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Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems


A survey stemming from the Bush administration's plan to allow concealed carry of guns in national parks and national wildlife refuges predicts the result will be more wildlife shootings and management problems.

The survey, performed for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, found that 77 percent of 1,400 present and former employees of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predict that the controversial proposed rule reversing the long-standing prohibition of carrying loaded, concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges will have an adverse affect on the ability of NPS and USFWS employees to accomplish their mission.

This finding and others are contained in Natural and Cultural Resource Impacts and Management Consequences of the Proposed Regulation to Authorize the Possession of Concealed Firearms in Units of the National Park & National Wildlife Refuge Systems.

While DOI has neglected to provide an analysis of the potential impacts of its proposed rule, the retirees group performed the survey to assess the impacts that these experts foresee should the regulation take effect. Other key results of the survey include:

* 75 percent feel that there will be an increase in opportunistic or impulse wildlife killings in parks and refuges; and

* 83 percent of survey respondents anticipated that the proposal will increase the overall level of complexity for management of their park or refuge.

In issuing the report, the coalition emphasized that Interior Department officials violated the procedural
requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act in failing to adequately examine the foreseeable impacts of the relaxed gun regulation. Additionally, the coalition asserts that Interior officials should have consulted the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to ESA, as 89 threatened or endangered species inhabit the parks that would be affected by the regulation.

Separately, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Ethics predicts that once the regulation is published in the Federal Register, a move anticipated to occur this month, “there would be a multi-group suit filed" challenging the legality of the regulation.

The new report from the coalition highlights the enforcement complexities and threats to public safety that should have been addressed in an analysis of reasonable alternatives to the rule under NEPA.

Based on the report, CNPSR is renewing its call for Interior officials to withdraw the proposed rule.

"We think the proposed rule is manufactured and driven politically to fix a problem that doesn't exist.
Data show that parks are among the safest places to be in this country," says Bill Wade, chairman of the coalition's executive council. "Moreover, we believe it will create more problems than it can possibly fix. It is likely to alter, over time, the friendly atmosphere visitors look forward to in parks, where they go to get away from the day to day pressures and influences of their everyday lives, including worry about guns."


Mr. Burnett, I checked your link: /2008/09/trigger-happy-man-shoots-another-rustling-brush#comment-8646
The drunken idiot used a RIFLE (not a very conceal worthy weapon). To set the record straight, this person did not have a conceal carry permit. Yes, he should be one of the people NOT allowed to carry a gun in a park! My question is, why should Mr. Idiot-without-a-conceal-carry-permit be the standard by which law-abiding conceal carry citizens should be judged?
Also, lets not forget that each individual is responsible for his/her own safety. If you don't want to defend yourself against some psycho-murderer that's your choice. why take that right away from the rest of us that care to take responsibility for ourselves?

I hear your point that poaching is the major issue (personally, I believe it's personal safety and not poaching). Perhaps a middle ground can be found though. The high court ruled that sensible regulations can be made. My thought is that since most hunting bullets are fairly large: 44Mag and up and the gun would have to have a significantly long barrel 6" or greater. The answer may be to allow CCW as long as they are not over certain size limits.
This way personal protection is available while keeping poaching at least at it's current level.

Human life is too precious to leave in the hands of psychos and criminals. Encourage people to defend themselves and others!

So how are you getting to the park? on your bike? what's your point?

260,000 of a total population of over 15 million choose to carry. The statistics you cite are insignificant for comparing crime statistics. They only prove how well TX does background checks of the permits they issue. Clearly permit holders are committing crimes.

Frank -

Sorry, you missed my point, so perhaps I wasn't clear. I wasn't attempting to establish what percentage of poaching was done by CCW permit holders and what kind of weapons were used. The key point is that removing the prohibition against carrying any type of loaded weapon in a park eliminates the single most valuable tool in the battle against poaching - because it then becomes necessary to wait until shots have actually been fired before a violation occurs. Once the trigger has been pulled in a poaching case, whether or not the person has a CCW is irrelevant.

All the discussion about CCW has arisen because possession of a CCW is the vehicle the NRA and the administration have chosen to use as the vehicle to revise the existing regulations. If they had chosen instead to simply allow anyone to carry a weapon in parks, as some would prefer, then most of the issues that I and others have raised about public safety, poaching, etc. would still concern me.

The current revisions are based on possession of a CCW as the "ticket" to get guns into parks - I'm only saying that some people will take advantage of that opportunity to "do wrong."

Life would be immensely easier for rangers if, as you suggest, that "roaming park roads at 2 a.m. and checking out fields with [a] spotlight" would be evidence enough of intent to poach and the loaded gun would be irrelevant." While some parks do have local regulations against viewing wildlife with artificial light to help deter poaching, the reality is that "intent to poach" without a loaded weapon won't get you much mileage before most magistrates I've dealt with. Possession of the loaded gun is the key element in proving "intent", and if that possession is no longer illegal, the ability to reduce poaching will be seriously hampered. Yes, that's an opinion, but I'll take it to the bank after 30 years of dealing with these folks.

Does anyone really doubt that once the camel has its proverbial nose under the tent, the next push will be to remove all restrictions on loaded weapons in parks? I sure don't.

Slippery slope fallacy. You've also misinterpreted Chris W. Cox's statement, not that I think the NRA is better than any other lobby, including the ACLU or CNPSR. Cox stated that the Kempthorne's decision to review the ban is an important step in the right direction. And it is. It is an important step to restoring the Second Amendment on federal lands.

The issue of wildlife poaching is also a red herring argument, which is used to divert the attention away from CCW permits.

The current law prohibiting carrying concealed weapons has not stopped people from attempting to kill wildlife in parks. Additionally, the National Park Service does not keep comprehensive statistics on how much poaching occurs in its nearly 400 parks, so it's impossible to determine what percentage of of poaching was done by CCW permit holders and what kind of weapons were used in the incidents (concealable handguns or rifles). Without statistical evidence showing there was a decline in poaching following 1983's gun ban in national parks, I don't think anyone can make the case that this rule change will increase poaching.

As far as punishing poachers, I think "roaming park roads at 2 a.m. and checking out fields with [a] spotlight" would be evidence enough of intent to poach and the loaded gun would be irrelevant.

One key point in this issue needs to be emphasized – the effect of the proposed rule on agency efforts to deal with poaching.

As noted by the survey that started this thread, almost anyone who has work experience in a park understands the magnitude of the challenge to stem poaching. Given the vast areas involved and limited staffing, the odds of catching a poacher in the act are small. The current NPS regulation limiting ready access to loaded firearms in vehicles is the most effective tool for dealing with a serious wildlife management and public safety issue.

The guy roaming park roads at 2 a.m. and checking out fields with his spotlight isn't admiring the scenery. When he's caught with a loaded gun on the front seat, current regulations make it clear a violation has occurred, and this problem can be resolved before shots are ever fired. Most state regulations define weapons allowed under CHL's so loosely that "heavier" handguns suitable for poaching are completely legal under the proposed regulation change.

One commenter voiced the opinion that someone intending to break the law wouldn't go out and get a CHL. He's welcome to his opinion, but I strongly disagree, because there is tremendous financial incentive for commercial poachers to do just that.

Poaching is not just Billy-Bob out looking for some easy venison, but big business that is a significant threat to the population of bears and other wildlife. A thriving and highly profitable international market for bear parts such as gall bladders and paws provides ample incentive for crooks to take their chances – and puts wildlife populations at risk. No, that's not anecdotal – do a Google search if you want easy documentation.

I've found nothing to prohibit an individual from having a CHL from multiple states, and no information that states share information about convictions for hunting violations, especially if the conviction is not for a felony. The background checks for a CHL are normally a routine check of computer databases, which while better than nothing, are far from complete - and I make that statement from first-hand experience from my law enforcement career. Serious gaps in reporting convictions of Texas CHL holders to the state have also been previously addressed above.

The legal ability to carry a loaded handgun in a national park would be a poacher's dream. Utah makes it especially easy for residents of any state to obtain a permit which is then good in many other states, and numerous companies are glad to help. Here's just one excerpt:

"Based on recognition from other states, ease of initial application and renewal, and cost only, $65.25 for a five year permit, the Utah CCW Permit is the most valuable Multi-State CCW Permit available! Our Utah Concealed Firearm Permit is valid in over 28 States, and it is available to residents of any state…. available to ANY law-abiding citizen who takes the time to apply. Get your Multi-State Concealed Firearm Permit now!"

Utah's "training" requirement? "Approximately" 4 hours in the classroom—no need to fire a weapon. One of these permit mills points out that Utah is "shall issue" state, "Which means that, unless you have a disqualifier on your record, they must issue you a permit." Disqualifiers in Utah? Unless you've been convicted of what they consider a "serious" crime (including a felony, crime of violence, or a recent alcohol or drug-related offense)... no problem. It's noteworthy than non-felonious hunting convictions are not a disqualifier for a Utah CCW permit.

Poaching is also a public safety issue. Only one example for the sake of brevity: at my last park, a bullet fired by a poacher at a herd of deer missed its target and shattered a window in a home adjacent to the park boundary. Fortunately, the homeowner was not injured.

Let's put one issue to rest. I'm absolutely not opposed to hunting, and when practiced legally and safely, hunting is an important tool for wildlife management in appropriate locations. That does not mean that some areas, such as national parks, should not continue to restrict hunting to provide opportunities for non-hunters who enjoy activities such as viewing of wildlife.

And a final point – does anyone really believe the current push for relaxed regulations on handguns is the end of the NRA agenda concerning national parks? In an April 29, 2008 statement on the proposed changes, the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, said "This is an important step in the right direction…" Does anyone really doubt that once the camel has its proverbial nose under the tent, the next push will be to remove all restrictions on loaded weapons in parks? I sure don't.

Whether that's a good or bad thing depends upon your ideology and your philosophy about whether national parks should ultimately be any different than any other chunk of real estate.

There's no need for others to restate their views on the 2nd amendment, which have already been more than adequately covered above.

That's what the majority of protection rangers say

I would like some empirical evidence for this claim, please. The above non-statistical survey does not indicate whether the employees surveyed were protection rangers, interpretive rangers, plumbers, janitors, computer techs, desk jockeys, scientists, etc.

If the majority of protection rangers do, in fact, believe that parks are safer when they have the monopoly on weapons, then I would refer them to the founders who wrote statements such as:

". . . all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent. . . that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed." --Thomas Jefferson

...anyone who has a concealed carry permit has ... had the proper training to carry a concealed handgun.

I'd feel a lot better about this issue if that were true. Unfortunately, it is not correct.

I'd ask those who think adequate training is required to obtain a CCW permit to read the comment posted on Sept. 29, 2008 at /2008/09/trigger-happy-man-shoots-another-rustling-brush#comment-8646 . I won't repeat, except to say that too many states require no training at all to obtain a permit – and under reciprocal agreements, they can "carry" in many other states as well. In states that do require training, it is often minimal. We can debate forever how much is "adequate."

With minimal or no training requirements in mind, here are a few comments by Massad F. Ayoob, an internationally-known pro-gun writer, firearms and self-defense instructor and Director of the Lethal Force Institute. He has authored several books and over one thousand articles on firearms, combat techniques and self-defense:

"Too many people are incapable of using their guns in a combat situation with sufficient expertise to either prevent an armed criminal from taking innocent lives, or to be sure of not hitting bystanders with their own stray bullets. Both knowledge and ability should be pre-requisites for the privilege of carrying a gun in public."

"The handgun is the most difficult firearm to shoot accurately and rapidly; skill comes only with practice."

"There are too many people carrying guns they don't know how to shoot straight, guns they haven't fired in ten years."

" ...the license to carry concealed, deadly weapons in public is not a right but a privilege. To be worthy of this privilege, one must be both discreet and competent with the weapon. The gun-carrying man who lacks either attribute is a walking time bomb."

A lot of the concern about concealed carry would be eased if proponents of those programs would support reasonable requirements for training – and regular live-fire qualification to prove the permit holder has at least a chance to hit his intended target – as part of CHL programs in all states.

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