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NPCA, Park Retirees File Lawsuit to Halt Change in National Park Gun Rules


Another lawsuit has been filed in a bid to prevent a change in national park gun rules. Late Tuesday the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees filed their lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Back on December 30 the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence filed a similar lawsuit.

The filing by the NPCA and retirees coalition seeks an injunction against enforcement of the Bush administration’s new regulation that would allow national park visitors with concealed weapons permits to arm themselves throughout their visits. In their lawsuit the two groups contend the rule change would increase the risk to visitors, park staff, and wildlife.

The rule is scheduled to take effect this Friday, January 9.

“In a rush to judgment, as a result of political pressure, the outgoing administration failed to comply with the law, and did not offer adequate reasons for doing so,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan.

The Bush administration last month finalized a National Rifle Association-driven rule change to allow loaded, concealed firearms in all national parks except those located in two states: Wisconsin and Illinois, which do not permit concealed weapons. The former rule, put in place by the Reagan administration, required that firearms transported through national parks be safely stowed and unloaded.

“Our members, with over 20,000 years accumulated experience managing national parks, can see absolutely no good coming from the implementation of this rule. More guns equal more risk,” said Bill Wade, chair of the coalition's executive council. “Apparently, the Bush administration chose to ignore the outpouring of concern voiced during the public comment period."

According to the lawsuit, the Department of the Interior “adopted the gun rule with unwarranted haste, without following procedures required by law and without the consideration of its consequences that they are required to observe under law… The new regulation is an affront to the national parks’ missions and purposes and a threat to the national parks’ resources and values, which must be held unlawful and set aside.”

As with the Brady Campaign, the NPCA and retirees coalition maintain that the rule is unlawful because the Interior Department failed to conduct an analysis of the rule’s environmental effects, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, including the effects of the rule on threatened and endangered species. The lawsuit also argues that Interior officials ignored the National Park Service Organic Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“Any reasonable person would have to conclude that changing these rules to allow more firearms in the national parks could have an environmental impact on park wildlife and resources,” Mr. Kiernan said.

In a letter sent to Interior Secretary Kempthorne on April 3, seven former directors of the National Park Service stated that there is no need to change the regulations. “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.”

The rule also was opposed by the current career leadership of the National Park Service and other park management professionals, including the Association of National Park Rangers and the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The public agrees: of the 140,000 people who voiced their opinion on this issue during the public comment period, 73 percent opposed allowing loaded, concealed firearms in the national parks, according to NPCA tallies.


In this article, Kurt characterizes the new rule-change as "National Rifle Association-driven".

Well ... certainly, the NRA liked this idea, was doubtless instrumental in hustling around Congress etc on it's behalf, and otherwise cheerleading & pitching-in any way they could. Sure ... but 'NRA-driven' is a significant enhancement of the capacity they wield.

Right off the top, if the NRA et al were able to "drive" gun-laws in this country, gun-laws in the country would be way, way different than they are. Agreed?

The NRA would for sure "support" the new regulation. Where their presence would have a positive effect (it would not, in all situations), they would participate in "lobbying" key persons, or groups. They would willingly help "promote" and "publicize" it.

For opponents of the new Parks gun-regulation, who want to know who their 'enemy' is, presenting the change as something that the NRA 'pulled off' in this coup, poses the suggestion that the way to minimize the chances of more changes like this, is to seek ways to minimize the NRA & its public role. Take the NRA down a few notches, get these usurping interlopers out of the Halls of Congress, and this gun-nonsense will abate. Hmm.

More accurately, the new rule was driven by factions within Congress, and the national political parties. They had a friendly Administration in the White House, and 'went for it'. The NRA was high-fivvin' 'em all the way, you bet - but "driving"? Hmm.

The guns-in-Parks rule-change was mainly "elected Representative/Senator/Politics-driven". The way to reduce the chances of more of this kind of stuff is to focus on the Congress, who was actually responsible, and not to 'kid' ourselves that the NRA "drives" laws in this country.

The important thing to be considering now is the outlook of President-elect Obama. He is the one who will have the greatest weight in determining how the changes move forward, or don't.

Of & by his own devices & nature, Obama is a gun-opponent. He doesn't like guns and would like to see them gone. However, after serving in a high position with the main gun-control lobby, and considering a role as chairman & leader of the whole movement, he then withdrew from the organization and subsequently distanced himself from the gun-opposition camp as a whole.

The combination of his stated position on the 2nd Amendment (support) and his appointment of Salazar to Interior suggest he will permit the new regs to stand.

Neither this lawsuit by former Parks staff, nor the one by the Brady organization, strike me as containing anything that is going to have Judges sitting on the edge of their chair, head cocked & listening intently to the penetrating logic of the complainant. The reasons given for bringing suit are primarily "opinions" and "emotional appeals", and are all subordinate to the Law of the Land pertaining to firearms. NPCA, like Brady, has no substantive case.

Our members, with over 20,000 years accumulated experience managing national parks, can see absolutely no good coming from the implementation of this rule.

Here's another example of Mr. Wade disingenuously lumping all CNPSR members into the anti-gun crowd. To avoid portraying the CNPSR as totally unified, which it is not, he ought to insert "Some" before "Our" and make the appropriate grammatical edits. However, I expect Mr. Wade will continue to ignore internal dissent and will to continue to censor CNPSR members who defend the entire Constitution.

In their lawsuit the two groups contend the rule change would increase the risk to visitors, park staff, and wildlife


An increase in risk? By what factor? I don't know what evidence the groups might possess; the federal government does not keep national statistics on poaching in parks. I don't know that there is any evidence that concealed weapons permit holders would put visitors and park staff at higher risk.

The lawsuit will accomplish something though; it will waste money.

Oh, I don't know Ted, I it's fairly accurate to say NRA drove this measure right through the Senate. They worked with Sen. Coburn in drafting the amendment he pushed to change the rules, and I wouldn't be surprised if they ghosted the letter the 50 senators sent to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne asking for a rule change. And you know they had a strong lobby going to keep the pressure on Kempthorne.

That said, so what? It's not a pejorative to describe the NRA's role any more than it is to criticize the NPCA for pushing issues it views as vital to the parks.

This is most disappointing: I dont understand why any group is willing to tell the crooks it is OK to come into the NPS and rob and kill who they want because no one will be able to protect themselves. Sorta dumb isnt it. If vistor can pass the concealed weapons laws and a FBI and local law enforcement agencies test I dont see why you want only the crooks to carry guns in national park, have you ever heard of a crook, anywhere, that pays attention to any law.
If the sign at the entrance to any np states "no weapons allowed" this is the same as saying "come on in crooks no one here has a gun." Think about it.

[Ed: This posting, originally all in caps, was edited to sentence case.]

Kirk: Why are you in favor of crooks, who never have or had paid any attention to any law be the only ones to carry concealed firearms in the national parks? When any organization or business support a law that does not allow a citizen with a concealed weapons license to carry a gun for protection is telling the crook it is ok to rob and kill the unarmed citizen.
Sorta dumb isnt it -- considering what it take to get a concealed weapons license. You mention illinois as a non concealed weapons state. Question: how many people are killed by guns in illinois that says "it is ok for the crooks to carry weapons but not for the law abiding citizen. Dumb really dumb illinois the crook free state.

[Ed: This posting, originally all in caps, was edited to sentence case. Come on folks; let's quit "shouting"" at each other.]

Not only that, Kurt, but Senator Crapo, R-Id, admits that the NRA drafted the letter that Senators signed and sent to Kempthorne. I think Ted is underestimating the capacity of the NRA to drive campaigns like this.

But, as you point out, so what? Does it surprise anyone? My only question is why did they wait so long? They had 7 1/2 years of a friendly admiinistration. Maybe they waited so long so that it would be a last minute deal that their allies in the Department could get through without going through the normal rule-making processes, shortening the public comment period and ignoring the NEPA compliance processes. And does it surprise anyone that groups who think more guns in parks is a bad idea would challenge the rule?

Rick Smith

Ted Clayton:

To categorize a lawsuit brought by the NPCA and the CNPSR as an "emotional appeal" is patronizing to say the least. To disregard the professional experience that many of their members have in park/resource management is to belittle the value of their experience. And to disregard their professional assessment of the situation (because it doesn't agree with yours) is unnecessarily disrespectful.

Concerning President-elect Obama, what exactly is his "nature", as you so dangerously phrase it?
It will be interesting to see whether or not he takes on this particular ruling, his support for the 2nd Amendment notwithstanding. (If his eventual decision doesn't completely jibe with your interpretation, will you still see him as a "supporter"?)

And: Do you really think the NRA does not exercise it's considerable political clout whenever possible? That opinion is beneath your demonstrated intellect, don't patronize the forum please.
If you are sincerely unfamiliar with the breadth and reach of the NRA I suggest you go take a look at the NRA website, and you'll get an idea of just what that organization can and will get themselves involved in.

Bill Woodard:
Just how many "crooks" have been responsible for crimes within the National Parks so far? The no-carry situation in National Parks has been in effect for decades, and I'm just not familiar with how many crimes have occurred in our Parks that could have been prevented by law-abiding gun owners. Can you share your source and statistics for your assumptions? Or at least some sort of comparable precedent that would support the need for this ruling?

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