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Bush Administration's Haste Could Doom New Gun Rules In National Parks


In its apparent haste to rewrite the rules so national park visitors could arm themselves, the Bush administration might have shot itself in the foot.

According to documents obtained by the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, the Interior Department was advised to perform, but refused to do so, an environmental analysis of the rule change's impact on national parks.

The Bush administration in December finalized a rule 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. The rule change took effect January 9, before President Obama was sworn in.

When his group announced back in December that it would seek to overturn the rule change in court, Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke said the change would endanger national park visitors.

"The Bush Administration's last-minute gift to the gun lobby, allowing concealed semiautomatic weapons in national parks, jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law," said Mr. Helmke. "We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry concealed firearms in our parks."

The lawsuit, which named as defendants Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, National Park Service Director Mary Bomar, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall, claimed Interior officials violated several federal laws to implement the rule before President Bush leaves office. Specifically, it charged that Interior failed to conduct any environmental review of the harm that the rule might cause, as is required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Brady Campaign also believes the rule violates the National Park Service Organic Act and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, which created the parks and wildlife refuges as protected lands for safe enjoyment of all visitors.

Now, in a column Mr. Helmke wrote Thursday, he says there is evidence that the Bush administration ignored NEPA requirements:

...the previous administration ignored warnings from Interior Department officials that the rule was being changed in violation of Federal law because of a rush to get things in place before Bush left office.

These internal Bush administration documents were acquired by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in response to our lawsuit against the Interior Department. You can read the documents here.

These documents show that the Bush administration ignored the procedural concerns and safety warnings of at least two federal agencies in order to push through the rule in time to deny the Obama administration a chance to review it.

For example, on April 3, 2008, the National Park Service's Chief of Environmental Quality, Jacob Hoogland, warned that the rule "required additional NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] analysis" and that "at minimum an Environmental Assessment should be prepared on the proposed revision to the existing firearms regulation."

In the same vein, Michael Schwartz, the Fish and Wildlife Service's Chief of Policy and Directives Management, warned on May 14, 2008 that "The rule was published before they did any NEPA analysis. Last week, I pointed out that this is a procedural flaw."


It's funny that almost all the individulas that are in support of guns in parks have never even been to a national park, while virtually all regular visitors to national parks are opposed to concealed carry in the parks.

#1 We don't need a "reason" to carry firearms in national parks. It is the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution garuntees the right of the PEOPLE to keep and Bear Arms.

#2 Crime could happen any where and any time. Do you think you anti-gun commies could engage a little of that good ole common sense and put your rhetoric aside.

#3 Besides the criminal element (park kidnapping of children, violent robberies of campers.) There are wild animals that have also, on rare occasion, attack hikers and recreationalists. Now they would have a fighting chance.. Wouldn't you want that too?

#4 Being forced to use a firearm to thwart criminals, animals, or otherwise is extremely rare. You have better chances of being killed under a doctors care than by a criminals bullets. So why try and block responsible, law abiding Americans from being able to protect their families any where including National Parks?

There do seem to be an overwhelming proportion (identified by very unscientific means) of comments in support of the rule change. So much so I had to do some digging to make sure that mine was still in there.

I haven't spent much time studying the public comment process... but is there an actual report that breaks down the 26,000+ comments into some numbers? Clicking through the comments one by one is not a very reliable way of building a conclusion. It would be pretty easy to run the comments through a qualitative analysis program to give us a better idea of what is going on. Further, it would allow for some demographic analysis to help show how statistically representative of the US population the comments are.

Even if a report shows that there is strong support from the public (that did comment on this rule change), it should not mean that the proposal is automatically made a rule. It should start the process of better understanding all the impacts associated with changing or not changing the rule.

Any decisions made concerning national parks and other protected areas need to based on the best available science, not just public opinion. (Yes, I know that you can probably find examples of bad science being used to support past rule changes in parks.)

I remember a researcher asking people about putting a new building at Logan Pass in Glacier NP. He found that there was overwhelming support by visitors to build a revolving restaurant at the pass. Just because a bunch people want something doesn't make it a good idea.

Anonymous said, "The overwhelming majority of respondants, to the tune of 73%, were adamently opposed to the rule change."

Actually, the majority of the respondents were in FAVOR of the rule change! I assume you've been following the Brady Bunch's teaching fairly closely. If you'd like to do a little independent research, you can follow this link and read the comments for yourself. There are thousands of them. Pick a dozen or so AT RANDOM. See what they say, then decide.

President Obama's administration might reverse this rule change. But it will not be done quietly. There will be a lot of loud voices from the people of this country who are tired of being treated like criminals while the REAL criminals walk the streets "on probation".

Sorry to be the one to inform you that you have your facts 180 degrees off! The overwhelming majority of respondants, to the tune of 73%, were adamently opposed to the rule change.

This policy change clearly did not have the support in congress to pass, so the Bush administration defied the legal rule making process and scrambled to pass it before he left office without the required assessments and votes from congress .

Thankfully, this rule change will not stand, and will be overturned by the courts or the Obama administration!!!

I don't recall having a Bill of Needs. A Bill of Rights we do have. I don't see the Need to allow you post your drivel on the internet. However I do see you have the Right.


Well said Sailorcurt.
Thank you for posting in such a logical manner without the usual emotionally-charged rhetoric.

Why do Park Rangers carry weapons? Are they making our parks more unsafe? Are they a danger to wildlife? What is the environmental impact of the rangers carrying weapons? Has the E.P.A. completed an impact study on rangers being armed?

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