House Seals Deal To Allow Wide Range of Firearms into The National Park System

Thanks to a brilliant tactical move, gun rights advocates are a step closer to arming themselves in national parks and national wildlife refuges across the country following a U.S. House of Representatives' vote on a credit card bill.

By attaching the gun legislation to the widely popular bill that would redefine the ground rules for credit card companies, Congress essentially made the firearms provision bulletproof. The House passed the measure, which earlier this week cleared the Senate, on a vote of 279-147 Wednesday, and sent it on to President Obama, who is expected to sign the legislation into law this weekend.

Condemnation of Congress's move came quickly from park advocacy groups.

Theresa Pierno, Executive Vice President, National Parks Conservation Association

“We are disappointed in the members of the House and Senate who allowed this amendment to pass, as well as in President Obama. By not taking a stand to prevent this change, they have sacrificed public safety and national park resources in favor of the political agenda of the National Rifle Association. This amendment had no hearing or review, and will increase the risk of poaching, vandalism of historic park treasures, and threats to park visitors and staff.”

“These are special protected places, where millions of American families and international visitors can view magnificent animals and majestic landscapes and experience our nation’s history, including sites where lives were lost to preserve our American ideals.

“The Reagan Administration’s regulation requiring simply requires that guns carried into these iconic places be unloaded and put away is a time-tested, limited and reasonable restriction to carry out an important and legitimate goal of protecting and respecting our national parks, monuments and battlefields. It is a tremendously sad day that it has been thrown out by political leaders from whom we expect more.”

Bill Wade, Chair, Executive Council, Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

“Passage of this legislation that would allow firearms of all kinds in national parks is an absolute travesty. There is simply no need for it, given the extremely low risks that visitors face in national parks compared with everywhere else.

"Legislators who voted for this amendment now have to live with the fact that they have, in fact, increased the risk to visitors and employees, as well as the risk to wildlife and some cultural resources. Moreover, they've just contributed to diminishing the specialness of this country's National Park System. We hope the American people register their disappointment in the actions of these legislators.”

Scot McElveen, President, Association of National Park Rangers

“Members of the ANPR respect the will of Congress and their authority to pass laws, but we believe this is a fundamental reversal from what preceding Congresses created the National Park System for. Park wildlife, including some rare or endangered species, will face increased threats by visitors with firearms who engage in impulse or opportunistic shooting.”

John Waterman, President, U.S. Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police

“One should ask, what do guns have to do with credit cards? We are disappointed that Congress chose to disregard the safety of U.S. Park Rangers, the most assaulted federal officers, and forgo the environmental process set up to assure the protection of our national parks. If signed by President Obama, this will clearly be a change in his rhetoric towards taking better care of our environment and protecting federal employees."

Comments

Are there any groups that support concealed carry in National Parks by those citizens who have a permit to carry within that state? You did a great job listing those who objected albeit onesided.

The problem with the NO firearms in the parks is that those of us that include other activities besides going to a park (a single point destinaton for an entire vacation) either forces one to not be totally honest or skip visiting some of our finest treasures, the National Parks. With this new legislation we can now visit more places and vary our vacations for a much more memorable time. RemynRay

Think this new law is going to bring problems especially at crowded parks like Yosemite. Had read blogs about arguments and noise complaints during high peak season. Sadly, as we all know in order to reverse or make new changes to a policy, National Unwritten SOP states a tragedy or tragedies has to occur first. Hopefully our hiking crew wont be at that camp site when bullets start to fly.

Typical of the anti gun groups. They always predict catastrophic results if responsible citizens are allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights. That was the mantra when the concealed carry law was debated here several years ago. Since the law has passed, none of the predictions have happened.

The so-called credit card victory is actually another victory for the NRA. I am outraged that Congress allowed HR627 to pass with the inclusion of the Coburn amendment. This rider would allow individuals to openly carry assault rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic weapons in national parks if the firearm is in compliance with state law. With this rider, the National Park Service would be forced to allow loaded guns in parks, battlefields, historic sites and monuments after decades of requiring guns to be unloaded and stored when traveling through these national treasures. The safety in our national parks is in jeopardy, putting both visitors and resources at considerable risk. How could Congress allow this to happen to our beautiful national parks and refuges. THIS IS SHAMEFUL!

Apparently John Waterman is unfamiliar with the legislative process in this country.

I said a long time ago we would prevail. The Chicken Littles here will run around in circles claiming, most surely, it's the end of the world and no one is safe. But they never say that about the criminals who have been doing the actual killing, raping, assaulting and robbing at will. And my guess is Bambi and the trees ad signs will probably start squawking, too. "Assault rifles." I chuckle every time I hear the clueless people tossing this one around :^) The best one I read was now the cops in one city will be getting "military style weapons" but we gun owners get to have our "large capacity clips" and "assault weapons."

Seriously, the gun-haters need to focus their energy and anxiety on something that is actually illegal, rather than a Constitutionally protected right. Get over it and enjoy your walk in the park. It'll actually be safer now because the criminals might think you have a gun and won't bother you. That's a fact.

This legislation sets the stage for the opportunity to collect hard data on the impact of concealed carry in the parks. You could say this is the information stage in a significant experiment. If that information leads to a verifiable increase in resource damage or violence, the question must be revisited. At this point it seems to me there simply isn't enough data for a sound, scientific decision supporting the prohibition. I suspect there will be little impact from law-abiding, permitted citizens carrying legal weapons in the parks. I would never advocate such a trial if I felt it posed a significant threat to anyone. A key element will be how much the legislation increases illegal weapons in parks. On the other hand, there's no question that an increasingly violent criminal element armed with far superior illegal weapons will continue to be a growing threat especially to officer safety. This is particularly true in western and southwestern parks on or near the border, and in urban parks, in general.

RoadRanger says, "This legislation sets the stage for the opportunity to collect hard data on the impact of concealed carry in the parks" There's already hard data that's been collected 40 times in the 40 states that have implemented concealed carry laws. It's been a non-issue. RoadRanger also says, "there simply isn't enough data for a sound, scientific decision supporting the prohibition." Exactly. That's why the regulation has been eliminated and concealed carry rights will soon be law where applicable.

Re: RemynRay's comment:

The problem with the NO firearms in the parks is that those of us that include other activities besides going to a park (a single point destinaton for an entire vacation) either forces one to not be totally honest or skip visiting some of our finest treasures, the National Parks.

Therein lies one of the misconceptions about the previous regulation. It did not prohibit anyone bringing a legally possessed firearm into a park, so there was no need to "skip visiting" any park. Visitors carrying a weapon that was legal outside the boundary of that park simply had to unload it and secure it in the trunk of the vehicle or similar secure location while they were in the park. The system worked well for years for the vast majority of park visitors, but of course that's now a moot point.

Re: Rick's comment:

It'll actually be safer now because the criminals might think you have a gun and won't bother you. That's a fact.
.

Ironically, because the Coburn amendment apparently goes far beyond allowing individuals with CCL's to be armed in parks, this action will actually make things easier for all of those criminals presumed to be lurking in the parks, waiting to prey on innocent visitors. Under the previous regulations, at least those folks had to be discrete and keep their weapons out of sight. In Coburn's brave new world, the bad guys as well as honest folk are free to keep their long guns as well as handguns close at hand.

Yep, I sure feel safer knowing that the bad guys as well as the honest folks are now free to cruise the park roads and campgrounds with their loaded rifles and shotguns at the ready.

If my family is hiking and encounter a predator thinking we are food, I'd like to have a device to keep ourselves safe. However, gun is just a tool, nothing more and nothing less. If use with care and responsibility, it could save lives.

"If my family is hiking and encounter a predator thinking we are food, I'd like to have a device to keep ourselves safe. However, gun is just a tool, nothing more and nothing less. If use with care and responsibility, it could save lives." Anonymous.

With all due respect, the chance of you or a member of your family being eaten by a predator in a national park is too small to calculate. Between a gun and a natural predator - you are in far more danger of accidently shooting yourself or one of your family or even some innocent bystander. Guns will not make the parks safer - just the opposite.

Guns will not make the parks unsafe, people who act stupidly with guns will make anywhere unsafe.

There have been gun-related arrests in the parks in the past and you never heard a peep about it, now see what the anti-gun media does to the next arrest. I can just see it now, the leftists doing their war dance of “I told you so”.

Guns will not make the parks unsafe, people who act stupidly with guns will make anywhere unsafe
.

No argument there! Unfortunately, there's no shortage of examples to verify that statement.

Under the previous regulations, there were at least some controls to reduce the immediate availability of loaded guns, including rifles and shotguns, in parks. The idiots who use firearms irresponsibly at least had to keep them out of sight. When they didn't, and when rangers spotted those weapons, they could take appropriate action without being forced to wait until shots were fired.

Under the new approach, there are no controls over that small percentage of people who will act stupidly with guns - until after they have done something that endangers others. Bottom line - parks will now be just like the "anywhere" referred to above - the rest of the country in terms of the higher potential for gun-related incidents. In my book, that's not progress.

My suggested name for the new bill: The Poachers and Vandals Stimulus Act.

And, yes - I'm a gun owner, but I haven't felt any need to cart them along when I visit a park.

Perhaps someone can explain some things to me. Will guns be allowed in the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell? If not, what law will stop them?

How about the birthplace of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Seems particularly wrong to have guns in the homes of our leaders who were violently killed by guns.

How will the NPS deal with guns at Alcatraz and the St. Louis Arch? How about the Washington Monument and Federal Hall?

Just wondering.

You shold be outraged and so should all true Americans on both sides of this issue! We have seen this pattern of abuse of powers for a number of years now (maybe forever). We are NOT being represented and they will pass whatever they want whenever they want. It is particually frightning how many changes have been made in the last few months WITHOUT much input from the American voter.

God Bless US!

I wonder when the same logic that is now being used for concealed weapons will be extended to permit pets in the backcountry and on park trails?

Just think, the political influence of the NRA is nothing compared to a hundred million worried about the vacation rights of the furry members of their family. Some might argue that the underactive wildlife could use the presence of a few domesticated personal trainers.

I wonder how many potential park visitors don't go to parks because parks are not pet friendly? Maybe if State Parks and State Recreation Areas allow pets off the leash, so should National Parks?

This will raise threats to our employees significantly. When we consider the law and some of our units of the National Park Service some of us work in areas where open carry will be reported as a person with a gun and our staff will respond accordingly. Any time you have people pointing guns at each other, you raise the level for serious injury and or death. Visitors who choose to wear a weapon in the park based on state statute should make sure they are carrying it appropriately and that they are not brandishing it. For now I respectfullly reqeust NPS advocates do as much research as you can in all states and get that information to park service personnel as quick as possible. Information with the concealed carry came out slow and it was very confusing.

To answer Rangertoo , Why not? The point is that having a gun openly or concealed is not to be considered an indication of criminality. The person who uses a weapon to hurt, intimidate, steal has then comitted a criminal act. It is the people's criminal actions that are the problem, not they tool they use.

Now decent folks can be armed and defend themselves. So if a vistor is seeing the Liberty Bell they can be armed either open as PA law allows or conceealed. Philly had a different authrority under the law so those partcular laws may apply. Washington Monument goes under DC law at the moment and carry is not allowed so that will not change until DC law is changed. DC is still fighting the ruling to allow posession of guns in DC the carry portion has not been raised in court yet.

As to the appropiateness of gun carrying pulic in MLK home, well MLK carried a handgun most of the time. So does not seem inappropiate. I see no reason that those murdered should be sanctified that requires that others should be defencless also.
VT fought a change in the law that would have allowed students who had CCW to be allowed that priviledge on campus, When it got shot down. VT said now their staff and students could feel safe. A couple months later Cho shot over 50 people and killed over 30. The perception of saftey from a rule barring CCW did not provide that reality There were students on that building that had CCW permits and professors also that were capbale of defending themselves but did not have the means when a killer stalk the halls. Instead the other classerooms tried to barricade doors and jump put window or play dead an allow more bullets to be pumped into their bodies.

This change has not passed and Obama may not sign it. But more agree with my viewpoint than the antigun folks. That is reflected in the vote total in Senate and House

Re: Mr. Burnett
Under the previous regulations, there were at least some controls to reduce the immediate availability of loaded guns, including rifles and shotguns, in parks. The idiots who use firearms irresponsibly at least had to keep them out of sight. When they didn't, and when rangers spotted those weapons, they could take appropriate action without being forced to wait until shots were fired.

--

I have worked law enforcement for the NPS and in a city in a state that allows open carry of a firearm. The notion that a Ranger has to wait until shots are fired to take appropriate action is an inaccurate statement. Your statement opens the door to reader visualizing gangs of armed thugs waving guns around in our parks, and the Ranger waiting until shots are fired until he / she takes action. Any law enforcement officer worth his salt, can at most any time, find a legal violation that prompts law enforcement contact and further investigation.

In my experience, criminals generally don't like to highlight and draw attention to themselves to law enforcement or the general public. Criminals who bring weapons into parks after this bill is implemented, would have brought them into the parks before this bill was implemented. The difference now - law abiding park visitors have legal means to protect themselves.

Personally, I am still on the fence with this issue. I find this bill appropriate for some parks, and not for others - which logically does not hold water. Ultimately I side with the law abiding citizen having the opportunity to protect him/herself.

"Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would." -- John Adams

This isn't getting as much attention, but I think this rule also applies to national wildlife refuges. That may be more alarming. I just wish the pro-gun people would at least acknowledge for once that some people feel more safe with less guns around. Their argument should therefore be: "I know you feel less safe and you fear for the safety of yourself, wildlife, and other natural resources in national parks, and worry that some people are not responsible enough to carry firearms, be it legal or not, but I nonetheless feel that it's more important that I be able to carry my gun so that I can feel safe." That would at least be a more honest argument. Instead they just talk about their rights and how they're responsible. Likewise anti-gun people should acknowledge that some people can safely use firearms, maybe even the vast majority. But all I ever hear about is rights and fears about criminals lurking in national parks but no statistics or responses about crimes that could have been prevented by allowing gun-toting visitors.

This is completely nuts. It shows how far to the right the politics of this country has shifted that this kind of radical legislation can sail through the Congress with barely a whimper. However, it is revealing that the proponents of this legislation, led by ultra-reactionary Sen. Coburn, recognize that most American citizens would oppose it if it were exposed to the sunshine. So, they made sure there were no public hearings.

They knew that public hearings would show:

- The current regulations, put in place under the Reagan administration, have worked just fine.
- There is no evidence that there is any need to change the regulations.
- There are lots of reasons why this legislation is a really bad idea for wildlife, historic artifacts, visitors, and park staff.
- All responsible groups involved in parks, public lands, and conservation oppose the legislation.
- A long parade of respected citizens and organizations would line up to testify against this legislation.

Instead, we had the kind of back room dealing that was the hallmark of the Bush administration and Republican Congress. Except this bill is even more radical than the Bush regulations. It is clearly a gift to extreme gun advocates in the Republican base, enabled by spineless Democrats who are afraid to stand up for our parks against the gun lobby. I am totally disgusted.

Irony. The defenders of the anti carry bias from NCPA has resulted in a broader bill that allows carry for all not from people that have had their backgrounds checked . The intial rule change was an attempt to address the fears of the public about making sure that responsible people only would be allowed and that the weapon would be concealed so not to scaree the public. Now that is different.

It's all just so sad that so many people feel they must arm themselves to be safe. Worse is the visceral, emotional attachment to firearms. How did this country ever get into this mindset? If we feel we must be armed at all times the criminals have already won - they have caused us to fear and cower in our own homes, stores, and now parks. Somehow, lots of other advanced, prosperous, free countries manage to live peaceably and safely without being armed to the teeth. Why can's we?

Rangertoo asked:

"Will guns be allowed in the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell? If not, what law will stop them?"

Specifically? 18 USC § 930. It is still unlawful to carry a firearm in a federal building, with the usual exceptions (law enforcement, military, &c.). The new law overrules federal regulations, but not other federal laws. In the outdoor spaces of Independence NHP, the laws of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia will prevail, so you'll need a license to carry. The rules in New York City are especially restrictive, and I suspect that the ferries to Liberty Island are still restricted.

Jim wrote:

"Therein lies one of the misconceptions about the previous regulation. It did not prohibit anyone bringing a legally possessed firearm into a park, so there was no need to "skip visiting" any park. Visitors carrying a weapon that was legal outside the boundary of that park simply had to unload it and secure it in the trunk of the vehicle or similar secure location while they were in the park. The system worked well for years for the vast majority of park visitors, but of course that's now a moot point."

Some people carry guns in their cars, holstered, out of immediate reach, and otherwise in accordance with state laws. The regulation as it existed required that anyone who intends to do so consistently stop before entering a park, unload, and stow the gun and ammo seperately. Then, after passing through the park, to stop again and put it all back together. It's not just a matter of time and inconvenience, but also subtlety. The point is to have it if you need it, but not to go making a big production of it. A responsible gun owner doesn't want to stand in a parking lot, in a gateway community, loading, unloading, stowing, and retrieving a gun.

And then there's the matter of law enforcement discretion. The old regulation required that a gun be rendered "inoperable." That's usually interpreted as "in the trunk." But not all vehicles have trunks, some have trunks that are readily accessible from inside the cab, and not everyone enters the parks by car. (Imagine walking the Pacific Crest Trail! Personally, I wouldn't want the extra weight, but I'm happy to grant my countrymen their own discretion.) The fact is, the regulation says 'inoperable.' So to be in full compliance, in some cases we required visitors to field strip firearms, which goes back to that subtlety thing I was talking about. (Not to mention that my .38 doesn't break down that easily.)

No doubt, none of these arguments impress you. That's not the point. "The system worked well for years for the vast majority of park visitors..." Sorry Jim, but "the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." If we governed strictly by what worked best for the majority, well, I wouldn't want anything to do with that country.

Wrote Mike D,

"I just wish the pro-gun people would at least acknowledge for once that some people feel more safe with less guns around. Their argument should therefore be: "I know you feel less safe and you fear for the safety of yourself, wildlife, and other natural resources in national parks, and worry that some people are not responsible enough to carry firearms, be it legal or not, but I nonetheless feel that it's more important that I be able to carry my gun so that I can feel safe."

Sorry, Mike, but I can't make that statement, because "feeling safe" has nothing to do with it for me. What I can say is this: I know you feel less safe and you fear for the safety of yourself, wildlife, and other natural resources in national parks, and worry that some people are not responsible enough to carry firearms, be it legal or not, but I nonetheless affirm that the rule of law is paramount if we are to be a civilized people, and that the Constitution explicitly forbids the Congress to infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Moreover, I believe that American citizens are free men, who should be guided by their own judgment.

Now comes the straw-man argument that, since I believe gun rights should not be infringed, I must think that kindergarteners should be allowed to go armed in class. Of course not, so stow it. I do believe that gun laws, like restrictions on freedom of speech, should be kept to the barest minimum possible. That's exactly what the Coburn amendment did--eliminated an unnecessary restriction on a constitutional right.

Wrote Frank C:

"Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would." -- John Adams

Nice quote. Very nice. Thanks, Frank.

I think many would respond that free countries remain free in part to it's citizens having the liberty to arm themselves. Where did this country get this mindset? The Revolutionary War would be a good starting point.

"How did this country ever get into this mindset?"

We didn't "get" into this mindset. Being armed is a pillar of freedom and a natural right.

Jefferson states it best:

A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.

One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.

We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles . The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed;

No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.

Dan P -

Thanks for your comments.

I will beg to differ on a key point. You state,

The old regulation required that a gun be rendered "inoperable."

The version of 36 CFR 2.4 that I'm referring to does not impose that requirement on those traveling by vehicle. It reads,

... unloaded weapons may be possessed within a temporary lodging or mechanical mode of conveyance when such implements are rendered temporarily inoperable or are packed, cased or stored in a manner that will prevent their ready use.

That "or" is an important distinction that did not impose an onerous burden on most people who were visiting a park. Yes, the reg was an inconvenience for those with CCL who were just passing through a park, and a problem for those who might be hiking. I agree that was a valid concern. That's all moot at this point.

If I'm in error, please correct me.

Why is that everyone has to carry a weapon? If we are a country of peace then it shouldn't matter if you can't carry your weapon in the National Park System.

18 USC § 930 has been officially interpreted to mean only administrative facilities. In other words, the NPS has been directed that visitor facilities, historic buildings, and the like, are not covered by this law and guns cannot be excluded.

Another example of gutless Democrats. We have two parties in this country: Republicans and Republicrats! Obama should veto this bill and insist on a "clean" copy. Sneaking laws though in this manner is just plain wrong. No debate on the merits of an amendment...just sneak it onto a bill that is popular and needs to be passed. We need a law that requires amendments to bills to be related to the original bill; and we need a line item veto. Perhaps Obama could play a "Bush" and sign the bill with a note saying that he is not going to implement that amendment. Now is when we find out if Obama has any guts to stand up for his principals or if he is indeed just another politician running for reelection from the moment he was sworn in.

What I'm not seeing mentioned here is that this law, as written, is infinitly worse than the Bush version. This law could allow not only concealed weapons but openly carried including shotguns and semi-automatic weapons......just what we want in our National Parks.

Now is when we find out if Obama has any guts to stand up for his principals or if he is indeed just another politician running for reelection from the moment he was sworn in.

You've got to be kidding! A Chicago machine politician with joking Joe Biden as his VP! What do you think we're dealing with here other than the obvious? What you see is what you get.

The rosy romanticism and syrupy idealism you run into on this site is sometimes quite hard to comprehend.

He's a freaking power mongering politician! Did you really think he was something other than that?

So there is no misunderstanding of which side I am on- for over thirty years I have carried and used a weapon in defense of my country, my comrade-in-arms, my family, and myself. My time is mine now but I see no reason to change at this point in my life. Generally I like this site, finding it to be both useful and insightful. I have been watching this issue for some time, even before the Bush administration directive. I rarely write in to any site but I have been following the ongoing rhetoric here … I have just been busy. I have visited my representative twice for a face to face as well as having written my senators and other representatives many times regarding this issue over the passed two years. I also provided to them supporting documentation to my opinions and concerns as regards this issue. I find that to be a much more productive use of my time when I choose to support or fight an issue. In summary:
1) The current rule regarding firearms was instituted by regulation in 1983. (i.e. the Reagan Administration). I was unable to find an EIS prepared before this rule change went into effect!
2) The Clinton Administration issued a directive to NPs to bring their rules in line with state laws where parks were located. And chided NPS on occasion for dragging their feet. Bush administration- ditto.
3) This issue was discussed at length in Congress during 2007-2008 session. Both the House of Representatives, H.R. 5434, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.5434: , and the Senate, S3499, http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/110_SN_3499.html , both of which had the support to pass and become law. Undoubtedly, this bill would have been signed by Bush. However, the suggestion was made that this could be better done by executive order saving the expense and time of passing a bill into law. These bills were shelved in favor of that executive order. NOTE: These bills are the exact amendment attached to the “so called” credit card bill! More extensive than the executive order relating to CCW. Oh well! Start a pissing match…
4) The NPCA and the Brady Campaign brought suit in federal court over a “procedural issue” and the judge made her ruling specifically not addressing the actual issue of firearms but the procedural issue only. In short, her decision has more meaning than the executive and legislative branches, and DOI combined. That might explain some of the reaction in the Congress.
5) 2009, both the House and the Senate have exercised their authority as elected representatives of the people to make laws. Effectively overriding two minor organizations and a no longer relevant appointed official, whatever her name was!

With the exception of the NPCA, The Brady Campaign, and a federal judge everyone else involved here represent as a minimum, the people of a congressional district, a state, or a nation. That’s a lot of people represented there. As far as I can find The Brady Campaign has never been concerned with the welfare of the national parks before. I can only guess what their true involvement is about. While I find my Congressman, Senator, and President to be asses on occasion… it’s still a pretty damned good system we have.

I find much of your postings to be either misleading or misinformed. Whether this is due to lack of research on your part or to some other agenda on your part I can not say, but it has been prevalent from your earliest postings on this issue. Just a cautionary note- “Don’t drink the Koolaid”.

Attaching this amendment to the credit card bill was a convenience, not brilliant ploy and far from bullet proof. Your reporting of the vote on the credit card bill is correct, but it is way off base on the amendment. The House used a very rarely used option to split the votes on the credit card bill and the firearms amendment.

House roll call vote: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/index.asp
#276: Firearms Amendment , 361 For – 64 Against. Passed before the credit card bill! And the numbers!
#277: Credit Card Bill : 279 For – 147 Against. Lucky, the credit card bill had enough support to pass too!

For Ms. Pierno, there has been significant ongoing discussion for some time. Congress did not just allow this to pass. It was most intentional.

For Mr. Waterman, what do guns and credit cards have in common- ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. SEE THE VOTES!

For Mr. McElveen, once upon a time Congress endorsed slavery, prohibition, and not allowing the vote for women among other issues. Shall we consider more recent Congressional actions of the issues fundamental reversals of previous Congressional intents and therefore not worth pursuing!

As for Mr. Wade! So many different venues to address it’s difficult to know where to start. So, just 3 real pet peeves.

1) “The Survey” preformed by the Coalition and presented as expert testimony and cited by your repeatedly. Did you actually read this?
My Congressman summed it up best when he told me “Don’t worry, the survey methodology is so obviously poor and most of the expert references are known and generally accepted as being flawed. This crap won’t be seriously considered.” It’s hard to be proud of politician, but damn! Sometimes you just have to live with the embarrassment.

2) Next up, “The Coalition… over 20,000 accumulated man years of experience” (some of it in law enforcement, no doubt as much as 27 or 28 per cent or so).
Last count I saw had the NRA membership of active and retired LE personnel at over 2,000,000 (yes million!) accumulated man years of actual “LE” experience in their ranks. Maybe experience does count!

3) And finally, we all know the quote “…. lies, damned lies, and statistics”.
The national parks and crime statistics… after researching this I find at best the quoted statistics are downright misleading. The use of smoke and mirrors by consummate bureaucrats. I researched several years, the latest being 2007, but for this post I will use 1996 as my example. Mr. Wade should be familiar with it, since he retired in 1997.

Only 3 urban parks are policed by U.S. Park Police, others are served by the U.S. Park Rangers. In 1996 NPS reported 5,992 offenses, http://www.the-eggman.com/writings/crime_in_nat_parks.html. Eliminating property crimes such as larceny, vehicle theft, etc. and focusing on crimes against persons such as murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault, etc. there were only 509 offenses with almost 4 million visitors! An enviable record, except that these reported crimes were handled exclusively by NPS. In other words “crimes turned over to local, regional, state, or federal authorities were reported by the authority handling the case” such as the county sheriff, state police, DEA, BAFTE, FBI, etc. Not NPS! How convenient for NPS statistics, read the fine print and notes in the statistics.

There is no way I know of to correlate the number and types of crimes committed in the national parks that are turned over and recorded by county, state, or national crime statistics so we will never know how many rapes or assaulted actually took place in the national parks. It would not be unreasonably to assume that the majority of these crimes were handled and reported by the U.S. Park Police and occurred most likely in the 3 urban parks patrolled by the Park Police. Using the visitor statistics for only those 3 parks changes the apparent crime rate very drastically.
Perhaps Mr. Wade knows of some secret record, not generally shared with the public, where all these records are tallied at NPS? Informational backround reports and a formal report done by NPS in 1996/1997 and issued to congress gives rise to the following. There were over 11,000 narcotic related offenses in national parks “…involving gangs, organized crime, and drug dealers…” resulting in the arrest by “…Park Police…”, “…Park Rangers, and other investigators…” ( I like that… “other investigators”) of more than 2,805 people and the seizure of over 310 weapons “including machine guns, automatic pistols, shotguns,…” ( note: weapons not obtainable at the basic local gun shop or gun show!) and the confiscation of drugs in excess of $100,000,000. And yet, not even an honorable mention in the NPS stats! Handled and reported mostly by DEA and BATFE. If I can divide correctly just having NPS report this item alone would increase their violent crime rate by a factor about 21. Of course, given today’s budget a $100 million dollars probably isn’t worth a drug dealer killing or assaulting anyone over. Then again… I could be wrong!

Bottom line here. These organizations have done themselves a serious disservice by so obviously having an agenda counter to the mainstream (remember that vote!), basing their “facts” on shaded statistics, half truths, and innuendo geared towards playing to emotions. Anything these groups, or any other for that matter, has to say to you… look into their facts for yourself or pay the price for you own laziness and stupidity. I will be highly suspect of anything these people have to say in the future. They will now need to go above and beyond to convince me to assist them with anything again.

These groups set themselves, a judge, and a “procedural flaw” up against Congress and a point of law. The outcome is what it is. You just can not blow that much smoke up even a Senators butt!

A parting shoot so to speak- “Guns in the Park? Do We Need Them?” Would you consider changing that headline? Allow me to paraphrase – “ NPS, Above The Laws of the Land? Or Not!

One just needs to compare the number of gun related deaths and injuries in the US vs. Europe to figure out that gun ownership is not the glorious freedom that gun lovers pretend it is. That being said, I wished that IMBA had the pull the NRA has in this country as we'd be riding our bikes in wilderness areas. Actually, coming to think of it, I heard that operating a wheelbarrow in wilderness is forbidden as it is mechanized (sounds stupid yet believable). Maybe, cyclists should side with the NRA (hunters like to use wheelbarrows to bring their game back) to have the definition of mechanized vehicles be revisited to allow human powered recreation in wilderness. :)

I heard that Obama wants to get the Credit bill signed on Friday. So I heard he will sign it with the Coburn amendment. Obama is a politician and he knows that the pro gun feelings are the majority and the overwheming votes in Senate and House reflect that.

National Forest and BLM land has been operating with the the provison that carry is allowed for a long time. Now the NPS and Wildlife Refuges can no longer restrict an Constitutional right.

The next step is to contunue to educate people that the sight of a person with a gun is not enough to call police unless they are using the weapon incorrectly.

The gun owners have to continue to impress not to abuse the right to other gun owners. Since the majority does not want to carry a weapon this will still be a small number to use the right.

Now people will have the ability to carry a weapon to defend themselves in and out of parks. I certainly will not be carrying openly on daytrips but now when going on week trips I do not have to worry about breaking the law becasue I have improperly stored my gun.

I heard that a hunter had been on NF and crossed through NPS and had been cahraged and that had a impetus to this bill. Don't knoww for sure.

Now VA residents who have a CCW can travel on The GW pkwy with their weapon concealed like they do on other roads in Va.

The facilities will still have carry prohibtions I beieve so the details still have to ironed out.

I do not know all the states that have OC allowed But I do know that PA, VA, WV, KY, OH all allow OC and ther have been few incidents of abuse of that right. Most incident are poloce hassleing and charging people for a legal action an dthat had caused a lot of pushback. Gun ownes are tired of being demonized for exercisinga right and we want to be allowed to use our guns for lawful peuposes and not to be charged when we caryy a wepon. Most gun ownes who carry have to reserch laws to make sure they te don't break a law by ignorance. Getting rid of restrictions that inhibit the RKCB has been a a goal so that a free people can not have their rights infringed.

Visitors will get used the to sight of a the rare person carrying and will get accustom. That will take time but people in AZ are used to the sight of other free man and women carrying firearms and it does not freak non carry folks. Just like at a range where it doesn't bother me to see everyone else with a shotgun or handgun on them.

Mr. Kane
Thanks for the research. I have wondered about many of the same points that you have brought out. It is not that they outright lie it is just that they only give out a fraction of the real data to support specoified agends. All I ask of NPS and all politicians is "don't lie to me". It would be real interesting to have the actual data. My daughter worked two summers in a national park and I will definately tell you there are drug offenses and related crimes of the body and property. Anyone who does not believe it lives in a fairyland.
All of the comments are good for discussion. It is always interesting to note which sections of the Constitution people agree with and which ones they do not to promote and instill their ideological agendas on the rest of us. At least the First Amendment is alive and well. I wonder how many of the commentators want to do away with the First Amendment and the rest of the Constitution and the 27 Amendments.

Mr. Kane

I too appreciate and am impressed with your knowledge and research. I do feel the need to stick up for the NPS though. Aside from units covered by the Park Police, you are correct that other units are patrolled by Park Rangers. Due to those units often being in remote areas with varying law enforcement response times and resources, many of them have mutual aid agreements with neighboring cities, local counties and even their home states. These local agencies have a much better infrastructure and logistical support in terms of handling the investigation of crimes committed in parks. This often times helps relieve law enforcement rangers because they also EMT/Paramedic, Search and Rescue, Wildland Fire, resource management and any number of other park responsibilities to handle. If a crime is significant enough, it is turned over the FBI for investigation.

It is not the NPS's intent to minimize and skew crime statistics. Due to the nature of the parks and the responsibilities placed on Rangers and the park staff, many of the incidents are handed off to other agencies to investigate and clear. Sorry to get off topic, but I felt the jobs that Rangers perform and the great service that the NPS provides needed to be clarified.

The tactic to skew reporting is a time honored method by many. The British have used in their crime reporting which is different how it is reported in the US. For instance a person is attacked 5 times and it is reported as 1 occurence. The skews the report which is why the anecdoctal reporting is so different from the official reports. If we depend on official reports it is a good idea to dig in to see how the methodology of reporting is done. That is true for all sides.

I also wish to express my thanks to Kane and his research.

DVP made some good points in terms of Mr. Kane's statistics, and I appreciate both of them taking the time to present this information.

A couple of points of further clarification on Mr. Kane's data.

Mr. Kane believes that NPS numbers under-report violent crimes in parks by a "factor of about 21," based on "over 11,000 narcotic related offenses in national parks …involving gangs, organized crime, and drug dealers…”. It wasn't clear where that number of 11,000 such cases came from; it may in fact be from a valid source. If so, it helps to keep in mind that the limited number of categories used for stats such as the FBI uniform crime report sometimes result in "pigeonholing" offenses into broad categories that aren't very descriptive of the individual situations.

"Narcotic related offenses" are a serious problem, but the vast majority (such as an arrest of an individual for possession of a small amount of drugs) are not "violent crimes," and I'd need to be convinced that such a large number of cases involving "gangs, organized crime and drug dealers" actually occurred parks. Attempting to interpolate those numbers into significant under-reporting of violent crimes such as murder and rape simply isn't valid.

Mr. Kane is concerned that the number of serious crimes in parks is seriously understated by the NPS because of the number of cases handled by cooperating agencies rather than the NPS. Things may have changed since I retired 8 years ago, but based on my personal experience, if a serious crime occurred in a park, we completed a report - and included the incident in our annual stats - even if another agency ultimately took the lead role in the investigation and/or prosecution.

There are mechanisms to prevent double-reporting by of those incidents in databases such as the FBI Uniform Crime Report, so I agree it's sometimes difficult to compare NPS stats and other reports. However, even if you include all violent crimes in parks in which the NPS had no role in the investigation, I believe you'd have a hard time coming up with many more of those serious offenses than were reported by the NPS. It would be interesting to see any data to the contrary.

One strictly anecdotal source in the "NPS Morning Report" which for a number of years has summarized serious incidents in parks - irrespective of which agency handles the case. Is that a comprehensive list of criminal activity in parks? No, but it's a pretty good snapshot of what's happening in parks, especially for major cases such as homicides. I've read those on a regular basis for years, and that source clearly suggests there aren't a lot of murders in parks falling through the reporting cracks.

Mr. Kane makes a valid point with the statement: "It would not be unreasonably to assume that the majority of these crimes [such as rapes and assaults] were handled and reported by the U.S. Park Police and occurred most likely in the 3 urban parks patrolled by the Park Police."

He is correct that those areas often account for a disproportionate number of such cases each year; the NPS is responsible for some pretty unlikely pieces of real estate in downtown Washington, D.C. and while offenses which happen there are in fact crimes that occur in a park, including those in the stats gives a very skewed picture of risks posed by visitors to the vast majority of other NPS sites. What happens on a downtown D.C. street in the middle of the night doesn't have much correlation to the risks faced by a camper in a Rocky Mountain National Park - or any other "traditional" park.

In a very real sense, NPS crime stats may in fact over-report serious crimes, in terms of how much risk is faced by a traditional park visitor. Here are some examples of "violent crimes" which have been reported in parks in past years:

- a shooting on a Greyhound bus on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was the result of a lovers quarrel between 2 passengers on the bus. The incident happened on NPS property in the urban area, so it was counted as a homicide in a park.

- U.S. Park Police found a partial human skull, with an apparent gunshot wound, on the shoreline of the Annacostia River in the D. C. area. Did that crime actually occur in a park, or was the body simply dumped there? Did the skull wash ashore from elsewhere? I don't know, but it was reported as homicide on NPS property.

- Some (many?) of the rapes reported in parks are incidents which began in a town outside the park boundary and ended in the park. While the actual crime occurred in a park, such sad situations aren't a true reflection of the risks facing park visitors.

There are numerous similar examples.

Are there vast numbers of violent crimes occurring in parks that are not reported, or which are absorbed into the data for other agencies? I'm not convinced.

Actually, last year there were 5 incidents of muggings attacking visitors on the National Mall with knives. The park police shut that down fast and there were arrests of the juveniles and it stopped.

The police jumped on that becasue tourists have never been a target of criminals in the past on NPS land . Usually they attack on the street to steal a wallet or purse. So the high street crime in DC should not have reflected in the stats. Th BW Pkwy has a lot of street ravers. I live near it and hear them many evenings. But this is a traffic issue and speeding issue not a violent crime.

I expect that drunken drivers and drug possesion arrests are high on GW and BW Pkwys since these are major commuter routes. Most people do not realize they are on NPS land.

The VA commuters will be affected since some use portion of the GW pkwy and have CCW in thier cars and no longer have to stop on their drive to work to store the gun in the trunk from their hip. Thi s change will allow them not to be hassled or inconvenienced trying to accomodte safe storage when they do not have to on other federal or state roads in VA

Anonymous says,

tourists have never been a target of criminals in the past on NPS land

No argument from me.... although I'd say "extremely rarely" in the interest of accuracy.

I suspect we've long since wrung any new ideas out of this whole discussion, so I'll move on to other topics on the Traveler.

I suspect we've long since wrung any new ideas out of this whole discussion, so I'll move on to other topics on the Traveler.

Rarely in webzines or major blogs have I seen the editors so involved in the comments.

No, we have to keep the Bubba Burpwads of the world firearm-free in National parks. Think 100 beer-swiggin, gun-toting, triggerhappy Cheney's misfiring at campers. And little kids vacations ruined by wildlife in the death throes of agony.

Mr. Kane makes some excellent points regarding areas the anti-gun groups have used to counter concealed carry in our national parks. While DVP makes an effort to excuse or perhaps more accurately, explain why the NPS handed off such crimes to other authorities, this was not the point Mr. Kane was making. The fact that the NPS did not investigate these crimes was not in question, the point of concern was the fact that they falsely represented the actual crime rates by presenting their stats as accurate representations of total crimes committed rather than a small percentage of such crimes.

As for Mr. Burnett, I must agree with Mr. Kane's assessment of his position. It is obvious that he has a agenda and tries to support that agenda at every turn. While I support everyone’s right to an opinion and to work toward securing that position in the political arena, I do not approve of anyone using position or title in an attempt to lend creditability to skewed facts in order to sway such outcomes. In the numerous posts above, all those claiming NPS affiliation of some sort have continuously quoted these same stats and flawed studies as evidence against the need for concealed carry in parks. Now that someone has clearly pointed out the truth about these claims, suddenly these same people are on the defensive, trying to change the point by explaining "why the NPS was justified in handing off these cases" rather than addressing the point that the NPS misrepresented the statistics in the first place.

I too have lost a lot of faith in the NPS and those groups that have joined in this sad attempt to mislead the public and congress in order to gain a personal victory over the will of the people.

Just like the Brady Coalition, these groups know the facts and statistics do not support their position and that the only way to win their argument is to mislead and skew the facts. This says they are not interested in public safety, rather a personal agenda. This is a sad situation when the group is someone like members of the NPS who have a long standing reputation of being good, honest individuals. I really think these groups have given the NPS as a whole a black eye that will be long in healing.

As many have already pointed out, these claims of blood in the street and drastic increases in crime and accidental shootings are the same rhetoric that has been spewed every time a pro carry bill has passed around the nation and to date it has never come to pass. The actual statistics show that CHL holders are among the safest in the nation, equaling or rivaling that of law enforcement. Likewise, the claims that the new bill's allowance of non-CHL holders to carry long guns in the parks poses a threat, well if it has not done so outside the parks there is no reason to believe it will do so inside the parks.

The fact is, the overwhelming majority of the people of this country want this bill and it is not the right of the few to prevent that. It is now law and the will of the people has been achieved, despite the misrepresentation of fact by the small special interest groups. Now it is time for these groups to work on repairing the damage they have caused to the image of the NPS and themselves.

Why do you need a loaded gun in a National Park?

Why do you need to bring a loaded gun to enjoy our National Parks?

Sam -

the point of concern was the fact that they falsely represented the actual crime rates by presenting their stats as accurate representations of total crimes committed rather than a small percentage of such crimes.

You're welcome to decide which stats are more credible. I have no way of evaluating the validity of Mr. Kane's claims, including a key source called the eggman.com, or its statement about the unspecified number of cases that were handed off by the NPS to other agencies. Does that site or Mr. Kane have "an agenda" to prove a point?

How many serious criminal cases in parks were handed off to other agencies and therefore "not counted" in NPS stats? Mr. Kane implies the number is large, but doesn't cite any data to support that. I'd also have to wonder why he's hanging his hat on 1996 data. I can only say that in my own experience during 30 years in 8 parks, the number of cases in parks that were worked by other agencies was very small. I can't accurately extrapolate that experience to all parks in the system, but I suspect that neither can Mr. Kane.

I'm a bit amused by the claims that the NPS intentionally misleads people by understating the number of crimes which occur in parks - especially back in 1996, when the gun issue was hardly an issue at all. The federal budget process is largely driven by the bean-counter mentality, which means it would be to the NPS' advantage to "claim" as many crimes as possible, in order to justify additional dollars and personnel, rather than understating them. For better or worse, that's the reality of how agencies justify budgets.

Raw statistics on crimes occurring in parks, whether you choose to use those provided by the NPS or by Mr. Kane, become much more useful when they have some context. What do those numbers really mean in terms of risks from criminal activity actually faced by park visitors?

My comments are simply an attempt, based on my personal experience, to provide some of that perspective. I'm yet to see any credible evidence that suggests I'm wrong in stating that the risk of a law-abiding visitor becoming the victim of a violent crime in a national park is extremely small indeed – and even smaller than suggested by merely looking at the total number of crimes reported servicewide.

So anti gun people are at it again? Listen you fools, you assume that "responsible" people will be the ones that carry guns. WRONG! NO ONE needs a gun in a National Park or State Park. I am a big supporter of the Constitution but until ya all come up with a way to keep guns out of the hands of the meek, scared, people, there is no way I want guns in parks. Use your common sense and stop with the chest beating NRA crap. The NRA is totally irresponsible on gun use and fight any and all legislation on gun safety. Some people use them to act big and I have been around these kinds and to boot they were drunk and shooting up everything while my small children were there. My husband almost took this idiot apart as he carries guns every place and not just one. Common sense. We don't need guns in our parks as now animals will definitely be murdered by chickens playing big man or woman.