Interior Department Agrees To Conduct EIS on Gun Rules for National Parks

Perhaps recognizing the writing on the wall, the Interior Department has decided to conduct an environmental impact statement on a rule change that would allow national park visitors to arm themselves.

The decision comes one month after a federal judge, in an opinion highly critical of the Bush administration's handling of the rule change, blocked it from continuing in effect.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly scolded those who crafted the rule change for abdicating "their congressionally-mandated obligation to evaluate all reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts..."

Interior officials have agreed to conduct an EIS on the rule change and will ask the judge to stay further litigation in the matter until after the EIS is completed.

As with other EIS studies, the upcoming one on the gun rules is expected to include a set of alternatives, most likely ranging from keeping intact the previous rule that allowed firearms to be transported through national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they were broken down and out of reach to the rule that would allow concealed carry in those federal properties.

While that EIS is being conducted, a process that could run into, if not through, the summer, battles over the rule are expected to continue. The National Rifle Association already has appealed Judge Kollar-Kotelly's ruling, and there are various efforts in Congress to make the rule change effective through legislation.

Comments

While I am not taking a position on the actual gun question, I think this article proves the problems with the federal government. The ability to use a EIS on a gun issue?!?!?! Create enough bureaucracy and then you can guarantee that nothing gets done. Perhaps you have seen the story on the number of permits and approvals that Noah would have needed to build an ark and save the animals. I am assuming, that the gun rules are a carry rule, and not the ability to wander the parks shooting at trees. If it is simply a carry/possession rule, then who in their crazy mind would think that their would be an environmental impact on having a gun on your hip. It creates no emissions, it requires no park resources to possess. This is just an attempt at those who oppose it to use an over grown government program, designed to do good, to push their agenda. The next step is to use and EIS to overturn Rowe v Wade. A really good one would be to use a EIS on all of the trees that died and the landfill space used on the paperwork created by campaign finance reform.

Bottom line, if their is a desire to reverse the rules on guns in the parks, fine, use a avenue that makes sense, not just another stall tactic, or maybe they need to finance an archeological survey of any park that would allow guns, this would stall the rule and cost millions of dollars. If you read this and think, "this guy doesn't understand the purpose of an EIS or how it applies to this issue" then we are all in deeper trouble than I thought.

Come on. Do you think the NPS current rule keeps criminals from taking their guns into Parks? Certainly not. This new rule would allow people who have a legal, approved license to carry a gun in a Park where the local laws otherwise allow it. The license holders are known to the police, they have gone through training, and have registered on a database with law enforcement. These law-abiding responsible people are the LAST people who would violate gun laws. This is NOT about hunting. This is NOT about randomly shooting in the woods which is illegal. This is NOT about carrying a weapon into a Federal building which is still prohibited. This is about self protection.

EIS's are not a waste of money (in my opinion). They are used to help ensure we think about what we do before we do it. It also gives the public more time to weigh in on issues. And further, it catalogues the decision making process so that if things get challenged in court in the future (with any decision) it can be shown that park Admin did or didn't consider it.

The reason that an EIS should be done, in this case, is because guns have the power to kill or injure wildlife. I completely agree that very few people in their right mind would set out on their NPS vacation to shoot a bear, but wildlife will be shot. And while CCW holders are well educated about how to handle a gun, they may be completely out of their comfort zone in a wild NPS setting. They may misread a bluff charge from a bear or other animal and instead of using bear spray (which is proven much more effective at stopping a bear), either end up escalating the charge to an attack or end up injuring a bear (perhaps fatally).

As a critic will point out, there are a lot of "if" and "may" statements piled in that last paragraph. But only a few sow grizzly bears would have to be killed or injured over a period of years to cause a big setback in the population of bears in a place like Grand Teton NP. That would be a significant environmental impacts.

Finally, just because someone is normally a law abiding citizen doesn't mean that they will always be. Just look at people who are tested, licensed, and registered in databases to drive automobiles. But this EIS is not about if laws will be broken (it is a certainty that laws will be broken), it is about the potential for this new activity to impact sensitive ecosystems.

This gun issue gets more bizarre as time goes on. As Anonymous said “Create enough bureaucracy

and then you can guarantee that nothing gets done.” The wildlife, trees, and humans have

nothing to fear from the licensed gun owner, as Anonymous wrote “Do you think the NPS current rule

keeps criminals from taking their guns into Parks?” That’s the danger if there is any.

Looking at the crime statistics in the parks, very few incidents, this whole argument is about groups of

people making enough noise to keep and improve their positions and their finances.

Laws are broken every day, sometimes because of the individual, and sometimes because of the law. So, yes laws will be broken, none have not been. An EIS should be a review to determine if an ecosystem will be harmed due to a decision. If they want to slow down and take another look at the rules, then do that, but don't hide and anti gun position under the sham of an EIS. EIS are important, no doubt, and some wildlife will be harmed, but the impact clearly would be negligible. You want to have your EIS on that point then I say go ahead, but it better come back as no significant impact and allow the guns. I can think of a hundred ways that our everyday use in the parks has a greater (and accepted) impact on wildlife. I repeat my earlier comments and point, have hearings on the rules, get public opinion, make the rule whatever these debates end up as, but don't soil the idea of an environmental impact statement over a non-environmental political issue. It harms the very core of what an EIS is for, and would diminish their effectiveness.

In the same vein, has an EIS been done regarding the impact of people and automobiles, etc on the environment in national parks? If not, I think the Interior Department should shut off all access to our national parks until these are also completed.