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."