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Interior Officials Release Rule Change to Allow National Park Visitors to Arm Themselves


Interior Department officials finally did what was expected Friday when they published a rule change that will allow national park visitors to arm themselves.

In a decision that surely will delight some and surely disgust others, the Bush administration ignored all past living directors of the National Park Service, the Park Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and the National Parks Conservation Association in deciding it would be OK for park visitors to carry weapons if they hold concealed weapons permits and the park they are in is located within a state that allows concealed carry.

“Once again, political leaders in the Bush administration have ignored the preferences of the American public by succumbing to political pressure, in this case generated by the National Rifle Association. This regulation will put visitors, employees and precious resources of the National Park System at risk. We will do everything possible to overturn it and return to a common-sense approach to guns in national parks that has been working for decades,” said Bill Wade, president of the retirees group.

The administration received almost 140,000 comments, the vast majority of which opposed the proposal to allow loaded guns in national parks.

The groups opposed to the rule change say the "final regulation is even more extreme than the administration’s original proposal, and permits concealed and loaded guns to be carried in national parks located in any states with concealed carry laws, not just those that allow guns in their state parks as originally proposed. Only the three national park units in Wisconsin and Illinois, which do not issue concealed carry permits, are excluded."

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, there were 1.65 violent crimes per 100,000 national park visitors in 2006—making national parks some of the safest places in the United States. Those opposed to the rule change say the new regulation could increase the risk for impulse shootings of wildlife, and risk the safety of visitors and rangers.

Despite the potential affect on national park wildlife and resources, the administration did not conduct an environmental review as required by law, and some believe that opens the door for a lawsuit to halt the rule change.

“Land management agencies have worked diligently over the years to successfully create the different sets of expectations amongst the visiting public to reflect the differing levels of resource protections for each specific area,” said John Waterman, president of the Park Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. “National parks are different from other public lands. The visitor population expects, demands, and gets a higher degree of protection, enforcement, and restriction in a national park.

"Furthermore, while national parks are amongst the safest areas to be in, the toll on the U.S. Park Ranger is high: U.S. Park Rangers are the most assaulted federal officers in the country. This vague, wide-open regulation will only increase the danger U.S. Park Rangers face.”

In a letter sent to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne on April 3, 2008, seven former directors of the National Park Service said that there is no need to change the existing regulation. “In all our years with the National Park Service, we experienced very few instances in which this limited regulation created confusion or resistance,” the letter stated. “There is no evidence that any potential problems that one can imagine arising from the existing regulations might overwhelm the good they are known to do.”

At the Association of National Park Rangers, President Scot McElveen said “American citizens have traditionally valued the professional opinions of park rangers when it comes to managing national parks. In the professional opinion of ANPR, this regulation change will have negative impacts on park wildlife. Our experience in operating parks creates disbelief that wildlife poaching rates will not increase under the new regulation. We oppose this rash regulatory change.”

Echoing these concerns, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees last month released a report revealing that more than three out of four of 1,400 current and former employees of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predict that this controversial regulation will have an adverse affect on the ability of agency employees to accomplish their mission. Furthermore, it found that 75 percent of respondents feel that there will be an increase in opportunistic or impulse wildlife killings in parks and refuges.

“With this decision, many state parks across the country will now provide a more protective environment for wildlife and visitors than national parks—once the safest place for families. Furthermore, this decision undermines the ability of national park professionals to manage the parks and runs counter to the overwhelming majority of Americans who wrote in opposition to allowing loaded firearms in our national parks,” said NPCA Associate Director for Park Uses Bryan Faehner.


For those that do not like this, just be sure to ask the concealed carry person that may come to your aid not to help you when you are threatend by a person that is not legal to carry. Your perpatrator will carry regaurdless of legality.

I guess some only felt safe in the park but never outside the boundries of parks?

News flash, us legal concealing citizens are carrying in legal locations and you never noticed... thats why it's called concealed.

Peter -

To follow up on Kurt's comment, a key problem with the Coburn Amendment doesn't have anything to do with CCW. The issue is the vastly expanded, immediate access to loaded rifles and shotguns in parks by those intent on breaking the law, along with the drunken idiots who are just out to "have a good time." The supposed restraining influence of a CCW permit doesn't apply in those cases.

The previous regulations reduced the immediate availability of those loaded guns to criminals in parks, and the idiots who use firearms irresponsibly, because they at least had to keep them out of sight and out of immediate reach to avoid attracting attention. When they didn't, and when rangers spotted those weapons, they could take appropriate action without being forced to wait until shots were fired or another serious problem occurred.

Under the new approach, that restraining influence over that small percentage of people who will act stupidly with guns has been lost, until they do something that may endanger others. When state law allows (and that's often the case) the criminals - along with the honest folks - are now free to keep those loaded rifles right there in the gun rack of their pickup truck during their visit to a park.

Yes, I realize that's the norm outside the park in many states, so parks can now become just like the rest of the country. I'm glad that makes some people feel safer while visiting a park. I'm not one of them.

Parks are not the same as the rest of the country for a lot of reasons. One of those is easy access to wildlife, including some prime specimens that plenty of people would like to see hanging on the wall of their den. The new law makes it much easier for that to occur.

Here's a common scenario from my years of working in parks that illustrates my concern.

It's midnight, and a meadow next to a park road is full of elk, including some trophy-quality bulls. Two good ol' boys are driving slowly down the deserted road through the meadow, and they're both holding a loaded, high-powered rifle in their lap. What might they be thinking? Perhaps they're just being prepared to defend themselves in case an evil person suddenly appears out of the dark and threatens them.

If you believe that one, you're probably good a candidate for some financial advice from a guy named Madof.

I'll repeat my suggestion made on a different post for an appropriate title for Coburn's amendment, because it goes far beyond allowing the carrying of handguns for self defense by CCW holders. A good title for this bill is the Poachers and Vandals Stimulus Act.

I hope I'm wrong...but I'm not betting against it. Time will tell.

Peter, you overlook the fact that there are numerous cases of "law-abiding" CCW holders who have been charged with crimes, that there are many cases of CCW holders whose weapons have been involved in accidental shootings (more than a few involving young children), and that the Coburn amendment goes beyond CCW in saying who can arm themselves in national parks.

Indeed, anyone who has a firearm, whether it's covered by a CCW permit or a hunting license, will be able to tote a firearm in a national park. And you overlook the fact that different states have different standards that individuals must meet to obtain a CCW.

And, as has been pointed out earlier, this rule change could actually embolden criminals, as they now will be able to openly carry weapons without fear of a ranger stopping to ask them what they're up to.

Then, too, there are those who say they must have a firearm to defend themselves from wildlife. That type of comment indicates 1) how little these folks know about wildlife and encounters in the parks and 2) that they just might be a little trigger happy in the extremely small likelihood that they would actually see a wild animal during their visit.

Sadly, I do not see passage of this amendment as societal progress.

I believe a citizen has a right to protect themselves whereever. As long as they are not prohibited from owning a firearm. The only people that would poach or violate the law are law violators and those people will carry guns illegally and will not adhere to the laws preventing guns in national parks. Your law abiding permit carrying citizen is not going to draw a weapon unless there is an immediate threat to human life. They are not going to risk their permit to carry by breaking any laws. Permit carriers are rarely involved in situations where they violate any laws intentionally. The argument that there would be more poaching or spontaneous shooting of animals is not by any means a valid argument. There does not seem to be any valid argument against carrying guns in national parks. All the arguments I have heard have to do with law abiding citizens breaking the law and risking their status as a permit holder. you have to remember that permit holders are screened and issued a permit because they are not law breakers. The issue of banning weapons in parks would only create a safe place for criminals to be able to commit crimes against law abiding citizens knowing they can go to these places with their illegal weapons and not meet much resistance since the law abiding citizen is likely not going to be able to defend themselves in these places against an armed law breaker. A law banning the carrying of firearms by law abiding citizens should have with it the right to sue the national parks and the government in the event something were to happen to a citizen in those places and they were not able to defend themselves due to the law.

Guns don't kill people! People kill people. A gun is just another device used in protecting ones self or inflicting injury or death unto another person or living animal.

I have a carry permit in the State of Tennessee. This permit allows me to carry concealed or out in the open. I definently support this bill, although the way the Bush administration went about it, I dont agree with. We have checks and balances that our system of government was built on for a reason. When this is circumvented, what is stopping our leaders from doing it again and again for someother reason.

When I travel outside of my home area, I take my gun with me. There has been several times that I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time and of no fault of my own. I was very thankful and so were the other people around me that I did have my gun and was able to branish the weapon and prevent a gas station from being robbed, and perhaps someone getting killed in the process. I was in noway shape or form looking for a reason to pull the weapon out other than for protecting myself or another individual standing within my presence.

I consider myself very lucky to be given the right to carry outside my home and do agree with the decision to carry in National Parks.

Criminals don't follow the laws, so why should we give them some leverage on taking advantage of hurting, kidnapping or even killing someone for their sick and twisted excuses? I was in the Marines and I dont need this gun to kill people, but when faced with a criminal that has a gun or someother type of instrument that can cause death or injury to myself, family members or someone within my presence, its my duty to protect them as I would protect myself.

I don't see anyone talking about how many criminals are shot each year because the homeowner(s) had a gun to protect their family with and if no gun, they surely would have been another statistic.

Those that abide by the laws and have a permit to carry a weapon should be the least of your concern. Some real intelligant political figures would call law abiding citizens, "dangerous people".....LOL...The criminals are the dangerous people.

There will be no added enviromental danger to the forest, besides, what harm does a weapon do to the enviroment just sitting in his/her holster???

The FBI does a background investigation on each person that requests a carry permit and he/she must pass a class on the safe handling of a weapon and the rules and regulations of the State. No pass, No permit.

Lets think positive here people. Guns dont kill people, people use the guns to kill or hurt other people. Remember, you can take the steak knife and kill someone, so should we outlaw steak knifes or how about a lawn mower blade? Or heres a good one, an AXE or a CHAINSAW????

There will come a day for some of you that you will encounter a unrully crazy whacko and you will have wished that you had a gun to protect yourself. When that happens you'll be out of luck then! The police wont be there fast enough or you wont beable to make the call fast enough. You wont have anything better to protect yourself with, because the intruder either has your axe, steak knife or chainsaw with him and you will be there standing defenseless wishing you had a gun to protect yourself or your family. I hope that never happens, but sometimes I wish people had some kind experience to open their eyes to the fact that, guns arent such a bad idea after all, its the criminals that have them and if guns didnt exist, they would have something else to put you out of your misery so they could do whatever they wanted to or take whatever they wanted.

I know my thoughts are a little on the harsh side but its better to hear the truth without all the political correctness BS involved.

Best of Luck to you all!
Semper Fi.

Fact check: Mr. Stayner's murders of "three women" were committed outside Yosemite in the town of El Portal. He did, though, confess to killing a park naturalist inside the park in July 1999.

As for "the tyranny of the Executive Order," some would argue that 43 perfected that.

I agree completely. It is foolish to think that the criminals will not have concealed weapons in the National Parks. It is also foolish to think that the law enforcement in the NPS will be able to protect law abiding citizens while they are in the Parks. Does anyone remember what Mr Stainer did to those three women? I applaude Mr Bush's decision. The law abiding citizens of this country have a right given to them by God, and not Congress or the politicians, to protect themselves. If those opposed to this rule don't like it they can continue to travel in the NPS unarmed. As for me, I am happy to have my right for self protection restored. Thank you Mr Bush!! And if the Obamanistas think that they can govern this country through the tyrany of the Executive Order they are only fooling themselves.

Maybe good people like you will never need someone to protect you from a criminal, if you do don't let them bring a gun to protect you.

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