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.
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.