Interior Department officials have agreed to extend through July the comment period on a proposal to allow visitors to national parks to carry guns.
On June 26, the chairmen of the House and Senate subcommittees with jurisdiction over national parks wrote to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne requesting an extension of the comment period that was set to expire on June 30. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, and Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, stressed to the secretary that the previous 60-day comment period was an inadequate amount of time to allow the public to comment on such a controversial and complex proposal.
“While a longer extension such as the 60 days Senator Akaka and I requested would have been a more appropriate time-frame for the public to comment on this major change to current policies, I am pleased that at least the Interior Department is willing to give the public a bit more time to provide meaningful input on the issue,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It is my hope that ultimately the Department will decide to abandon this ill-advised idea for the safety of park visitors and wildlife alike.”
The Department of Interior’s proposal would allow visitors to carry loaded, concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges in states where guns are allowed in parks and refuges under state law, a change from current regulations that require guns to be unloaded and locked away during visits to parks.
“National Parks have long been a place where families and individuals can enjoy a peaceful connection with the natural environment and wildlife,” added Senator Akaka. “ Parks should be safe for children and visitors of all ages, as well as for park employees and animals that inhabit the parks. While I am pleased by the granting of an extension, I am hopeful that the Department of Interior will give serious consideration to the public comments, and the consequences of allowing loaded guns on parks.”