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.