Trigger-happy Man Shoots Another Rustling in the Brush

A trigger-happy camper, possibly fueled by alcohol, shot another man in an Oregon campground after hearing rustling in the brush. The incident, while not occurring in a national park setting, could fuel arguments of those opposed to the legalization of carrying concealed weapons in national parks.

According to an article in the Daily Astorian, the incident occurred Monday afternoon at the Spruce Run Campground along the Nehalem River in Oregon's Clatsop County. The shooting occurred when one man in a group of people, who were said to be drinking heavily, fired a number of shots from a 22-caliber rifle into the woods after hearing some rustling.

Five of the shots struck a 22-year-old man, who was taken to a Portland-area hospital where he remained in an induced coma.

The shooter was arraigned on one count of second-degree assault.


Kurt, you're going to take a lot of heat here for this one! I really don't see this being very apropos to the guns-in-parks debate, but I'll let the masses decide that.

What this does reinforce for me, is how dangerous alcohol is. Guns, rattlesnakes, bison, vehicles, and cliffs aren't really all that threatening to a sober and sane human being. But all of the above turn deadly when mixed with alcohol - or other mind-altering substances. I'd be happy to see possession or consumption of alcohol banned in the parks before guns. A campsite full of guns doesn't scare me nearly as much as a campsite full of empty bottles.

But I'm a vehement teetotaler, so take my opinion with a grain of salt - or a shot of tequila...your choice.

-Kirby.....Lansing, MI

Kurt, you didn't give us the whole story. The shooter "had five previous alcohol-related convictions." I don't know if this person would be able to get a concealed weapon permit under Oregon state law. Doubtful. At any rate, one does not need a concealed weapon permit for a rifle. This is not an argument for keeping law abiding citizens (those without multiple alcohol-related convictions) from legally carrying arms.

No doubt, there are individuals & organization who will try to use incidents like this to argue against firearms, period. As noted, it's not directly germane to whether the firearms are being packed within the National Parks (though of course that won't stop some from trying to connect them).

To have an armed citizenry is obviously not cost-free. There are risks & an ongoing price involved. Some people see & embrace the rational for providing a right to arms, and some deny it's valid.

In the case of the ban on firearms in the National Parks, that was a mistake in the first place. There is no basis to exempt Parks from the right to bear arms, whether we approve of the right itself or not. The right is there, and the argument that guns "aren't needed" in Parks is what is legally known as "specious".

The more meaningful & determinative question is, what happens in the Presidential and other ballots a few weeks from now? The election of McCain & Palin will generally solidify & promote firearms rights, while a victory for Obama & Biden would be less favorable for weapons.

Personally, I expect the new Conceal Carry rule-change in the National Parks will gradually morph into an increasingly needed selective hunting system in the Parks.

Not all campgrounds are created equal. I've stayed at a lot of campgrounds and I've found the vast majority of those inside the parks to be pretty quiet and civilized. On the other hand, I can only describe a significant percentage of grounds outside the parks as wretched hives of scum and villainy.

-Kirby.....Lansing, MI

This has more to do with irresponsible drinking than with guns.


I'm truly sorry to hear you've had such experiences with non-NPS campgrounds. I must say that in 30+ plus years of camping in mostly privately-owned campgrounds, I've had no more trouble than rowdies hooting and hollering late at night. I also have found that NPS units are virtually the same, with the exception that Park Rangers on the grounds generally keep the rowdies quiet due to their meer presence alone. I even recall doing some hooting of my own while in my 20's....

I've generaly found the camping/RVing folks to be some of the nicest, friendliest and helpful people you would ever want to meet. I've fostered many new long-lasting friendships over the years through meetings in these parks.

I have, however, seen the villainous types that you describe in my stays in hotels/motels, hence my gravitating to the campgrounds.

As to the firearms issue, doesn't each state regulate when/where/how you can carry? I know in VA that a CC permit does not apply to neighboring states, and there are limitations as to where you can carry. (IE: Not allowed in bars, concert halls, etc., which I totally agree with).

Does the NPS have the sovereign ability to deny residents of the same State that a park unit is in the right to carry? I ask this in all seriousness, as I have no idea, and cannot find the answer in the previous threads on a quick search.

I have, however, seen the villainous types that you describe

Indeed, I exaggerated for the purpose of using a quote from Star Wars. I also think I have less tolerance for general rowdiness than the average person. Further, I can definitely draw a map with contour lines representing camping civility. Some areas we've been, the camping crowds are the nicest and least rowdy you can find. Other places, we'll know pulling up to the campground that it's going to be a long night. We've gotten in the habit of using KOA's if backcountry isn't an option. The family atmosphere of the KOA's seems to eliminate the domestic disputes erupting at 3am and the impromptu dirt bike races we've run into at some private joints. You pay more for it, but you sleep better.

I don't think I've ever found anything but the personable, friendly, helpful folks you speak of in the NPS sites. I've always attributed that to having shared interests with these folks. My wife and I don't drink, don't like loud vehicles, don't own a TV, don't hunt, don't fish, and don't have kids. That seems to put us at odds with how most of the folks enjoy the Interstate campgrounds. (And we're 35 and 27....imagine how boring we'll be 30 years from now!) In the parks, I always seem to run into retired folks on cross-country bird watching excursions (as happened in Teddy Roosevelt this summer) or something like that to make it a pleasant experience. I've never felt nervous or unsafe in a park, but definitely have when camping other places.

As for hotels, I can't argue with you. The expense of hotels repels us more than the clientele, though. A bed isn't worth $80 a night.

-Kirby.....Lansing, MI

Look at it this way. A rowdy drunk man can do more damage with a gun than a rowdy drunk man throwing beer cans at a bush.

This sad incident is an example of the kind of problem that I predict will become more common if the existing regulations concerning firearms in national parks are relaxed. Why? A significant number of today's visitors to parks are urbanites with limited experience in the out-of-doors, and therefore more inclined to panic when "things go bump in the night." I don't make that observation lightly, but base it on 30 year's experience as a ranger in some of the largest parks in the country. The fact that this incident occurred in the afternoon illustrates even further the tendency of some individuals to shoot first and hope for the best.

In this situation, given the circumstances and players involved, it's a moot point whether the gun involved was a rifle or handgun. A firearm was readily at hand, there was a perceived "threat," and the knee-jerk reaction was to fire away. Proposals to make firearms readily available in parks will only increase the risk of similar situations.

That is not an indictment of responsible owners of firearms. I include myself in that category, and I am not "anti-gun." That does not mean, however, that the carrying of a loaded weapon is necessary or appropriate every place in the country. I have camped in parks for 50 years, and have never felt the need to have a firearm as part of my gear.

A reminder about the current NPS firearms regulations is in order here. Those regulations do not prohibit possession of firearms in parks, but simply require that they be unloaded and stored so they are not immediately at hand. Those rules have served parks and visitors well for decades, and given the rarity of violent crime in national parks, this debate is more a philosophical and political one about "gun rights" rather than a practical one about the need for guns for self-defense in parks. The existing rule is a good example of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

In my 30 years as a ranger, I did not encounter a single situation where a visitor needed a firearm for self-defense against another person - or a wild animal. I did, however, encounter a number of situations in which heated words were exchanged and some occasional shoving matches ensued - often among members of a group, and often involving alcohol. I have no doubts that some of those situations would have had a much more serious, or deadly, outcome, if a loaded firearm had been readily available to one or more of the participants.

I can see that most of you haven't camped at the various National Recreation Areas. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are staples there. The "issues" at Chickasaw are legendary.

Obviously this nut job has not taken any hunter safety course, which I took at age 12. You don't shoot at a sound. You identify your target, check your background, look for the proper spot to place your shot and aim for that point. Sounds like some big city psycho that should stay in the big city.

I think you hit the nail right on the head with your comment, not the gun but the person.

You won't win any friends or influence any people with this one. What you did do is distroy any credibility that you might have had. If your argument held water then ban driving in the parks, (hummm.... not such a bad idea) because drunk drivers kill thousands of people a year.

Ric - which 'you' are you referring to?

It is not about needing a gun, it is about what one wants and if one wants to carry a gun into a national park, that should be OK. Just because ONE idiot shot something he couldn't see , the rest of us should not be punished for that. Put the idiot away and let the rest of us go on. If, in fact, this is his fifth alcohol related offense then why is he free anyway?

Ric, you've almost hit the nail on the head.

Some want to prohibit concealed carry in national parks because they believe those guns might kill people and wildlife. I'd be all for leaving guns behind if cars were banned from national parks, too. Cars kill far more than guns in these United States (cars claim more than 40,000 human lives a year) and wreak havoc on wildlife (estimated wildlife deaths are in the millions per year--I myself once killed 192 kangaroo rats on an evening drive though Lava Beds). The number of people and animals killed by guns in national park--were they allowed to be carried--would pale in comparison to the bloody carnage caused by driving in national parks. Ultimately it's not the alcohol at fault. It's the cars. Right? Just like it wasn't the alcohol at fault here. It was the .22 rifle. Ban guns, ban cars. However, there is no amendment prohibiting the government from banning cars . . .

seems they only feed you the info they want you to hear, so you can make up your mind without seeing all sides huh.

let me clarify my statement. what i meant was the media only lets you see what they want. it's not about us law abiding citizens that carry guns in the parks and mine is always put in view, never concealed. its the irresponsible people who choose to use drugs or alchohol ,who seem to have these types of problems. we should never punish the law -abiding ,for the actions of the few.

your so right. i bet this fool doesn't even know what a hunter safety course is,or where to take one. now all of us hunters and sportsmen have to defend ourselves to the left-wing lobby about why we shouldn't have our hunter -sportsmen rights infringed on, because of one stupid drunk,from the big city.

What was the point of posting about this incident?

The offender did not, according to any report, have a license to carry, nor was he carrying a concealed weapon (a .22 rifle is not concealable nor is it useful for self-defense).

This is not related to concealed carry in national parks.

When this rule is approved (which will be in early October, from what I've heard) the one big difference that you'll notice in the National Parks is that nothing will have changed. Here in Texas, the media predicted blood in the streets when the CHL law was enacted in 1995. It never happened here, nor has it happened anywhere else. In fact, what studies (by THE GOVERNMENT) have shown is that CHLs (permit holders) are an exceedingly law-abiding group. If you don't understand that, check the annual report put out by the Texas Department of Public Safety which compares conviction rates for CHLs vs everyone else. You'll find that conviction rates, particularly for violent crime, are near zero for license holders.

This is not a surprise. When you apply for a license in Texas, the government comes in and examines your history with a fine-toothed comb. To get my license, I had to go through a two-month background investigation which included individual checks by the state, the feds, and each county that I'd lived in for five years. I was fingerprinted, and the prints were run by the state and the FBI. In Texas, not paying your student loans and/or your child support are justification for denial of a license. Alcohol and substance abuse problems are grounds for disqualification. Some states utilize reference checks and cultivate a history that way. Training and testing are mandatory. Taken as a whole, the process is a pretty strong assurance that those being licensed are of good character and are law-abiding. The State of Texas vouches for me -- who vouches for you, Kurt? No one? That's what I thought.

The people you need to worry about are not the people who went through the hassle, fees, and training required to legally carry concealed. If you're in a state which allows concealed carry, you already interact with armed licensees on a regular basis. You pass us on the road, you walk right past us at the grocery store, and we're traveling through state parks and national forests (concealed carry is already legal in national forests...don't recall hearing of any disasters).

Most law enforcement officials I've talked to about concealed carry greatly prefer to interact with CHLs. We're a known quantity to them and we've been vetted. They know to expect good behavior from us. A poll in Police Magazine a few years ago showed about 90% support for concealed carry by law enforcement. I realize the National Association of former Park Rangers (or whatever it's called) is opposed to concealed carry in National Parks. The problem I have with their opinion is that the vast majority of their members did not serve in a law-enforcement capacity in the Parks. They cleared brush and gave tours. That makes them completely unqualified to comment on the impact of this rule.

It's fantastic that many people feel the parks are safe and there's no need to carry weapons. I guess that means they don't have worry about the inconveniences of carrying concealed firearms. Personally, being a resident of a border state with border parks (i.e. Big Bend NP) I feel a little less safe than they do. Odds are I'll never need to use a concealed handgun, but I will welcome the ability to protect myself in a park which quantifies its safety by promoting itself as "as safe as Houston." In Big Bend, as in many parks, if something happens, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. There's no cell coverage and the isolation is great enough that law enforcement will not be in a position to help you if you need help.

Supposedly low crime rates are wonderful until you're the one who's victimized.

Guns and booze don't mix well in the National Parks. Period!

Guns and booze don't mix well anywhere.... Nor do cars and booze.

Bashing CHL holders for this incident makes about as much sense as bashing licensed drivers everytime a drunk unlicensed driver hurts someone.

To follow-up on the analogy of licensed vehicle drivers to CHL holders, one of my major concerns is the fact that in many states it is much easier to obtain permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon than a driver's license. I wonder what the effect would be on vehicle accident rates if we allowed individuals to simply mail in an application, wait a few weeks for a basic background check, and then be mailed a drivers license - without any need to show if they knew anything about the rules of the road, had the ability to safely operate a vehicle, or could even see the road ahead!

Unfortunately, that's the case in states such as Alabama and Georgia, which have no requirements that individuals packing weapons show they know anything at all about basic laws governing the use of deadly force - or have the ability to hit their intended target instead of an innocent bystander if they decide to use that weapon. Indiana goes a step further - an Indiana CHL can be obtained that's good for the rest of the individual's life - with absolutely no training or demonstration of qualifications. Ol' Joe may be 98 now and blind as the proverbial stone wall - but his CHL is still good for as long as he's alive. If you want to "concealed carry" in Alaska or Vermont, no problem - they don't require a permit at all for a concealed handgun, so the question of either training or even a background check are moot in those states.

Many states that do have minimal training requirements unfortunately simply give lip-service to the question. Did you ever serve in the military – even 50 years ago? No matter if you haven't touched a gun since then. In Wyoming, that's all that's required to "demonstrate familiarity with a firearm" and qualify for a CHL. In states including Florida, Idaho and Montana, you can qualify for a CHL merely on the basis of "completion of a hunter education or safety course."

Such courses are a great idea, but they do little to ensure that a person carrying a handgun has even minimal ability to hit his intended target. In some states, such "training" can be conducted via the Internet, followed by as little as four hours of contact with a live instructor - and no requirement that the student ever fire a handgun. The "live firing" portion of some such courses requires a grand total of 12 shots with a .22 rifle - or even an airgun! When something goes bump in the night in the campground, do you want a guy in the site next to you grabbing his semi-automatic pistol on the basis of that "training"? I sure don't!

Even in states like Texas, which thankfully requires some training for a CHL permit, the requirements are so minimal that they have limited practical value in determining if CHL holders are capable of hitting their intended target during the stress of a crisis situation. I base that observation on nearly 30 years of carrying a firearm as a law enforcement officer - and first-hand knowledge of the amount of time required on a firing range on a regular basis to keep skills at anything approaching an acceptable level. The stringent Texas requirement for hands-on training? One visit to the firing range every 10 years.

I know some readers will dismiss my opinion, so here are two others from acknowledged gun experts. Massad F. Ayoob, who is widely known in pro-gun circles as a prolific writer and firearms and self-defense instructor, is quoted as follows: "It is reasonable to assume that there will be bystanders present when a defense handgun must be used in public…Your competency with the weapon you carry must be such that you will not fire an accidental or panicky shot into a group of bystanders.... What frightens me most about civilians with guns is that so many of them are incredibly rotten pistol shots...."

Dave Lauck is a certified armorer and frequent author in firearms and shooting publications. He notes in Tactical Shooter magazine: "A person who buys a handgun in America today is on his own when it comes to learning how to safely use it….No federal law, and very few state or local laws, require that a handgun owner show any competence in how to safely handle, store, or use the gun….Unfortunately, many new shooters are unaware of basic firearms safety, and many trained shooters become complacent in their application."

Lest some readers take comfort in the fact they live in one of the states that does require at least basic training in use of a handgun - no so fast. Most states honor permits issued by other states under reciprocal agreements. Here's one example: websites of several companies tout the easy availability of Utah CHL's with pitches like these: "Available to residents of ANY state!" "One low-cost permit valid in 27 to 30 states!" "High-energy, 4 to 5-hour class available in many different cities!" (A 4 to 5-hour class - now there's some serious training for you.) And, best of all, "Awesome for those that can't get a permit from their home state!" Isn't it nice to know that some of those folks are probably "carrying concealed" in your state, based on those stringent Utah requirements.

Yes, some CHL holders are skilled shooters - but in the absence of legal requirements for credible training, there is also an unknown and likely large number of people at the other end of the scale. In short, unlike a driver's license, there is no correlation between possession of a CHL and the proven ability to use a firearm safely.

This lack of adequate training requirements unnecessarily increases the risks to innocent bystanders if weapons are fired in crowded areas such as campgrounds by nervous urbanites who hear something "rustling in the brush." A Google search will easily find that innocent victims of errant shots fired each year from legally carried handguns greatly outnumber victims of crime in national parks. The trade-off in safety of visitors to our parks by "arming" the general public against the very low risk of crime in those locations simply doesn't withstand analysis.

A previous poster and I do agree on one point – I wouldn't promote the virtues of anyplace being as "safe as Houston." Recent FBI crime stats show that despite rapid increases in the number of CHL's in Texas, more serious crime occurs in Houston in a typical week than in the entire national park system in a whole year!

The lift of the ban on firearms in National Parks does not allow everyone to carry a firearm in a National Park. It allows people with a Concealed Handgun License to carry. That is different than the situation being discussed here. To get your CHL you have to go through a class, learn the law, learn safe gun practice, etc. I have my CHL, as does my husband, my brother-in-law and his wife, and a half dozen of our friends. Most of us drink and many get drunk from time to time. NONE of us ever carry when we are going to be drinking.

We are responsible people and we understand the seriousness of mixing alcohol with guns. On top of that, the repercussions -- including losing your CHL -- are not worth it. We wouldn't risk it. And if you look around the country, I believe (from the rare news stories you find involving CHL people who have defended themselves as well as the lack of news stories involving negligent CHL carriers) you'll find that our story and mindset are not the exception among those licensed to carry.

Trying to use negligent gun owner stories to refute CHL carriers from carrying their guns is like rising up against the evils of mountain climbing because someone falls off a cliff. When will we stop trying to legislate common sense? Create the standard for conduct and punish those who don't abide by it. We need to get back to making people responsible for their actions instead of making excuses for them and trying to punish those not at fault.

You should NOT make the laws for the 10%. You should make the laws for the 90% and punish the 10% appropriately when they are stupid. But in this society, we've begun making the laws for the minority of cases. We think up things that have never or seldom happened and then start taking precautions against them. If any tragedy occurs, the first thing we think of is, "was there some law we could have had in place to prevent this". While it's good to be proactive, come on, we have enough real problems in this country that need addressing without making new stuff up. And as for criminals - all the bans and gun laws in the world won't stop someone with no regard for the law to begin with.

I understand that you may never have witnessed the need for a gun in a park, but I can tell you that I spent a good portion of my childhood at swimming pools and never once witnessed the need for a lifeguard, but that doesn't negate the value of having one. And as for those people who drink and argue -- they would probably not be the ones carrying a firearm with a CHL. And if they are the kind of people who don't care about the law, they could easily have a gun on them without a CHL and wouldn't care if there was a ban or not.