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."

Comments

I certainly agree with these true experts (in my opinion). Having a loaded gun handy will surely lead to problems. Too many people these days do not have any common sense and do not take responsibility for their actions. Guns in National Parks will lead to unnecessary wildlife deaths and unnecessary human conflicts.

People who would behave in the way you describe are poachers or some other type of criminal which is already prohibited from owning a firearm. Crminals already ignore prohibitions on firearms, and would prefer the rest of us unarmed. Concealed weapon permit holders have had training, been finger printed and have had backround checks. I would feel safer having these people around in a park.


"too many peoiple these days do not have any common sense and do not take responsibilty for their actions" is exactly why i or any responcible person would want to carry a concealed firearm in a remote area or where help may be far away and unable to prevent an incident

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

I question the validity of this survey. Is this the same survey sent out to CNPSR members that was hosted on Survey Monkey? If so (please correct me if I'm wrong--I'm not certain), this is an online questionnaire, not a scientific sample or a statistical survey. There are several problems with online questionnaires: Not everyone has access to the Internet, so the response rate is limited; many people are not receptive to completing questionnaires online; studies indicate that the demographic that responds to online questionnaire invitations are generally biased to younger people.

A valid statistical survey would be based on a random selection members of the group to be surveyed. To have validity, the survey must have a large enough sample size. (To survey the 20,000 or so NPS employees, a survey would need a random sampling of about 1,000 members.)

As a CNPSR member, I am one of the people who not receptive to completing an online questionnaire. I did try to complete a questionnaire emailed to me by CNPSR, but then I was asked to complete a second questionnaire and provide more personal data, including job locations and descriptions. I hold the (alleged) minority viewpoint and didn't complete the second questionnaire for fear of reprisal.

Also consider the following statement:

75 percent feel that there will be an increase in opportunistic or impulse wildlife killings in parks and refuges . . . (Emphasis added.)

This questionnaire seems to have been focused on feelings rather than evidence.

I would have to know a lot more about this "survey" (sampling size, distribution/collection methods, how questions were written, etc.) before giving it any weight.

As I see it now, this survey lacks validity and is being used to pressure political appointees. The CNPSR is now essentially a lobby group and is considering litigation on the proposed DOI rule to allow concealed-carry guns in national parks.

As a CCW Holder I have had training in the use of firearms and have had Background checks done by 4 States. I do not go to parks to shoot animals, I go to enjoy them. Any body thats thinks criminals are going to care what the law says, needs to be re-educated. I follow the law (all laws) that is why I was approved for a CCW permit. PLEASE WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! You may not care to defend yourself, but don't take away my right to self defense. I live in the real world not an "I WISH IT WAS WORLD!!!"

Add weapons and there will be problems.
Shot up signs, windows, the occasional wounded and dead animal or human will be a fact.
I completely reject waving a CCW/CWP in my face as proof that one is safe and sane.
I have been around a bit ya see..

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the more guns the better! Guns make it safer for everyone in society and besides why should the government be the only ones allowed to carry arms? The 2nd Amendment makes it abundantly clear that we have just as much right to be as fully armed as the tax funded jack-booted thugs defending the Homeland (whatever that is).

I live in the Deep South and see people all the time wearing guns on their belts and it doesn't bother me in the least. In fact I feel much safer knowing that there are armed people in my midst who can and will protect themselves and their fellow citizens when and if the occasion arises.

Criminals and the government (both two peas in a pod really) should never be the ONLY ones packing heat. Never! Remember folks that in the 20th-century governments murdered over 200 million citizens worldwide and that fact alone should steel all of our resolve to never back down when it comes to personal protection from predators of ALL kinds.

In the wild and wooly precincts of our national parks it makes even more sense to have a gun, whether you're in the urban wilderness of the Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens or deep in the outback of Glacier National Park in Montana. Are the rangers supposed to save the day for us when we encounter a wily mugger or a psycho grizzly bear, while they're safely ensconced in their Ford Excursion patrol vehicle sipping coffee and whining about not having a girlfriend? Not hardly my friends. Not hardly.

. . . the occasional wounded and dead animal or human will be a fact.

Are you talking about boats killing manatees, boats killing people in national parks, cars killing people in national parks, cars killing panthers in national parks, cars killing wolves in national parks, cars killing grizzlies in national parks? Cars killing deer? Turkeys? Black bears? Red-tailed hawks? Owls? Elk? Moose? Raccoons? Coyotes? And so on?

Oh, that's right. Those with concealed weapons permits are going to kill these animals. Concealed weapons permits holders are not the ones who shoot up signs or take shots at animals. Bored kids do that. And criminals are the ones killing people, not permit holders.

The "wounded and dead animals or humans" you've described already litter the roadways and waterways of our national parks, killed by motor vehicles, not concealed weapons. Cars and carnage in parks go hand in hand.

But the right to bear arms is protected in the Constitution. The right to drive a car? Not so much. If you really want to protect humans and wildlife, please re-prioritize what you want to (and can constitutionally) ban in national parks.

And read Beamis' comment above.

"Are you talking about boats killing manatees, boats killing people in national parks, cars killing people in national parks, cars killing panthers in national parks, cars killing wolves in national parks, cars killing grizzlies in national parks? Cars killing deer? Turkeys? Black bears? Red-tailed hawks? Owls? Elk? Moose? Raccoons? Coyotes? And so on?"

No I am not, please read again what I said.

"Concealed weapons permits holders are not the ones who shoot up signs or take shots at animals. Bored kids do that. And criminals are the ones killing people, not permit holders."

And I am saying that they have and they do.

"If you really want to protect humans and wildlife, please re-prioritize what you want to (and can constitutionally) ban in national parks."

Guns are not banned in Our National Parks.

"And read Beamis' comment above."

I always read what Beamis posts.

What exactly IS the current policy on carrying firearms in our national parks? I have been an avid backpacker for several years now and am still not quite sure. I do own firearms and am a huge proponent of concealed carry - I agree with the statement "the more guns the better" - the bad guys have and always will have them, why not give the good guys a chance to protect themselves.

Current policy allows you to transport guns through parks, but they have to be broken down and stored out of reach. There are, of course, exceptions in that some "national preserves" and seashores and lakeshores do allow hunting.

NEWS ITEM - October 10, 2008. No-return policy gets clerk killed

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Police say a customer in a Knoxville mall fatally shot a clothing-store employee because he was upset about a clothing purchase.
Knoxville Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk says William Johnson, 42, went to Knoxville Center Mall Wednesday afternoon determined to get satisfaction from Reno Men's Wear.

Some mall merchants say the clothing store has a no-refund policy. Police wouldn't say exactly what Johnson wanted or what the disputed merchandise was.

But police say a preliminary investigation suggests Johnson became upset, pulled out a handgun and shot 29-year-old employee Ahmed Nahl.

The suspect was injured in a brief gunbattle with police before his capture. He is charged with murder and is recovering in a hospital. *

-Associated Press

Moral - I agree that must people are responsible gun owners, but easy access to a gun makes it just too easy to overreact. Such will be the case with a harmless animal that gets too close for comfort to some visitor or the rustle in the bushes that just happens to be a child who wandered off the trail. There will be blood.

Add Alaskan Gov. Palin to the equation here, regarding the National Parks, you'll see aerial game slaughter within the park boundaries. Again, guns within the National Parks is a dangerous precedent in policy making. Parks are for restive peace and serenity...not for gun touting fools!

Parks are for restive peace and serenity...not for gun touting fools!

All the arguments against concealed weapons permit holders to be able to bear arms in national parks are misdirected. Allowing permit holders to carry will not diminish a park's "serenity"; concealed weapons permits holders are law-abiding citizens and not going to discharge a weapon in a national park just for the fun of it.

Oh, and if you're really worried about "peace and serenity" in national parks, why not take on one of the biggest threats to it? Just change the phrase above to read:

Parks are for restive peace and serenity...not for car-driving fools!

Wonderful, the usual group of knee-jerk uninformed anti-gun miscreants have reared their heads to complain about the forthcoming rule change.

Again, let's examine Texas CHL conviction rates vs. the general population to see just how bloodthirsty and trigger-happy license holders are:

In 2006, there were 258,162 active CHLs, but only 140 total convictions.

Overall - The general population over age 21 is over 7 times as likely to commit any offense listed by DPS as are CHLs

Assault - The general population over age 21 is over 8 times as likely to commit an assault as are CHLs

Burglary - The general population over age 21 is over 38 times as likely to commit a burglary as are CHLs

Prohibited Weapons - The general population over age 21 is over 21 times as likely to be convicted of possessing prohibited weapons as are CHLs

Robbery - The general population over age 21 is over 63 times as likely to commit a robbery as are CHLs

Source: Texas Department of Public Safety

Enough with the idiotic suggestion that those of us who went through the headache of getting licensed are going to start shooting at birds and marmots because we get bored. Not going to happen.

Enough with the surveys of former brush clearers, entrance fee collectors, and garbage collectors telling us how hard their jobs are going to become once this rule is changed. I would be open to hearing what LAW ENFORCEMENT RANGERS have to say about this, but ultimately, they don't get to make the go/no-go call on this either. What a civilian employee of the NPS has to say about this is utterly and completely irrelevant.

Kurt: have you even seen a gun in real life? Didn't think so.

Most of the people complaining about this change seem blissfully unaware that carry is already allowed in National Forests. I don't recall hearing of any incidents there.

Wow--"What a civilian employee of the NPS has to say abouty this is utterly and completely irrelevant." Whose opinions other than those of NPS employees should we consider then? Texas-Fight's? People who have seen a gun in real life? Pro-gun miscreants?

Rick Smith

Hey Rick, how about: "What a CNPSR member has to say about this is utterly and completely irrelevant".

That sounds about right to me.

Beamis,

I'd say what coalition members have to say is highly relevant, more so than folks who visit parks once or twice or even a dozen times a year. And for someone like Rick, who spent more than three decades on the ground in the parks, I'd say his two cents is incredibly relevant.

How you can say that sort of experience is irrelevant is mind-boggling. Perhaps you can explain your point of view.

Without getting too long winded I'd begin with the overwhelming liberal bias of most current and former employees of the NPS and their generally statist pro big government point of view. It is certainly no bastion of conservative, libertarian or pro 2nd amendment viewpoints, so I agree with Texas-Fight that what these people espouse or respond to in a survey is less than a valid cross-section of real public opinion and therefore "irrelevant" in helping to decide the issue.

For the record I never said Rick or his views were irrelevant.

Random incidents of gun violence by armed citizens have been trotted out to prove that guns in the hands of common folk is a bad thing but I could just as easily point to innumerable instances of unjustified murder and mayhem perpetrated by trigger happy agents of the state that usually goes unpunished and is eventually swept under the rug by those wielding power.

No I don't think that rank & file NPS employees or the CNSPR represent a valid sample of American values or mainstream thinking about guns and the rights of the citizenry to own and lawfully use them. Irrelevant is an excellent word to describe their views on this particular issue.

Beamis,

Since Rick is a member of the coalition, and since you said, "What a CNPSR member has to say about this is utterly and completely irrelevant," I think it's pretty clear you implied that Rick's views were irrelevant.

Beyond that, your argument can be turned around an applied to CCW permit holders, no? I mean, to borrow your words, they come from a bastion of conservative and pro 2nd amendment viewpoints, so if CNPSR viewpoints are irrelevant for the reasons you state, then so be it for CCW permit holders.

Further, I don't think the coalition's survey was intended to reflect a "sample of American views or mainstream thinking about guns and the rights of the citizenry to own and lawfully use them" but rather to reflect the viewpoints and observations of NPS and USFWS rangers who are on the ground in the parks and wildlife refuges on a daily basis interacting with visitors. Frankly, I'd wager that they have a better grasp of the potential problems that could arise than does the general public.

Well since the law of the land is still the 2nd Amendment (however tenuous its further existence may be) I'd say that those who are in line with and support the rights inherent in the current edition of the Constitution have the upper hand in this debate.

If members of CNPSR want to change the Constitution they can choose to focus their budget and clout on getting out the vote in a majority of state legislatures and try their luck in striking down the 2nd Amendment. Otherwise the NPS had better ease up and start following the letter and intent of the Constitution. It's not a pick and choose amendment, we all have the right to bear arms even in a national park.

I have traveled in state parks, national forests and other public lands where the 2nd Amendment is respected and never saw or heard about any major problems with armed members of the visiting public. It's time for the NPS to drop this silly rule before they are sued in Federal court for infringing on our Constitutionally guaranteed right to protect ourselves.

I'm not going to rely on them to do it, that's for sure.

No offense, Beamis, but that's a load of crap. The Constitution isn't some rigid document that stands still - we're allowed to use common sense laws, as the Supreme Court has said numerous times.

In response to the request by a previous poster, here are some comments from a member of CNPSR who performed full law enforcement duties for 29 of my 30 years in the NPS. I worked in 8 parks including several with very active law enforcement programs: Lake Mead, Grand Canyon, and Colonial NHP, plus one park (Glacier) where the question of bears and weapons often comes up.

Under the criteria suggested above, I believe that experience and something in the range of 1600 hours of formal law enforcement training might make me at least as well qualified on this subject as folks who hold a concealed weapons permit. As noted on another post on this site, in many states CHL holders are not required to receive any training, or demonstrate any ability to safely use a firearm.

I'll also make a key point up-front – I am a gun owner and therefore not "anti-gun. We life in a rural area and my wife is Annie Oakley reincarnated with a shotgun. That said, we've never felt the need to carry a weapon when we're visiting national parks.

The "need" for visitors to carry firearms – concealed or otherwise—in national parks is a political or philosophical one, rather than a response to a demonstrated problem. I suspect most people have already made up their mind on this subject. I will, however, clarify some information posted above.

I agree that most individuals who hold state-issued concealed weapons permits are law-abiding citizens. However, since the statement has been made that CHL holders are rarely a problem, I took the above suggestion, checked the official statistics on the Texas Dept. of Public Safety website, and found some unsettling data. Apparently the state was also concerned by the following, since they've sanitized the posted data after 1999, and now only show very limited statistics:

1. The number of convictions of CHL holders provides a very incomplete picture of violations by that group, since in 64% of the cases where an arrest for a violation occurred, the state was never notified of the disposition of the case (hence no "conviction" is shown in the totals.) This means that the number of convictions could well be more than twice what is shown on the site. The state depends on local jurisdictions to report both arrests and convictions of CHL holders, a process that often simply falls through the crack.

2. In the category of felony offenses, there were five times as many charges than convictions resulting from arrests of CHL holders. Why? In most of the felony arrests, the disposition was not reported. Yes, I realize that individuals are innocent until proven guilty, but from the standpoint of public safety, I'd be very concerned about those remaining cases which were plea-bargained to a lesser charge or dismissed for other reasons. Whether or not a conviction was reported, something obviously happened to trigger all those arrests. A lot of dangerous situations occurred involving people who were legally carrying a concealed weapon. How many are "a lot"?

One chart on the state website doesn't give the timeframe for the stats, but it appears to be for the first 40 months or so after Texas instituted the current CHL system. During that time, CHL holders were arrested for 672 felony offenses, including 22 murders, 32 aggravated sexual assaults, and 179 assaults causing bodily injury. A total of 135 of those arrests resulted in convictions, and the outcome of 362 other cases was not reported.

During this same time period, 720 Texas CHL holders were arrested for driving or boating while intoxicated, 293 for Assaults Causing Bodily Injury, and 1,028 other misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and making terroristic threats. I find it interesting that the state no longer reports on any of those categories.

Yes, on a percentage basis compared to the total population, conviction rates for CHL holders are statistically very small. Somehow, that doesn't reassure me very much when I know how many serious violations were being committed by Texans who had a permit to pack a concealed weapon.

To quote a previous poster on another thread on this same topic, "Supposedly low crime rates are wonderful until you're the one who's victimized."

One last trend concerns me. If we consider only convictions for such violations in Texas, the total number for the years 2005-2006 doubled when compared to the 2002-2003 period. I wonder how that correlates to the sharp increase in requests for new CHL permits?

However, not to worry. I've been assured previously that "The State of Texas vouches for" all those folks.

The original subject of this thread was a recent survey. No, it probably doesn't meet all tests for a statistical sample. However, I'd put considerable stock in the opinions of people who spent years working and living in parks, and who therefore came into contact with countless park visitors in every conceivable situation. I find it interesting that this survey at least provides some information - something the Department made no effort to do as part of the decision process.

Anon, no offense but your statement that the constitution is not "rigid" is a "load of crap".

If a constitution as interpreted can truly be changed at the decree of a judge, then "[t]he Constitution… is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please," said Thomas Jefferson. Hence, the purpose of the constitution would be defeated, and there would be no reason to have one.

More from Jefferson:

"Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction." --Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Nicholas, 1803.

And most importantly:

"On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." --Thomas Jefferson
to William Johnson, 1823

So the Constitution, at least to Jefferson, was not meant to be "interpreted for the time". Rather, it is to be AMENDED for the time.


We have reached the point in America where expertise is referred to as "bias."

We once were a country that believed in Execellence and Achievement. Now we are able to attack a distinguished public servant in one breath (post) and deny in the very next what is plain for all to read. We now have a comic book interpretation of the Constitution, and ignore the unchallenged administrative traditions of an Agency of the people that has served us well. No one can claim that the park gun regulations have brought America's freedom to its knees. These regs have never been overturned. They work. The experienced professionals have testified these regulations are needed to efficiently manage the parks, the more so that declining budgets and unfunded mandates make a rangers job harder and harder.

We ignore expertise at our peril, but when we degrade the value of public servants who have given all their professional lives to carrying out the laws created by the people we have elected, it is just stupid.


Who's trying to change the Constitution or the Second Amendment?

Are we talking about the amendment that states:

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms, including carrying them anywhere they please with total disregard for others' opinions, shall not be infringed..." ?

I'm a proud gun-owner, but the knee-jerk rage and frenetic invocations of the sacredness of the vague wording of the Second Amendment these discussions cause is eroding that pride.

For the record, I'm equally appalled by the radical rantings of the gun-control lobby. Is there no middle ground?

Kirby, it's not that people are trying to change the Second Amendment; it's that people are ignoring it.

What about the right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed" is unclear?

Again, if the wording seems vague, we must go back and understand the debate and mindset of the time. In 1785 Jefferson advised, "Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion of your walks."

I don't own a gun, but I believe the Bill of Rights important enough to defend all ten amendments, not just one or two. If "middle ground" means violating the Second Amendment, then there can be no middle ground.

I would suggest talking to Law Enforcement Rangers. Better yet, talk to a National Forest Service Law Enforcement official. National Forests already have concealed carry, and have had no problems with licensees.

I might also suggest getting input from border LE Rangers -- especially those in Organ Pipe and Big Bend, where cell phones don't work and criminal encounters are not unlikely.

Unfortunately, NPS designates most or all of its employees as "Rangers," which creates confusion and lends credibility to non-LE personnel who have no qualifications or expertise in dealing with firearms issues. When "Joe Sixpack" hears that X% of "park rangers" oppose concealed carry, he believes that these are law enforcement agents rather than the folks staffing the visitor centers and giving wilderness hikes. Non-LE staff do not deal with weapons, have no law enforcement expertise or authority, and it's unlikely many of them understand the licensing process or the real impact that the pending change will have on day-to-day operations.

I would expect the average park visitor to have as much insight on concealed weapons issues as the typical non-LE "Ranger." That is to say, none.

As someone who carries under the authority of a license, I'm considerably more qualified to comment on concealed carry than most of the "employees" polled or the anti-CC blogger(s) on this site.

If you want to debate concealed carry (anywhere), at least learn something about it. Go through the licensing process, even if you have no desire to carry. The baseless bashing of the concept of concealed carry is pointless and gets us absolutely nowhere.

It's interesting to finally see a comment from a retired LEO Ranger. I hope my side views your comments accordingly. I will point out that regardless of when you served, if you served in the Parks, you would not have dealt directly with concealed carry licensees since carry has not been allowed in parks since the modern advent of licensing. Nonetheless, you're certainly qualified to discuss crime.

With that said, there are a few things I would add to your comments. As you mentioned, an arrest is not necessarily indicative of actual guilt. While I find ANY arrests of CHLs for the offenses you mentioned disturbing, I also realize that arrests are often not followed by convictions because no offense actually occurred or insufficient evidence existed to support a conviction. I recognize your concerns that convictions are simply not being reported, but I don't think that's a realistic explanation. Reporting problems would affect both CHLs and non-CHLs to the same degree, so I would expect the comparison to hold.

As for the suggestion that the data might be "sanitized," I find it unlikely given the source and the statistics that are still included. You mention the exclusion of "disorderly conduct" -- DOC is such a catch-all in Texas that conviction statistics for it would be relatively useless. Playing your music too loud and making obscene hand gestures are both considered "disorderly conduct" in Texas. DOC involving a firearm is classified as "deadly conduct," which IS reported on the most recent statistics.

A more realistic measure might be to check the number of license revocations related to criminal actions. Revocation numbers are quite low, despite the large number of transgressions that can lead to revocation (in addition to crimes committed, failure to pay child support and student loans are grounds for revocation, as is failing to display your license too many times).

My point wasn't that CHL holders are a crime-free group (there's no such thing, unfortunately -- Law Enforcement officers often get arrested/convicted as well), it's that the image promoted here is unrealistic, based on emotional reactions to the the word "gun." As a former Law Enforcement Ranger, do you think it's realistic to assume that license holders will contribute to poaching problems, or will randomly shoot wildlife or other visitors? Why would someone who's tempted to commit these crimes bother to get a license in the first place? If they're not worried about the legality of poaching or murder, they're certainly not worried about the legalities of carrying weapons in the parks.

I'm not going to argue that concealed carry lowers the overall crime rate (that would take six hours), but as former LE who probably has a greater awareness of crime in society, you should certainly know that every time concealed carry laws are enacted or extended, there are wild predictions of blood in the streets, wild west shootouts, shootouts over parking spaces, etc. As someone who has a greater awareness of crime in society, you should certainly know that this wanton violence never comes to pass with the extension of concealed carry rights.

Anyone from Texas with a CHL has been checked out at the county level, the state level, and the federal level. The State has looked for mental health issues, and has gone so far as to check to make sure the applicant pays their student loans and their child support obligations. And per the State of Texas, those who are licensed seem to be much more law-abiding. Hence my use of the term "vouch." Misbehavior or bad judgment by a CHL is a black eye for the State and reflects poorly on all CHLs.

I will agree that some states need to up their training requirements for licensees. The same can be said for most law enforcement agencies -- many agencies require only an (easy) annual qualification and have no expectation that officers practice during the rest of the year. While I found Texas' shooting qualification easy, it was adequate for what it was -- a test of your ability to shoot reasonably well at short distances.

In 2006, there were over 61,500 convictions reported to the DPS. Only 140 of those were committed by license holders. That's not a significant number, any way you look at it.

Re: "it's not that people are trying to change the Second Amendment; it's that people are ignoring it. What about the right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed" is unclear? "

Ho, ho, ho. Try taking your gun into a military base, on an airplane, on a tour of the White House (a national park by the way), or into Disneyland. There are a lot of places you cannot bring guns - public and private places - so enough of the idea that you are Constitutionally permitted to bring a gun anywhere you want.

What is amazing are the number of comments on this topic every time it comes up. What is it with people and guns? Why do gun owners have such a visceral reaction to guns? You would think the most important thing in their lives is to own a gun. If you define your life by your ownership of a gun, I think there are some problems. I carried one for 20 years as a law enforcment officer and don't own one personally or miss it a bit.

Just to set the record straight, like Jim, I was a protection ranger and carried a weapon for at least half my career. I don't think our points of view are irrelevant.

Beamis' claim that most NPS employees have a liberal bias is laughable. During my 31 years in the NPS, I met far more conservatives than I did liberals.

Rick Smith

Unless there is some compelling evidence that concealed carry is a tangible threat to park resources and public safety this rule change should go through and receive the full support and acquiescence of the NPS as well as its retirees. End of story. It WILL happen and everyone should get on board with it just as the Forest Service and other agencies have in the past. The idea that this simple adjustment of the rules will somehow transform national parks into the OK Corral is ludicrous.

By the way I've never known very many cops who want the public to be armed. It's a threat to their monopoly on power and probably makes 'em a little nervous, which is probably a good thing given all of the power they now possess in the era of "Homeland Security".

Long gone are the days of Barney Fife with his lone bullet stored in his shirt pocket. I'm sure Andy and ol' Barn didn't begrudge folks having their guns because that made their jobs easier and spread the coverage of personal protection throughout Mayberry more evenly.

As for CNPSR, I don't really care for lobbying arms of special interest groups, regardless of their cause. They tend to be agenda driven and therefore irrelevant, in most cases, to objective discussion. No offense was intended towards Rick (as I have no idea what groups he is a member of) but will stick by my stand that what an organization of NPS retirees has to say about concealed carry rules is less than relevant in making a true determination of what the law should be concerning the Constitutional right to bear arms in national parks.

Anonymous: You are clearly not reading the entirety of my posts. As I mentioned, I do NOT own a gun. Secondly, I have not made the argument that people should be able to carry weapons on private property; of course the Bill of Rights is a limit on FEDERAL power only. If a private shopping mall or a private bank or a private land owner wants to prohibit people from carrying weapons on their land, fine! But the Second Amendment restricts the federal government's ability to infringe upon the rights of the people to carry weapons on federal land, such as national parks, national forests, etc. Please re-read my posts carefully before setting up a strawman argument.

Beamis' claim that most NPS employees have a liberal bias is laughable

Laughable how spot on it is. But unfortunately, I don't believe there is any real evidence to back up either opinion. Each side only has anecdotes, and my anecdotes differ substantially from Mr. Smith's.) The CNPSR states that "in their personal lives, CNPSR members reflect the broad spectrum of political affiliations." I'd be interesting in how CNPSR knows this to be a fact? Are members required to divulge their political affiliation? Maybe a statistical survey should be done, but with only 675 members, everyone would need to be surveyed for validity. Maybe the CNPSR could pay to have a true statistical survey done on the political affiliation of the twenty-some thousand NPS employees. I'd wager good money that the NPS is composed primarily of Liberal employees, especially in the trenches. (Clearly political employees and upper "elites" are reflective of the current administration's political affiliation.)

Until someone presents some valid evidence, you can laugh at Beamis' claim all you want, but you can't disprove it.

And the political composition of the NPS is a key component of this discussion. Bias must be addressed, especially when it comes to surveys like this. No one has yet to produce evidence that this survey is statistically valid, and any biases inherent in the survey are also up for discussion. Of course, the CNPSR, if it wants to defend the validity its survey, should proffer any data it has for the political composition of its membership. Without addressing this issue, I'd have to conclude that such evidence doesn't exist or the evidence shows that the majority of CNPSR members are liberal.

This will cause more Game wardens to get their brains blown out. Someone will commit a crime and a Game Warden willl investigate and the person will just shoot the dude instead of dealing with what the hell could happen if there were indifferent repercussions. These permits were designed for Black bear areas of the country. But I would want to carry a gun in case I came across a Black bear who wanted to eat my arse.

Now let me follow this logic carefully: someone commits a crime in the woods, which magically causes a game warden to appear at the scene of the said crime (maybe Lassie barked for an hour to get the warden up out of his easy chair). Now instead of fleeing the vicinity of the crime the evil gun-toter waits in the woods so he or she can "shoot the dude".

Hmmmmmmm......that's very plausible except for one thing, the NPS has no "game wardens" but otherwise your scenario rings true in every possible way. Glad you brought it to our attention.

It seems all we're getting are slippery slope arguments and straw men.

Arguers also often link the slippery slope fallacy to the straw man fallacy in order to attack the initial position:

1. A has occurred (or will or might occur); therefore
2. B will inevitably happen. (slippery slope)
3. B is wrong; therefore
4. A is wrong. (straw man)

This form of argument often provides evaluative judgments on social change: once an exception is made to some rule, nothing will hold back further, more egregious exceptions to that rule.

Note that these arguments may indeed have validity, but they require some independent justification of the connection between their terms: otherwise the argument (as a logical tool) remains fallacious.

A is the change in concealed carry permit rules.
B is the killing of people, wildlife, signs, and windows.

Unless someone can show a valid study of concealed weapons permit holders in a comparable environment, say in Forest Service land, that shows that allowing people to carry concealed weapons in these areas leads to a higher incident of people, wildlife, sings, and windows being shot, these arguments remain fallacious.

I look forward to reviewing some facts.

Frank C--

I am not providing a study, only speaking from personal experience. Every time I visit a USFS area in NM to camp or hike, I see signs that are shot up. I have seen similar shot up signs on BLM and USFS lands in other states. One sees little of this kind of thing in the weapons-free national parks. I think there is a relationship.

Someone in the above posts mentioned the fact that most law enforcement organizations oppose concealed weapon regulations. He or she claimed they did so because of a question of power. I think that is a bogus argument. They oppose concealed weapon regs because they know that the more guns there are, the more dangerous their jobs are. That's why both the organizations that represent rangeers in the NPS, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge and tha Association of National Park Rangers (of which I am a member even though retired) oppose the proposed new NPS reg. I kinow you think that their views are irrelevant. I don't.

Rick Smith

As a follow-up to Rick Smith's accurate observation, and as requested by several posters, here's some additional perspective from the standpoint of someone who performed law enforcement in parks for 3 decades:

1. Rick is exactly correct about the much higher incidence of vandalism from gunfire in areas outside of national parks as compared to inside the parks themselves. Furthermore, in NPS areas such as national preserves where hunting is allowed, my experience is that weapons-related vandalism is definitely a greater problem than in parks where loaded weapons are prohibited.

2. Most law enforcement officers I know are very uneasy about people carrying concealed weapons in crowded public places. It has nothing to do with "power," but visitor and officer safety. In addition to the previously covered dismal or non-existent requirements for training for CHL holders, here's one example of scenarios that concerns officers:

If an officer arrives at the scene of an incident and finds one or more people dressed in civilian clothes holding a weapon, the office has to make a split-second decision about whether this person is a threat to the officer and to any citizens in the vicinity. It becomes even worse if the officer finds two or more armed civilians in a stand-off or a "shots fired" situation – which one is the victim and which one the bad guy?

I hope no one will make the laughable claim that CHL holders are adequately trained to know how to respond in such situations, especially when the adrenalin is running wide open. Case in point: I've spent a lot of hours on firing ranges: military, law enforcement and civilian/public ranges. A cardinal rule on the range is "keep unholstered weapons pointed down range at all times." If I had a dollar for every time the rangemaster had to remind people about that rule - in that carefully controlled, low-stress situation - I could enjoy several nice steak dinners. The point is that when people are spoken to, their tendency is to turn toward the speaker. If they're holding a loaded weapon, that's not good! If this occurs in the midst of the scenario described above, that's potentially tragic.

I haven't tried to locate data on situations where officers arrive on scene to find an unidentified armed citizen, and the result is a terrible outcome - I doubt that there is a good database of such situations, but I certainly recall having heard about them. One is certainly too many.

Current regulations for national parks make such potential tragedies very unlikely. If rules are relaxed to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons in national parks, only time will tell if my concerns on this issue are correct.

I WAS a law enforcement officer and Ranger. I also spent 23 years at BLM, documenting HUNDREDS of cases of TOO (Target OF Opportunity) damage to public lands outside National Parks. The issue is NOT just licensed and concealed, but LOADED weapons in the parks and refuges, with free access, outside legitimate hunting areas and seasons.

I am a member of the Oregon Gun Owners Caucus, and a gun owner, and concealed weapons permit holder. Over thirty years experience should make mine, or any other professional's, experience and opinion somewhat more relevant than that of someone who's experience consists of playing video games, target shooting, or even PETA membership.

The Supreme Court D. C. decision said no to banning gun ownership. AT THE SAME TIME the Justices clearly stated that REASONABLE regulations to control firearms use and possession IS WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT!

I have a ton of photographic evidence and proofs (damage reports et al) that unrestricted firearms use DOES lead to irresponsible firearms use.

I've seen grizzlies doing what grizzlies do, but never seen a "psycho" one. I've seen LOTS of "psycho" human beings doing what they do. Some I put in jail, some I shot at, and didn't miss(ode to Winston Churchill). PETA likes to anthropomorphize chickens, cows, dogs, and elephants in zoos, I would never do the same to a wolf, coyote, mountain lion, tiger or other predator in the wild- they are far too "civilized" to equate them to human behaviors.

Limiting guns to CURRENT RULES in National Parks and Refuges is merely a common sense application of the Supreme Court's own determination, and DOES protect our Constitutional right to BEAR arms, without abusing that right. It also protects my right to enjoy my national parks without fear of gun owners, when bears and lions have NEVER REALLY BOTHERED ME!

Rick is exactly correct about the much higher incidence of vandalism from gunfire in areas outside of national parks as compared to inside the parks themselves.

Great red herring here. Also unsupported. Show me a scrap of evidence that vandalism is being caused by citizens with a permit to carry a concealed handgun. I'd like to see a study on the types of weapons people use to shoot signs. Are they using handguns, which this rule change affects, or shotguns/rifles/assault weapons? I'm also confused as to why the NPS considers protecting road signs more important than protecting civil liberties.

In addition to the previously covered dismal or non-existent requirements for training for CHL holders

Some states require rather extensive training, but training is not a constitutional requisite for this civil right.

Most law enforcement officers I know . . .

More anecdote. Does anyone have any empirical evidence, not just opinion polls, to justify the NPS's violating civil rights of law abiding CCW permit holders?

I haven't tried to locate data on situations where officers arrive on scene to find an unidentified armed citizen, and the result is a terrible outcome - I doubt that there is a good database of such situations, but I certainly recall having heard about them.

Hearsay is not evidence. I find it laughable that some people use the argument of statistics to say people don't need to carry weapons in national parks (because chances of being attacked are slim), but in the next breath invent some situation that is probably even more statistically unlikely and use that near impossibility as justification for violating civil rights.

The vandalism of signs and such is a direct result of public ownership. When land is privately owned there are well constructed fences, security and self-interested owners who have a vested stake in patrolling and safeguarding their property. Public land, on the other hand, is overseen by tax payer funded bureaucrats, most with lifetime jobs and pensions, who have much less incentive to protect as thoroughly the domain under their purview from the multitude of users who freely access and often abuse it.

Much like private home ownership versus public housing the contrast in care and investment is stark. Or as they used to say in Georgia, "It's a case of mine over matter----if ain't mine it don't matter."

To try and blame the bullet holes found in remote governmental signs on concealed carry permit holders is to miss the point entirely and heap scorn on the wrong group. This is a governmental ownership problem rather than a gun problem. Just go visit a public housing project near you for some real illumination.

As a former Ohio police officer and deputy sheriff, I find some of the comments about concealed carry in our national parks very offensive. First of all anyone who has a concealed carry permit has undergone an extensive background investigation. These people are responsible ones and have had the proper training to carry a concealed handgun. In my 8 years as a police officer I can tell you if you think the police can protect you, think again. This is the mindset of ignorance. If the police are doing such a great job why are there over 20,000 murders in this country every year ? I do not blame the police and believe me I am still a police officer at heart. In my 8 years of law enforcement I have seen it all. Rape, torture, and murder, violent beatings, you name it. The criminal mind has no sympathy for human beings or for anything for that matter, and they do not have established guidelines for where they commit crimes. You are not safe anyplace in this country today. The fact that the national park service officers are against concealed carry is disheartening to me because you know you cannot protect anyone in you parks as well as I do. And the thought that anyone with a gun is a threat to you is pathetic. Just ask any number of police officers across this country how many of them would be dead if not for armed citizens. For you park rangers to tell people they are safe in our national parks without personal protection is a discrace and you should be ashamed. Maybe you should turn in your guns as law enforcement officers. (Since the parks are so safe) maybe you rangers are right though. Maybe there will come a day when you are the victim of a violent crime in one of your parks, and since no one will be able to come to your aid, maybe Smokey the Bear can assist you.

Respectfully
Richard Lemay
former Swanton Police Officer
and Lucas County Deputy Sheriff

This will be my last comment on this thread because I think we have explored all the angles. There are people who feel that they cannot be safe without carrying. Fine. All I say is that the parks are safer without a lot of guns than with lots of them. That's what the majority of protection rangers say and I think we should pay some attention to their point of view.

Rick Smith

...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 http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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