Maine-based Groups Join Fight to Overturn Gun Rule for National Parks

Two groups in Maine have joined the legal bid to overturn the Bush administration's decision to allow national park visitors to arm themselves.

Already the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Parks Conservation Association, aligned with the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, have filed lawsuits to overturn the gun rule.

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.

The lawsuits challenging the rule change claim Interior officials violated several federal laws to implement the rule before President Bush left office. Specifically, they allege that Interior failed to conduct any environmental review of the harm that the rule will cause, as is required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The lawsuit filed by the NPCA and the retirees also claims that Interior officials ignored the National Park Service Organic Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

It was only about two weeks ago that the Mountain States Legal Foundation entered the fray. The Denver-based foundation filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Interior Department because it didn't think Interior lawyers would argue adamantly enough on behalf of its members.

Federal Defendants are charged by law with representing the public interest of the citizens of the United States, not the more narrow and “parochial” interests of MSLF’s members. MSLF’s members have expended time, money, and effort to obtain licenses to carry concealed weapons. Because only a small fraction of the general public obtains such licenses, Federal Defendants’ obligation to represent the interests of the general public, most of whom do not have concealed carry licenses, is at odds with the interests of MSLF’s members. At best there is a partial congruence of interests, which does not guarantee the adequacy of the representation.

The latest to enter the legal battle are Friends of Acadia, a non-profit that advocates and works in behalf of Acadia National Park, and Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.

The Maine groups contend that, "Acadia National Park is not the type of place where guns make a lot of sense."

Comments

Perhaps the groups listed above ought to read the Final Rule:

Issue 8: Visitors who carry a concealed firearm permitted under state law are likely to use their handguns to shoot or injure wildlife.

Response 8: The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service and a number of state parks and refuges currently authorize the possession of concealed firearms consistent with the laws of the state in which they are located. The available data does not suggest that visitors to these lands misuse their legally permitted firearms for poaching or illegal shooting, or that there is additional danger posed to the public from lawfully carried concealed firearms. See, e.g., National Research Council, Committee on Law and Justice, Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review (Washington D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2004), p.6; Dodenhoff, David, Concealed Carry Legislation: An Examination of the Facts, Wisconsin Public Policy Research Institute (2006), p. 5; see also, Jeffrey Snyder, Fighting Back: Crime, Self-Defense, and the Right to Carry a Handgun, (October 1997); Kopel, David, et al., Policy Review No. 78 (July & August 1996).

These groups desperately use a slippery slope argument without data to support the premise.

If the "available data does not suggest that visitors to these lands misuse their legally permitted firearms for poaching", why waste money on an EIS? If anyone has data to the contrary, I'd love to see it.

I disagree that the EIS argument is a slippery slope. Furthermore, I disagree with the response to issue 8. The demographic differences between NPS visitors and other site's visitors makes extrapolation of those study results unreliable.

The conveniences found in many national parks help to draw a very diverse crowd, one that is often much less prepared to deal with nature than visitors to more primitive FS or BLM sites.

If a person has a permit to carry a concealed weapon in X state and visits a park in X state what is the problem? No laws have been broken and there is no more of a danger inside the park nor less danger outside the park. I can't figure out the amount of ignorance or narrowmindedness in these "concealed" arguments.

You can disagree that it is a slipperly slope argument, but facts and reality show otherwise: "In broader, especially recent, pragmatic usage, the term 'slippery slope argument alternately' refers to a non-fallacious argument that such undesirable events are rendered more probable." That's the argument these groups are making.

If you have any data showing CCW permit holders are more likely to poach, I'd sure love to see it.

Kurt,

I feel like you weren't quite clear in your third paragraph. I think
...a rule to allow loaded, concealed firearms in all national parks except those located in two states... gives the impression that anyone would be allowed to carry "loaded, concealed firearms" in national parks, when, as I understand it, it merely allows existing state law to apply, i.e. concealed-carry permit holders can carry in the park as they would outside the park in the same state.

Mark

Facts and reality don't actually demonstrate otherwise. The application of the results, of the cited studies, argue that parks would not likely see in increase in poaching. That is an extrapolation of data between some very different types of sites.

But this should not even be an discussion about poaching.

As for showing data that CCW permit holders are more likely to poach, I would actually agree with you and acknowledge that they are not likely to poach. However, they are more likely to shoot and kill an animal in a park than someone not holding a gun. Now that is a fact that cannot be argued. Because of that, I think an EIS should be completed to evaluate the potential impacts on wildlife.

As for showing data that CCW permit holders are more likely to poach, I would actually agree with you and acknowledge that they are not likely to poach.

Glad you agree. I'm still waiting for evidence from anyone, including these groups, that CCW permit holders are likely to shoot animals.

However, they are more likely to shoot and kill an animal in a park than someone not holding a gun. Now that is a fact that cannot be argued.

And someone who can speak is more likely to yell "Fire!" in a theater than someone who is mute. This is also a fact that cannot be argued, but it doesn't prove anything. It doesn't follow that just because someone can speak they are likely to yell "Fire!" in a theater. Because there is a risk of someone yelling "Fire!", should speaking be completely banned? Should everyone entering crowded public spaces have their mouths taped shut because there is a risk they might yell "Fire!"?