question to a statement. Hopefully the annoying questions will stop ("Do we REALLY need _________?") Traveler's slant is obvious, and disguising it as a question, a pretense of journalistic impartiality, is insulting. I doubt, however, that Traveler will take such a strong stance on more important bans that should occur in national parks such as gas tanks, cars, snowmobiles, ATVs, ATMs, buildings, roads, lodges, concessions, sewage, toxic waste, etc.

Kurt -

I can see where you spent a HUGE amount of time on this article. Your love for our National Parks is blazingly obvious. Where do you find the time? Do you sleep? Although we disagree strongly on this issue, I commend your tireless efforts to make your case known.

You may have forgotten that the NRA has actually been working on this issue for more than five years:

"Starting in 2003, NRA staff began meeting with officials at the U.S. Department of the Interior to change this regulation and allow state law to govern the carrying and transportation of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges -- as it does in national forests and on BLM lands. There was little resistance to such a policy change but also little action to make this change. Bureaucrats involved in this issue would move on and others would replace them, needing to be educated from scratch about the need and importance for this change."

http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Read.aspx?ID=3529

Kurt - thank you for your principled position on this issue. Those who support the proposal to allow concealed guns in national parks ignore professional park rangers and managers, the statistical data that show that national parks are among the safest places to be in America, and the important concept that national parks are intended to be very special places - different from the places where we work and live. Instead they are driven by self-interest and short-term personal benefits, rather than the long-term good for the population as a whole, for visitors and resources in national parks. We've had too much of that crammed down our throats in the past few years. It's time we look to the benefits of our children and their children and to saving the special places they will visit and enjoy decades from now.

Bill Wade
Chair, Executive Council
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

I am a single women and I love going into the National Parks. I love going into the back country, hiking and camping. If I can not carry my concealed weapon... (which I carry for my personal protection)... I would not use the Park System at all. I would not be paying entrence fees to enjoy America. My point is, If you take away my right to protect myself while I am in the back country, well then you had better provide me with a trained body guard (free of charge). I have a right to keep and bare arms, (even if I am a single woman). I will exercise that right along with all of my other rights.
Sincerely,
Paula Jean Tyler

Nicely said Paula !! Don't forget to post your comments SUPPORTING the change of firearms regulations !!

Speaking about carrying guns in the back country. I had a dear friend who was a naturalist ranger for Sequoia National Park, once confronted me with a real Scary Larry scenario in the back regions of the park. After a day's heavy hiking and ready to bed down for the night, he suddenly hears this drunken boisterous talk about shooting the place up. He investigates just over the ridge and spies on a group of gun-toting gang of youths. He sees guns going off in all directions with drunken talk of blasting things left and right. The ranger finds the situation too dangerous to intervene. He slowly escapes without being detected and heads back to base camp and reports. Moral of the story is: if you want more guns in the park, I'm sure you're going to find more episodes like...and more threatening. For safer parks: leave your guns at home!

Would that be the backcountry of George Roagers Clark NHP? the backcountry of the Saint Loius Arch? The backcountry of the Statue of Liberty? The backcountry of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Get real. Not all parks are wild natural areas. Do we really want guns in Lincoln's Home or at Kennedy Birthplace?

Thanks for being honest Kurt...I called you out on the carpet and you showed your true colors. Now I (and from the comments over half the others) can remove your liberal slant from my homepage and be done with your worthless drivel.

Paula, Are you saying that you are already taking your concealed weapon w/you while you are currently going into the back country hiking , camping and hiking? So be it . From what I understand you never had a so called right to have your concealed weapon w/ you but that didnt stop you ... what is it about this proposed legislation that would alter your already established behavior/choices?

Neil,

If you've been reading the Traveler long enough to have it on your homepage, you should have recognized a long time ago where I stood on concealed weapons in the parks, not too mention recreational snowmobiles in Yellowstone, and PWCs in some areas. At the same time, I guess it shows that not all of the articles on the site are "worthless drivel."

I've long believed in constructive dialog on issues, for only through that can one come to see another's point of view. You might not agree with that point of view, but at least you know where that person is coming from and perhaps begin to understand how they got there. If you've been reading all the comments on the gun issue you've no doubt noticed that Fred and I stand on different sides of the issue, but we both support the national parks and we respect each other's views without feeling a need to cast aspersions.

I've never expected each and every Traveler reader to agree with the positions we take. That's not the point, and certainly wouldn't be worthwhile. But I certainly hope that those positions spur dialog on the site for the above-mentioned reasons.

One way or another the gun issue will pass, Neil, and be replaced by countless other issues facing the national parks. The Traveler will continue to report on and examine those issues. If you care enough about the parks, hopefully you'll want to read about those issues if only to provide another perspective.

Kurt--

Thanks for your comment on the "guns in the parks" issue. Needless to say, NPT will lose a few NRA member readers whose single-minded emphasis on carrying weapons into almost any place in our country is not only tiresome, but also dangerous. Many of your commenters only appear when there is a mention of gun in NPT, showing their real commitment to the National Park System. There will be enough NPT readers who want to explore the full range of park issues to assure continued readership.

Rick Smith

"Joking aside, Mr. Secretary, there simply is no need to change the current gun regulations for our national parks. The National Park System is not crime-ridden. Far and away, the majority of the hundreds of millions of visitors who entered some unit of the National Park System last year did not place their lives in danger from other park visitors nor from wild animals when they did so. You can look it up. I did. This is what I found:.........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?"

Kurt,

You forgot to mention a host of other criomes some of us consider violent.

Joe

According to the Rocky Mountain News in 2006 ....

"Last year, there were 11 homicides, 35 rape cases, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings, 261 aggravated assaults and 320 other assaults out of a total of 116,588 offenses in national parks."

Violent crime rare on public land
Tillie Fong, Rocky Mountain News
Friday, June 29, 2007
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Email this Print this Comments Change text size Subscribe to print edition iPod friendly Share this site National parks and forests in Colorado are generally safe, with few violent crimes occurring there, according to local sheriff offices.

"We have a lot of trespass, illegal campfires, transients, illegal camping, minor vandalism," said Lt. Phil West of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, referring to crimes committed on public lands. "The most significant events we are involved in are rescues of lost skiers, fallen climbers, and so forth. It (violent crime) is not a major issue."

The slaying of a Colorado Geological Survey intern in a remote part of San Isabel National Forest on Tuesday was considered unusual.

"These crimes on our public lands and forest lands are very rare," said Janelle Smith, spokeswoman for the regional office of the U.S. Forest Service in Denver. "That is what makes this crime so shocking - you think you are safe. That's why it's a terrible tragedy."

However, that doesn't mean that violent crime doesn't occur. Eagle County had two cases of homicide on public lands in the past five years, including one still unsolved.

But getting hard data on how much violent crime occurs on national parks and forests is not easy.

For one thing, the U.S. Forest Service doesn't track that kind of information.

"We are not the lead agency when it comes to those types of crime," Smith said. "We track crimes against resources, such as damaging forest service property. Serious crime against people would be referred to local law enforcement."

The National Park Service does track violent crime but does not break down numbers by state or park. Instead, it compiles statistics on criminal offenses for all the national parks in the country.

Last year, there were 11 homicides, 35 rape cases, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings, 261 aggravated assaults and 320 other assaults out of a total of 116,588 offenses in national parks.

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Just the other day a CCW holder in Winnemucca stopped this murderer. Good thing he was around!

From The Reno Gazette Journal

Winnemucca police statement on bar shootings
On Sunday May 25, 2008 at approximately 2:30 a.m. the Winnemucca Police Department was dispatched to the Players Bar and Grill located at 1062 South Grass Valley Road on the report of numerous shots fired and multiple gunshot victims. A combined law enforcement team consisting of Officers from the Winnemucca Police Department and Deputies from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office responded to the dispatch call and secured the scene. There were approximately 300 patrons in and around the bar. No shots were fired by law enforcement during the incident.

The officers on scene discovered three adult males who had died from obvious gunshot wounds. Two additional gunshot victims were also located. One of these victims, a 34 year old male, was transported to Humboldt General Hospital via private vehicle. The other victim, a 22 year old female, was transported via Humboldt County Ambulance. Both of these injured parties were treated and admitted to Humboldt General Hospital in “stable condition”. Both victims have now been released from the hospital.

The initial investigation indicated that there had been two separate shooters during the incident. One of the alleged shooters, Ernesto Fuentes Villagomez, age 30 of Winnemucca, was among the three men who were dead on arrival. The other was a 48 year old Reno man who was initially taken into custody at the scene as a person of interest.

The subsequent investigation lead detectives to believe that Villagomez entered the bar and at some point began firing multiple rounds. At least two of these rounds struck and killed the other two decedents, Jose Torres age, 20 and his brother Margarito Torres, age 19 both of Winnemucca. At some point during this shooting spree Villagomez allegedly stopped and according to witnesses reloaded his high capacity handgun and began shooting again.

It was at this point that the second shooter, the Reno resident, produced a concealed handgun and proceeded to fire upon Villagomez who succumbed to his wounds. The Reno resident was in possession of a valid Concealed Carry Permit issued through the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

After further investigation as well as ongoing discussions with Humboldt County District Attorney Russell Smith, the decision was made that the shooting of Villagomez by the Reno man was a justifiable homicide as outlined in Nevada Revised Statute 200.120 and 200.160. Because of this the Reno man was released from police custody.

Although the shooting occurred during the Runnamucca event weekend there is no evidence linking the incident to any rival motorcycle gangs or clubs. Additionally, each of the decedents and victims were all Winnemucca residents. The investigation is currently pursuing a lead that indicates that this event may have been the result of a long standing feud between several families. There have been no further acts of violence reported in relation to this incident.

The Winnemucca Police Department utilized the services of the Washoe County Crime Lab to assist with the processing of the crime scene. Additional support in the investigation was provided by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Public Safety – Investigation and Highway Patrol Divisions, and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile in the Uk where people like the "Brady Bunch" prevail.....

From the Daily Mail....
The dangerously deluded children's tsar and the truth about knife crime
Last updated at 11:49 PM on 25th May 2008

Comments (22) Add to My Stories
Yet another knife attack, another dreadful killing and another devastated family whose lives have been shattered.

One minute there was a fracas at a bar in South London; the next, 18-year-old Robert Knox lay dying from a knife wound, having intervened to defend his younger brother in a row over a mobile phone.

The teenage actor was but the latest victim of Britain's spiralling toll of knife attacks and other violent crime, in which children and young people are figuring both as victims and as attackers. Only the previous day, a boy of 17 was critically injured in a shooting in North London.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1021834/MELANIE-PHILLIPS-The-dangerously-deluded-childrens-tsar-truth-knife-crime.html

I am an NRA member. I read the NPT daily. I've been concerned and commented about ORV use, SAR costs, wolf de-listing, and many other issues discussed here. I care about the Parks. I just happen to also have very strong feelings about being able to defend myself when there is no other means of protection available to me.

Rick Smith snipes stereotypically

> Needless to say, NPT will lose a few NRA member readers whose single-minded emphasis on carrying weapons into almost any place in our country
> is not only tiresome, but also dangerous.

This is the same lame, tiresome, baseless, mythological perpetuation that makes the gun grabbers look as clueless as they really are. I'll say this until you are blue in the face: give me one example of a citizen with a concealed carry permit who has committed a violent crime in your sacred national park system - or any place in our country. You can't do it. If you choose to impugn citizens who refuse to relinquish a natural and Constitutionally protected right that's your business. You'll suffer the consequences of your ignorance. I can provide many instances where citizens with guns have PREVENTED crimes. That's the fact not emotional touchy-feely, self-aggrandizement.

As for this silly perpetual allusion that parks are safe or "relatively" crime-free. Well, yeah, there are only a "few" murders" or there's only just a few thousand assaults, robberies or rapes, so I guess it's really a minuscule "statistic" unless YOU ARE one of the statistics. Your Pollyanna-like naiveté is single-minded, snooty, and devoid of reality. If you're the one in a million who gets struck by lightning it hurts. It's only a one-in-a-million chance but you were lucky enough to provide the ground for the charge. If your wife is enjoyable prey for a goofy rapist I guess you're still justified in retaining intellectual integrity in your moral stand against those nasty, icky guns that all the NRA wackos are obsessed with.

I'm just curious, Rick, but I didn't notice anything in your post, or those of others, that hinted at concern that one or more of the travelers in the park system you encounter might be a criminal carrying a gun. Or whether outside of the parks someone in your town might be a criminal with a gun. No, you take the moral high ground and bravely take a stand against a Constitutionally guaranteed right rather than place the blame where it belongs - with the criminals who commit the crimes.

I always find it ironic that pro-gun people say the gun control crowd has been duped/misled/confused of the truth by the Brady Campaign, when the pro-gun people have been 'duped' just as much by the NRA....

Rick - you say, "I'll say this until you are blue in the face: give me one example of a citizen with a concealed carry permit who has committed a violent crime in your sacred national park system - or any place in our country."

I say, give me one example of a citizen with a concealed carry permit who has averted a violent crime in our sacred national park system...

Bill Wade
Chair, Executive Council
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

Bill says,

> I say, give me one example of a citizen with a concealed carry permit who has averted a violent crime in our sacred national park system...

Based on media biases, since I never see anything about citizens defending themselves more than a million times each year outside of the parks I don't expect to see it when it actually does happen within the parks. All I see is the continuous commission of crimes within the park system. Why aren't you out there preventing some of these crimes, Bill? Oh, that's right, the courts absolved you of any responsibility by declaring "law enforcement" have no obligation to protect. You only have to investigate the victims when the crimes have occurred. That's reassuring to the victims.

You still haven't answered my question which is at the hear of this issue: whether concealed carry permit holders have or will cause problems. Even the lowest estimate of defensive gun use is somewhere around 500,000 per year. That's a lot of people who weren't victimized by a criminal - because you weren't there to protect them - by utilizing a firearm.

Rangertoo wrote: Not all parks are wild natural areas. Do we really want guns in Lincoln's Home or at Kennedy Birthplace?

Evidently, you haven't been paying attention to what this proposed amendment to the CFR would actually do, to wit permit concealed carry (and only concealed carry) by citizens in jurisdictions where they are licensed to do so. Lincoln's Home is in Illinois, where state law prohibits concealed carry entirely; Kennedy's Birthplace is in Massachusetts, where you need a Class B License To Carry to even own a handgun, and Class A LTCs (required to legally carry a handgun concealed) are about as rare and hens' teeth (and practically never issued to non-residents of the Commonwealth). In other words, you're objecting to the proposed amendment on the basis of something the proposed amendment wouldn't allow in the first place.

Kurt wrote: Will it make it safer for rangers responding to drunken fights in campgrounds? [...] Will it be OK to knock down a couple shots of Jack Daniels and chase it with a beer at the Bear Pit Lounge in the Old Faithful Inn while you're packing?

This kind of rhetoric is akin to the "argument" that we shouldn't legalize marijuana because that would remove all safeguards against motorists, surgeons, air traffic controllers, et al. performing their activities while stoned. This is, of course, nonsense. It is perfectly possible to legalize the possession and use of a substance in general, while prohibiting performing certain activities while being under its influence; we need look no further than alcohol. In my own state of Washington, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while "under the influence," i.e. having a BAC of 0.8% or over, or being affected by any drug. It is also illegal--except in one's home or place of business--for a person to be in possession of a firearm while "under the influence"; moreover, such an offense will result in the revocation of one's Concealed Pistol License and, if a court so orders, the forfeiture of all one's firearms. It's also illegal to possess a firearm in any establishment, or section of an establishment, declared by the state Liquor Control Board to be off-limits to persons aged under 21 (i.e. bars and bar areas of restaurants), regardless of whether one is actually consuming alcohol. The overwhelming majority of gun owners whom I know are well aware of this, and make sure their firearms are all securely locked away before they start on their first drink, and that includes people who don't live in Washington. The type of gun owner who would get drunk (and belligerent) while keeping a firearm readily accessible is the kind who is so irresponsible that he would probably ignore the current restrictions on firearms in National Parks anyway.

Of course you may argue that making a certain act illegal does not physically prevent someone from committing it anyway. The fact that brandishing, aggravated assault and homicide are illegal cannot prevent someone with a firearm from using the weapon to commit such acts. By the same token, the existence of DUI laws cannot prevent someone with access to alcoholic beverages and a motor vehicle from driving while intoxicated. According to MADD, "over 1.46 million drivers were arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics [...] an arrest rate of 1 for every 139 licensed drivers in the United States," and "in 2002, 2.3% of Americans 18 and older surveyed reported alcohol-impaired driving." While not wanting to downplay those figures, and acknowledging that the incidence of driving under the influence is almost certainly larger than those statistics reflect, the fact is that in spite of there being no way to physically prevent everyone from driving while intoxicated, the overwhelming majority of American motorists do not do so. Evidently, we can rely on the overwhelming majority of citizens to obey the law, even when they have the means and opportunity to break it.

As things stand, persons licensed to carry a concealed handgun can legally do so in National Forests and on BLM-administered public lands. Thus, we should have data available from which we can predict the likelihood of CCW permit holders misbehaving in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges; that is, if there is a significant problem with CCW permit holders getting drunk, picking fights and pulling guns at campgrounds on these federally administered lands, there should presumably be some documentation to that effect. Indeed, we would hope (were this the case) that the USFS and BLM would be agitating to impose restrictions on firearms on the lands under their care similar to those that currently apply to National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, right? Personally, I have been unable to find any evidence that any of this is the case. While there have been some problems with people wielding and/or discharging firearms in National Forests and on BLM lands, these are often more a case of gross inconsideration rather than imminent threat to life or limb, and more to the point, there's no evidence that the gun owners involved were CCW permit holders wielding only concealable firearms.

I'm willing to be proven wrong on this point: if you can present evidence that CCW holders frequently misbehave in a manner that forms a threat to life and limb of both wildlife and other humans in National Forests and on BLM-administered lands, I'm willing to concede that permitting state-licensed concealed carry in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges may present an unacceptable risk. But I don't think such evidence exists, not in the least place because acquiring a CCW permit typically involves submitting your fingerprints to the FBI (by way of your state or local law enforcement agency) for the purpose of conducting a criminal background check. I'll repeat that: if you have a CCW permit, you know your fingerprints are in a national criminal intelligence database, and in the event that you commit a criminal offense, you can be more readily identified by forensic research than the average citizen. As a result, people who consider themselves likely to violate the law (e.g. by being drunk and disorderly and committing assault, especially with a firearm) do not typically apply for CCW permits.

Moreover, given that apparently drunken brawls do occur in National Parks, and that as a result people are hurt even in the absence of firearms, is this not a stronger argument for prohibiting alcohol in National Parks than for prohibiting firearms? Mind you, it's entirely likely that the people you can most reliably expect to follow a prohibition on alcohol (aside from non-drinkers) are the ones who don't get fighting drunk or litter empty containers in the first place.

Kurt Wrote: Really, Mr. Secretary, this isn't a 2nd Amendment issue. No one is trying to deny folks the right to carry arms, [...]

Actually, at least one person is, to wit yourself. At some point in your commentary you point out that current regulations permit the transportation of firearms--unloaded, inoperable and not readily accessible--so apparently you understand that there is a legal distinction between transporting a firearm and carrying one. In legal terms, to carry a firearm it must be operable and on one's person. So when you subsequently seem to fail to understand the distinction, are you being ignorant, or merely disingenuous?

Kurt wrote: Mr. Secretary, many gun owners are quick to proclaim that they are as skilled and tested as Park Service law enforcement rangers when it comes to handling guns. Is that so?

As I understand it, the intensive training program for law enforcement rangers is 18 weeks long. Then, once the ranger completes their basic law enforcement training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center their next stop, after a short break at their home park, is to report to a field training park for an additional 10 weeks of mentored, hands-on experience.

Sure, but that covers training in all the skills required to be a law enforcement officer, including classroom in instruction in local, state and federal law, interview techniques, search and seizure procedures, how to write reports and maintain evidence chain of custody, etc. etc. Only a small part of the 18 weeks of academy training is spent on instruction on firearms handling and justifiable use of force. Moreover, the margins of when use of force (deadly or otherwise) is justifiable are wider for law enforcement personnel than they are for private citizens. Private citizens are not expected to execute search and arrest warrants, or to rush towards the sound of gunfire, as law enforcement officers are. Unlike law enforcement officers, private citizens are legally justified in using deadly force only to forestall an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm to themselves or others as a result of unlawful activity. Because the criteria for justifiable use of deadly force by private citizens are so much narrower than for LEOs, less instruction is necessary. Nevertheless, many gun owners, especially those who opt to carry a concealed firearm in public, choose to voluntarily undergo more training than they are required to by statute, witness the roaring trade done by such private firearms training facilities as the Lethal Force Institute in New Hampshire, the Firearms Academy of Seattle in Washington, the Valhalla Training Center in Colorado, Thunder Ranch in Oregon and Gunsite in Arizona, to name a few of the major ones. All of these schools were founded by (current or former) law enforcement personnel, and/or have law enforcement personnel on their staff as instructors.

It's worth noting that research indicates that shootings in which the shooter mistakenly, but without malicious intent, kills an innocent person ("I though he was drawing a gun but it turned out to be a wallet"-type scenarios) occur significantly more frequently with LEOs than they do with private citizens, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of shooting incidents. This is not because police are reckless or incompetent, but reflects the fact that it is part of their job to seek out and confront people who may prove violent.

Bill Wade wrote: I say, give me one example of a citizen with a concealed carry permit who has averted a violent crime in our sacred national park system...

That smells suspiciously like shifting the burden of proof. Kurt has argued against proposed amendment to the CFR by asserting that there is a risk (and he implies it is a large one) of CCW permit holders using their weapons to commit unlawful acts. Without evidence, however, this is merely an unsupported assertion and to quote Christopher Hitchens, "what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." Statistics indicate that CCW permit holders are one-fifth (or less) as likely to commit a violent offense as the general population (and comparatively even less likely to commit a non-violent offense). Unless there is something unique about National Forests that would somehow cause a CCW permit holder to suddenly deviate from this pattern (and if there is, I'd like to know what), Kurt's fears do not appear to have much basis in reality.

The main problem with demanding such an example, however, is that it is not likely to be documented. If a CCW permit holder averted a violent crime in a National Park without using a concealed carry firearm to do so, why would it be documented that the person in question was a CCW permit holder? The germane question, presumably, is whether there are documented examples of CCW permit holders using their concealed carry weapons to avert a violent crime. The rub is, of course, that concealed carry is currently illegal in National Parks; thus, an absence of such examples may simply be the result of CCW permit holders obeying the law. You simply can't reasonably assert that CCW permit holders wouldn't do any good because they have failed to do so thus far, when doing so would, at this point, require them to have broken the law first. And if such an example could be found, I have little doubt you'd gleefully seize upon the fact that CCW permit holder was carrying illegally in a National Park as evidence that all CCW permit holders are scofflaws. It's a "heads I win, tails you lose" scenario.

Jurjen,

I think the statistics -- no matter whose you choose to use -- speak for themselves. The more guns in circulation, the more folks get shot, whether intentionally or accidentally, whether by criminals or by guns owned by any legal gun owner, whether they hold a CCW permit or not.

Again, the point I've tried to make in this post and in comments to others is that the concern doesn't necessarily revolve around the "responsible" gun owner, but more so the irresponsible, of which statistics seem to indicate there are plenty.

The official bestowing of a CCW permit doesn't necessarily carry with it all the wisdom, patience, and judgment that you and other gun proponents would have everyone believe. Wouldn't it seem reasonable that the fact that there are so many varying state laws pertaining to guns and what one must do to obtain a CCW permit (or for states to grant reciprocity) is evidence that there are many different views of who exactly is a competent gun owner?

And through this entire debate no one has answered a question raised long ago: If "concealed carry" is allowed in the parks, where will you pack your weapon? If it's to be "concealed" and it's a warm-weather month, wouldn't that necessitate that the weapon be placed in a pack? And if that's the case, how quickly can you reach that weapon in time of need?

As to your contention that a CCW holder wouldn't admit to averting a violent crime because they would themselves be admitted to committing a crime, well, other CCW holders have commented on this site either directly or through implication that they would willing pay a fine if their actions prevented a crime.

Adding guns to the National Parks is complete contrary to the concept of the parks being a sanctuary. Guns kill, people with guns murder. Allowing guns in parks will only increase the likelyhood of some idiot killing the very animals protected by the sanctuary of the Natioanl Parks. It is time that the NRA woke up and realized that yes we do have gun rights, but not everywhere and not in all situations. Gun limits are not gun restrictions, just laws and guidelines to protect others from illegal gun use. NO! NO! NO to guns in the National Park. Do I need to be worried about a stray shot killing me as I hike Yellowstone, Crater Lake or Great Smokey?

I can't speak for all CCW holders, but I DON'T carry my pistol in my backpack. What if I wanted to take it off while I took a break? Would I just set it on the ground and then wander over to look at that pretty flower? Not me, brother!! My pistol is somewhere on my person every second, or it's in the lockbox. There are several thousand different types of holsters on the market. I use two different types. One allows me to "present" quickly. The other one allows me to "present" VERY quickly.

As far as being responsible, NO test can determine someone's future actions. Look at drunk drivers. If we could test them in advance of their unsafe act, would we issue them a driver's license?

And I would gladly pay a fine if I had been able to prevent a crime. As one of our Rangers commented elsewhere in the NPT, if he found out I was carrying, he would take it and hold it until I left the Park. Reasonable, AND I would have the knowledge of having done the RIGHT thing even if it was against DOI regulations.

How come everything is underlined??

So Fred, I'm curious. If the regulations were changed to allow "concealed" carry, how would you conceal your weapon during warm weather if it wasn't in your pack? Wouldn't a holster be out in the open and against regs? And what if you're just out and about in the park, not in the backcountry? Where/how do you carry a "concealed" weapon?

Nothing personal, Fred but I don't think I would enjoy backpacking with someone like you. You sound a bit braggadocio about carrying a concealed weapon into the National Parks when it's clearly stated it's against the law. It's nothing to brag about when breaking the law and carrying on like you're ready to pounce on someone if they accidentally crossed your path over some slight misunderstanding. It happens all the time in a moment of rage and passion. But, I judge you're a prudent man with a reasonable even temperament. However, I do find you as a strange cat in the woods.

Hey Fred, I thought we had both agreed you NEVER carried in the parks? C'mon amigo, which is it?

On a lighter note, I noticed you also claimed that the only parks you visit are located in the "pro-gun belt" (no pun intended) states currently or I'm guessing, futuristically allowing for CCP holders such as yourself to exorcise your rights, yada yada........Now to me, that sounds suspiciously more like a political statement than a fundamental preference issue, in that I'll bet you would have a difficult time saying, in all honesty, that "I wouldn't care to see [insert park name here] on the basis that I don't have the option to carry my handgun". I understand that you have chosen NOT to visit particular areas of the country based on this stance, but isn't that somewhat like cutting off your nose to spite your face? Couldn't you enjoy [insert park name here] just as much sans weaponry as you could with the extra poundage on your person?

Yeah, those underlines were getting more than a little annoying. Fortunately, all bad things come to an end!

That is except for this never-ending debate, in which no resolution will satisfactorily pacify both groups.

Sorry Kurt, I won't tell. The whole idea of "concealed" is that you don't know that I'm carrying, and you certainly don't know WHERE it is on my body. One sure way for the bad guy to disarm you is to know these two pieces of information. Warm weather is a real problem for me and has been the hardest and most expensive to solve. This link gives you some ideas of the many carry methods: http://magills.com/

I've carried plenty, just NOT in a National Park.

Here's how I decide which states I will visit: http://carryconcealed.net/legal/utah-ccw-state-laws.php Those that aren't colored green on this map on not in my travel plans, except for Colorado. My brother lives there. He's a retired cop; he carries everywhere he goes.

Now how do you decide? Almost everywhere you go you might be standing next to a CCW holder that is armed. Wal-Mart, the gas station, movie theater, grocery store, etc; what do you do?

Kurt wrote: "I think the statistics -- no matter whose you choose to use -- speak for themselves. The more guns in circulation, the more folks get shot, whether intentionally or accidentally, whether by criminals or by guns owned by any legal gun owner, whether they hold a CCW permit or not."

That's an extremely simplistic way of looking at it. Between roughly 1970 and 2000, the stock of firearms in private ownership in the US more than doubled (handguns even more so); at the same time, the number of accidental firearm deaths dropped by more than half. The American homicide rate has not consistently followed the number of firearms in civilian circulation, and indeed, the American homicide rate is not especially remarkable if you factor out homicides among young, inner city-dwelling, African-American males, who are the most likely demographic to be engaged in the "retail" end of the drug trade as a means of escaping poverty. If you look at cities with the highest homcide rates in the US--places like Washington DC, Detroit and Flint MI, Birmingham AL, Baltimore MD, and Compton CA--the thing that stands as the common factor is disproportionate numbers of poor African-Americans.

Moreover, while a higher number of firearms in circulation among the criminal element is most certainly correlated to a higher number of gun crimes, we should be careful not to confuse cause and effect. All the available evidence indicates that the supply of black market guns is driven by criminal demand, not vice-versa. For example, some time back, it turned out a large number of guns used in crimes in Washington DC had been purchased by "straw purchasers" in Virginia. In response to the DC city government's demands, Virginia implemented a law prohibiting citizens from purchasing more than one handgun a month. In response, the parties supplying guns to the DC criminal element shifted their acquisitions operations south to Georgia and Alabama, which had no such laws. This happened because the reduced supply of illegally traded firearms in Washington DC did not lead to a reduction in demand; because demand did not decrease, it was worth the black marketeers' effort to go further afield to acquire handguns. Even if the US were to ban the commercial sale and private ownership of firearms all together, if the criminal element continued to produce a demand for handguns, black marketeers would meet it by smuggling the guns in from abroad. You see the same patterns with drugs; American law enforcement has been successful in cracking down on domestic production of meth, but now the stuff is produced (in huge quantities) in Mexico and smuggled into the US, because there still exists a demand for the vile stuff.

With crime guns, as with illicit drugs, what works in the long run is reducing the demand. Trying to eradicate gun crime or drug use by focusing on reducing the supply while leaving the demand undiminished is an exercise in pointlessness (which is why the "War on Drugs" has been going on for 35 years with no end in sight).

Availability of guns doesn't cause crime, and it doesn't cause suicide. At most, availability of guns results in a higher percentage of violent deaths being performed with guns, rather than with blades, bludgeons, etc. To compare, in Switzerland, guns are more readily available (legally, at least) than anywhere else in Europe, and not surprisingly, it has one the highest percentages of homicides carried out with guns; at the same time, it has one of the lowest homicide rates in Europe. In 2006, there were 34 homicides and attempted homicides in Switzerland using firearms; in the same year in the Netherlands, there were over 50 completed homicides using firearms. Now, admittedly, the Dutch population is over twice the size of Switzerland's (16 million to 7.5 million, resp.), but firearms are much harder to possess legally in the Netherlands. Also, the number of homicides in the Netherlands in 2006 (160) was the lowest in ten years, and the percentage of Dutch homicides carried out with firearms remained fairly stable during that period (about 33%).

The bottom line is that guns alone don't cause crime, any more than cars alone cause drunk driving, which is why gun control usually fails to reduce crime; sometimes, it manages to reduce gun crime, but that is by no means a given (see the UK).

Again, the point I've tried to make in this post and in comments to others is that the concern doesn't necessarily revolve around the "responsible" gun owner, but more so the irresponsible, of which statistics seem to indicate there are plenty.

That rather depends on how you define "plenty"; on the one hand, every irresponsible gunowner is one too many, but on the other hand, if you compare the numbers of people killed and injured in motor vehicle collisions to the number of people killed and injured by firearms (especially if you don't count suicides), the number of irresponsible gun owners is dwarfed by the number of irresponsible motorists. If you only count irresponsible legal gun owners (as the bulk of homicides are committed by people with prior felony convictions, who are prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms), the disparity is even larger.

Scare quotes on "responsible" noted, by the way.

The official bestowing of a CCW permit doesn't necessarily carry with it all the wisdom, patience, and judgment that you and other gun proponents would have everyone believe.

Nice straw man. Of course the act of acquiring a CCW permit doesn't imbue you with better judgment, and it would be magical thinking to claim it does. The indications are, however, that the kind of person who acquires a CCW permit is no more likely to act in an irresponsible manner than the "average" citizen, and a good deal more likely to behave in less irresponsible fashion than many. Again, available statistics (such as they are) indicate that CCW permit holders are significantly less likely to be convicted of both violent and non-violent offenses than the general population.

Look, the dire predictions you've been making are exactly the same ones that were made every time some state legislature was considering adopting a "shall-issue" law. "People will shoot each other fender-benders," warned the Brady Campaign, the VPC, the CSGV, etc., "rush will turn into Dodge city, blood will run in the streets" and words to similar effect. Those predictions were wrong every. single. time. What earthly reason is there to believe they're going to come true this time?

"If "concealed carry" is allowed in the parks, where will you pack your weapon? If it's to be "concealed" and it's a warm-weather month, wouldn't that necessitate that the weapon be placed in a pack?"

Absolutely not. There are many possible ways of carrying unobtrusively in warm weather. An "inside-the-waistband" (IWB) holster covered by a longish shirt worn outside the pants is one possible solution, as is a compact semi-auto or snubnose revolver in a pocket holster, stowed in a thigh pocket of a pair of cargo pants or shorts. There are also fanny packs available which incorporate a holster and a means of rapidly being opened using the off-hand, vests with built-in holsters, and even t-shirts.

Kurt,

While I applaud your enthusiasm and educated article regarding concealed weapons in our National Parks, I would like to express my less educated view of the proposal. I am a law abiding resident of the great state of Colorado. I also have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in my home state. The reason I decided to apply for a concealed weapons permit is not because I think that it would be a cool thing to do or because I want to cause trouble. It is because there are a lot of people in the world who would like to harm us. You see the stories in the news everyday. Granted, there are not a lot of violent crimes in the National Parks but if you are a victim of a crime does it really matter how few there are? Do you think that the six murder victims (according to the statistics that you provided) would agree with you that concealed weapons have no place in the National Parks? I am not afraid of the wildlife that I may encounter, I am afraid of the people. I go to the National Parks to get away from the crowds and hustle and bustle of the city but when you get away from the crowds and into the backcountry, you are on your own to protect yourself. There are usually no police nearby and if you can get a cell phone signal, they would probably not make it in time to help you anyway. There is strength in numbers.

I agree that the National Parks are places of peace and beauty, are relatively safe and guns shouldn't be allowed in them but there are people across this country who carry weapons illegally - in their cars, on school grounds, in the mall, everywhere. Even in National Parks! And they prey on people who cannot protect themselves.

In a perfect world there would be no need to carry guns but that just isn't the case. Being a US citizen, I have the right to bear arms as guaranteed by the 2nd amendment of the Constitution so why does it matter if it is in a National Park? Poaching still happens in the parks, people still get attacked (and killed) in parks so who is actually at risk? I don't believe that crime would go up in the parks because more people have concealed weapons - I think that it would be just the opposite. Who knows? Maybe six criminals would be killed instead of six visitors.

Criminals will carry their weapons wherever they want. I would just like the opportunity to offset their threat.

Brian M.

Kurt,
You protest too much! I've never been an NRA member or backer, but you need to be truthful: 1, this topic has been discussed at governmental levels for 5 years; 2, to imply this is a political issue in an election year is to make yourself political ( not a good or smart idea): 3, this is really a states rights issue, not an NRA issue once you get down to it.

I support the National Parks as fervently ( and for a longer time) as you. But your RANT against this issue does not support the Parks. Reasoned discussions are ALWAYS more beneficial to all concerned.

Hmmmm, not political. That's why the NRA -- one of the most powerful lobbies in the country -- admittedly scripted the letters that were sent by senators to Interior Secretary Kempthorne, and that's why the NRA worked with Sen. Coburn to introduce his amendment to open the parks to concealed weapons.

States rights issue? I always thought Yellowstone, Yosemite and the other 389 NPS units were "national" parks. I also thought the Congress, through the above cited codes, gave the National Park Service legal jurisdiction over the parks. I must have missed the transfer.

Excuse me, I thought you could read. I said YOU were being political! The NRA has always been political. I hoped you were above that. I was obviously mistaken.

I have always supported the parks for non-political reasons, I thought you might also. Again, my error!

Every thing is not political to every one.

It's funny that folks keep using the term "Allow Weapons"
What many do not understand is that a Criminal is a criminal. Regardless of what laws are in place.
If they choose to carry and gun and to commit a crime, they are going to do it whether they are not allowed to or not.
Placing a law to not allow a lawful person to protect themselves is absolutley ridiculous.
CCW holders apply to protect themselves and their family from those who choose to disobey the law and direct their disobedience toward them.

What better is a target that you can guarantee doesn't have a gun.
One gun can protect many, cause the criminal doesnt know if you are holding it or not. Why leave the mystery out of it and give the advantage to the criminal?

If you Outlaw Guns, Only Outlaws will have them.

My .02

Sorry anonymous, but am I to understand that raising one's voice to question management decisions is political? So if one were to question ESA decisions, or fee decisions, or trail-building decisions, one would be immersing themselves in politics?

If that's an accurate understanding, then should the Traveler restrict its coverage to little more than park histories, lodging deals, and where to watch pretty sunsets? Should it ban any post or comment that points to either a questionable practice or proposal?

It's been abundantly clear for going on three years now that the Traveler's mission is to build advocates for the parks. The vehicle for that mission is to follow issues that swirl around the National Park System so park visitors know how the parks are being managed. And yes, on occasion we do venture out and editorialize.

You describe yourself as a fervent parks supporter. What park issues interest you? Have you commented on any other posts, pro or con? Why the need for anonymity? And, of course, if you believe I'm getting political for questioning the gun proposal, aren't you, too, for questioning my motives and insisting this is a states rights issue?

Why does the gun issue extract such incredible outpourings of vitriol and personal attacks? Why isn't there similar (though hopefully more civilized in expression) concern regarding other issues in the parks? Or is everything OK across the system?

Why does the gun issue extract such incredible outpourings of vitriol and personal attacks?

LOL!
Do you really have to ask?

It is political, and macho, and trite...
Stephen Ducat at The Huffington Post recently said it pretty well...
"Cowboys, Prairie Fairies, and Mother Earth:
The Political Psychology of Gendering Nature Female"

It is my belief that if the Park Service is willing to protect all the visitors that enter the Park and are capable of doing so then a Licensed, Trained, Concelled Carry Permit guest to the park does not need to carry a gun. If the Park Service fails to protect a guest then the Park Service should be liable for any and all claims for failur to protect a guest. If the park service is not will to accept responsibility or is unable to protect all the guests, I believe a Licensed, trained concelled carry permit guest should be allowed to carry a gun.

My 2 cents

With all this passion over guns, I hope all of us, on whatever side of this issue, are learning:

WHY IS THIS ISSUE BEING PUSHED AT THIS TIME ?? Why would the Secretary of the Interior, in so quickly going along with a non-binding petition, agree to discuss this issue right through 2008, only to wait to decide it in January??

DOES ANYONE FEEL THEY ARE BEING USED?

What we have here is a classic issue deliberately introduced to polarize the American people before an election. The game is, you select a topic -- say, 'partial-birth' abortion, or gay marriage OR GUN CONTROL ISSUES, and drop it on top of a people who desperately want and need to find a way forward together. But the political game -- the REAL political game, not as the term 'political' is being used above by Kurt and 'Anonymous" -- but as a simple device of driving us nuts in time to warp and pervert yet another election.

The point is to get people's blood up. The point is to make people say "my way or no way." The point is to bring out an electorate thinking division, feeling frustrated, worried that something critical is on the line. So as to ignore all else. So as to avoid finding ways of working with and appreciating other Americans, and other ways of thinking.

The idea is to target specific frustrated segments of the American people and get them to vote AGAINST somebody, while -- in a different way -- frustrating ANOTHER group of Americans so much that THEY throw up their hands and say: the system stinks ! and stay home on election day.

This kind of politics is the reason so few people vote, and most of the time most Americans are hostile because their Government does not seem to accomplish any of the real things that seem to be necessary most of the time.

Even a President as popular as Ronald Reagan received votes by only 26% of the public in what really was only a two-way election, and this during the Iran Hostage mess.

People: how can we stop being used for obvious political fodder? Does anyone really believe Secretary Kempthorne can be serious [as in, serious about this as public polity] when he says the decision on guns in Parks will be made IN JANUARY, thus allowing him to wait until after the election has kicked this around to no avail, and then make whatever decision AFTERWARD? Don't you feel you are being dangled on a string?

Don't you believe that the only way we can get things done in America is to find the things in which we have common cause, in which the vast majority of American's agree can and must be solved, and move together on those things?

Or, do we like being dangled incessantly by provocative issues chosen BECAUSE there is no common ground??

God Bless America.

Lepanto, if you look at the creation dates for national historic sites, national recreation areas, and all those other non-park or monument status NPS units, you'll see that an overwhelming majority were created during an election year. Parks are political. This thread about concealed weapons in national parks seems to make the case for removing national parks from a political system. Were parks were removed from federal ownership and managed by non-governmental trusts, as are many museums, then the Second Amendment wouldn't apply and individual parks could choose to ban weapons in parks. Food for thought.

Yes, FrankC, of course they are "political" in the sense you use it. And, in that sense, parks should be political, and the congress should represent the will and energy of the electorate. One reason to have a democratic republic is to get your representatives to do things you like.

What I was trying to say, very different, is the gun thing is not the same. It is not healthy politics. There are professionals in the business of politics today who are SEEKING wedge issues, not because of the merits of the issue, not because Americans want them (like parks), but in order to split americans, and provoke a targeted group to simplify their vote and thinking, or come out to vote. The idea behind provoking gun advocates is to get some percentage to vote who would otherwise not vote, voters who WILL be provoked by the "wedge" and who will (they hope) vote overwhelmingly for this or that candidate.

The kind of politics you are talking about is altogether different, and I'll bet you actually understand this without being reminded, I'd guess.

BUT:

The establishment of most parks is almost always seen by local people as a positive thing when they come up this way. There are almost no cases of parks being created by Congress over the objection of the local congressional delegation. Alaska, of course, is the notable exception. This is not to say some parks were created amid strong objection by some local people or groups, but park establishment is mostly a 'feel good' thing. By the numbers, is a soft enterprise, and does not go very deep in stirring political passions. There are all kinds of surveys demonstrating thiis.

Rarely do advocates of a new park get the kind of huge bounce the politician would get by provoking a challenge, such as putting out a proposed rule on guns, or a referendum on gay marriage. Or, the bounce they might get by making a big public point of supporting snowmachines.

There are exceptions.

Some new parks were seen as 'saviors,' to an area, such as Lowell or Shenandoah, and local business interests (in the case of Shenandoah, as opposed to small holders who opposed the park) or great local zeal seeking individual affirmation, as in the case of a Lowell or Rosie the Riveter, or Women's Rights, or Ellis Island, Tuskegee airmen, telling the Untold Story of a neglected class of Americans. THOSE people would vote for or aginst a politician, as we saw when a sitting congressman lost his Lowell seat after failing to get the funding the park needed.

The most cynical way, most of the time, the establishment of new parks or funding old parks is used by elected officials is to appear to be an environmentalist -- by supporting parks alone -- without doing much else for air or water. But that also is a pretty cosmetic sort of politics, not the sort of "wedge politics" this guns in parks thing is trying to be.

Some politics is just the way to get something done. Some politics are deliberately destructive, to get short term gain by going negative, inflaming some constituency, and using the cover to fail to act responsibly by governing well. It is now widely believed by Members of Congress that -- even though congress is significantly responsible for what goes on in this country -- you do better by NEVER acting as if you are responsible, but to just attack government as if it has nothing to do with them. The 'wedge" issue is part of the same strategy.

the gun thing is a wedge. Creating new parks, almost never. It is easy to tell the difference. It is the difference between trying to get something done, and trying to excite antagonism.

This is NOT a new, election-year issue. If you take the time to follow this link you will see that the NRA has been fighting this battle for more than five years.

http://www.nraila.org//Legislation/Federal/Read.aspx?ID=3529


But Fred, follow the bouncing ball!

The timing was chosen by the politicians. If the congressional and Administration supporters of this proposed rulemaking were serious about good government, then why did Kempthorne announce a january decision date? Why not do this two years ago? Or last year.

You may believe in this -- and the point of these kinds of manipulations is to have easily provocable believers -- but the politicians are doing it purely as a wedge, to polarize and paralyze the American people.

Even if you can't see your way through on this because of your suseptibility to the gun issue, surely you can look around at some other hot button and see equivalent behavior on other issues, where some other group can be gulled. And call it 'principle.'

Hey, folks. Let us get beyond those people, and find the things that unite us.

Where is the information about the January 1st effective date? I was not aware of it. What is the Secretary using for justification? Why not an immediate change to the regulations after a review of the public comments? I realize that there's more than TEN THOUSAND comments, but they are almost all in SUPPORT of the rule change. Why not use SEPTEMBER 1st, or maybe even AUGUST?

The DOI website says, "Once the public comment period has closed, all comments received will be evaluated and incorporated into the decision making process on a final rule. The number and substance of the comments received will determine the timeline for the final decision."

http://www.doi.gov/news/08_News_Releases/080430.html

Fred, for god's sake come up for air on this gun issue. Why are you so wildly honed and intense on this issue? Lepanto makes a damn good point!
The Bush & Cheney ideology has infected and poisoned just about every governmental agency in this country with it's pure chain-ball stupidity and corrupt political chicanery. Now, this gun issue, such unbelievable waste of breath during election year when we have such horrendous internal problems and moral decay in this country...and you worry about packing a concealed weapon in the National Parks. Such a pity!!!


Hi Fred --

My recollection is that when they announced their schedule, DOI was asked by a reporter when Dept. of Interior expected to be able to make the decision on the rulemaking/regulation, and answered "in January." Not Jan 1.

However, I don't have a copy the report of story that carried this, and am relying on memory. I will try to scour around and see if any old news archives cover this exchange. Maybe someone else saw the same piece and can comment, but I will look.

But that kind of timing can be made to appear plausible, assuming they can say they have the comment period close in a little less than a month, most likely they do not extend (as they sometimes do where there are a bunch of comments), then stop to review the decision, prepare an analysis, go through the review with their lawyers, put their finger up in the air to see where the politics is, and then publish their result.

Either way they get the advantage of stirring people up, without having to go on the record one way or another before the election, but protract the whole thing to target the specific constituency. If this is right you should expect to hear a bunch more on this around september-october. At the least the Senators signing the petition and who are running get a bounce, and we will see if they can work it into the presidential campaign. If they can get Obama to say he disagrees is sept or oct, they can use that against him in states like Pennsylvania, that he needs, with strong NRA.

This strategy will not work if Kempthorne announces his decision in sept or oct. Anyway, just watch the bouncing ball and see if you are right, that this is a 'principled' decision by Kempthorne, or if he waits and is just playing this for the political bounce of objectifying Obama and opponents of republican senators in swing states.

Republicans must be desperate to hold on to all the seats they can.

Imagine, they could be talking about habitat preservation instead !

Personally, I prefer the old NRA that worried about sustaining wildlife and wildlife habitat.


My only curiosity is that the Supreme Court decision concerning the D.C. handgun ban will be released in the next two weeks. I can't help but imagine what kind of impact that decision will have. If the D.C. gun ban is upheld, why should the DOI secretary need to change the rules if he doesn't want to? On the other hand, if the D.C. gun ban is struck DOWN, I would think it's going to be "open season" on ANY questionable firearms regulations, including those currently in place in the National Parks. They would never survive the scrutiny until January. See what I mean?

And I also liked it better when the NRA just needed to teach Hunter-Safety classes, instead of having to fight political battles.