Senate Loads Credit Card Bill With Amendment to Allow Loaded Weapons in National Parks

The U.S. Senate, which struggles mightily with topics such as health care, education, and balanced budgets, had no troubles Tuesday amending a credit card bill of all things with a measure to allow concealed weapons to be toted about national parks and wildlife refuges.

On an easy vote of 67-29 the senators tacked on the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, to a bill concerning how many fees credit card companies can charge you. If opponents to concealed carry in national parks are right, the senators might not have realized what they were doing.

"Senator Coburn’s amendment to the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights Act of 2009 would allow individuals to openly carry rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic weapons in national parks if the firearm is in compliance with State law," the National Parks Conservation Association, Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Association of National Park Rangers, and the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police, said in a letter sent to the Senate prior to the vote.

"As a result, individuals could attend ranger-led hikes and campfire programs with their rifles at Yellowstone National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and other national park treasures across the country."

In passing the amendment, it perhaps could be said that the senators viewed themselves as being above the law. Earlier this year a federal judge blocked a somewhat similar gun regulation from remaining in effect, saying the Interior Department had failed to conduct the obligatory National Environmental Policy Act reviews before approving the regulation. The irony, of course, is that Congress passed NEPA, and now the Senate is thumbing its collective nose at it.

The measure has a way to go before it can become law. The credit-card legislation needs to pass the Senate and gain approval in the House of Representatives, and then President Obama must sign it into law.

Here's how the senators voted on the amendment:


Sessions (R) Yes; Shelby (R) Yes.


Begich (D) Yes; Murkowski (R) Yes.


Kyl (R) Yes; McCain (R) Yes.


Lincoln (D) Yes; Pryor (D) Yes.


Boxer (D) No; Feinstein (D) No.


Bennet (D) Yes; Udall (D) Yes.


Dodd (D) No; Lieberman (I) No.


Carper (D) No; Kaufman (D) No.


Martinez (R) Yes; Nelson (D) Yes.


Chambliss (R) Yes; Isakson (R) Yes.


Akaka (D) No; Inouye (D) No.


Crapo (R) Yes; Risch (R) Yes.


Burris (D) No; Durbin (D) No.


Bayh (D) Yes; Lugar (R) Yes.


Grassley (R) Yes; Harkin (D) No.


Brownback (R) Yes; Roberts (R) Yes.


Bunning (R) Yes; McConnell (R) Yes.


Landrieu (D) Yes; Vitter (R) Yes.


Collins (R) Yes; Snowe (R) Yes.


Cardin (D) No; Mikulski (D) Not Voting.


Kennedy (D) Not Voting; Kerry (D) No.


Levin (D) No; Stabenow (D) No.


Klobuchar (D) Yes.


Cochran (R) Yes; Wicker (R) Yes.


Bond (R) Yes; McCaskill (D) No.


Baucus (D) Yes; Tester (D) Yes.


Johanns (R) Yes; Nelson (D) Yes.


Ensign (R) Yes; Reid (D) Yes.

New Hampshire

Gregg (R) Yes; Shaheen (D) Yes.

New Jersey

Lautenberg (D) No; Menendez (D) No.

New Mexico

Bingaman (D) No; Udall (D) No.

New York

Gillibrand (D) No; Schumer (D) No.

North Carolina

Burr (R) Yes; Hagan (D) Yes.

North Dakota

Conrad (D) Yes; Dorgan (D) Yes.


Brown (D) No; Voinovich (R) Yes.


Coburn (R) Yes; Inhofe (R) Yes.


Merkley (D) Yes; Wyden (D) Yes.


Casey (D) Yes; Specter (D) Yes.

Rhode Island

Reed (D) No; Whitehouse (D) No.

South Carolina

DeMint (R) Yes; Graham (R) Yes.

South Dakota

Johnson (D) No; Thune (R) Yes.


Alexander (R) No; Corker (R) Yes.


Cornyn (R) Yes; Hutchison (R) Yes.


Bennett (R) Yes; Hatch (R) Yes.


Leahy (D) Yes; Sanders (I) Yes.


Warner (D) Yes; Webb (D) Yes.


Cantwell (D) No; Murray (D) No.

West Virginia

Byrd (D) Yes; Rockefeller (D) Not Voting.


Feingold (D) Yes; Kohl (D) Yes.


Barrasso (R) Yes; Enzi (R) Yes.


2nd amendment proponents have made some sound arguments on the Traveler about the gun regs in parks and wildlife refuges. However, the one made by Anon above--"It is irrational to prohibit carry in NPS when it is pefectly legal in the adjoining state" is not one of them. There are all kinds of things that one can do in an adjoining state that are illegal in most parks--hunting, driving off road, driving 70 mph, picking wildflowers, etc. That's the point about parks. They are meant to be different than other places, and despite Frank C's arguments to the contrary, I think that most of us believe that they are different and we are glad they are. The National Park System is full of special places, places that beginning with Yellowstone, each succeeding generation of Americans, speaking through their elected representatives, believed merited protection in perpetuity. I always felt that the boundaries of a national park area should mean something. Upon entering, you were going to a place where you could turn off your blackberry, take off your wrist watch, and turn down your Ipod and live for a period of time according to the rhythms of nature or the ebb and flow of history. That's why they're so special and why we must exercise the highest standards of care to see that they remain so.

Rick Smith

Kurt, No state can dictate to another state its laws. I thought you understood our system of federalism and that this is a republic. Why would that be rational ? It is not the same thing at all and you probably know that.

The state is not dictating to the federal government. This is the Senate of the US aligning NPS gun policy with local states just as the Forest Service and BLM does. Why does it get you upset?
Your concern were minor risk that are extremely unlikely. These objections seem absurd.

What difference is it when a woman carries a gun concealed with CCW license outside a park and then in a park, She does not change to a homicidal maniac and will brandish her gun anymore in NPS as she would outside NPS.

The ability to carry in a park concealed or open would not have any effect on these desirable characteristics. Discharge of a gun for non lawful puposes is still illegal so what is the problem. Is it because you think they will shoot at signs, trees or animals? Laws that try to stop an action because they "may" do something is wrong. If the peson does an illegal discharge of a weaponthey can be charged.

These laws do not ever stop anyone who plans on vandalism, poaching or atatcking the fellow man,. They only stop those who want to obey the law. These prohibition are targeted at the lawabiding. The criminals do not care!


Of course it's rational for Wisconsin to ignore what neighboring states do when it comes to what laws it passes and enforces. My point was that, in the case of more than a few national parks, the parks are federal reserves within a state, much like tribal lands within a state are separate entities and fully capable of enforcing their own laws.

In short, some, if not many, parks retain "exclusive jurisdiction" for what goes on inside their boundaries. In many cases states formally ceded the land involved to the federal government.

My point was that, in such settings, I don't think it's irrational for a park to have laws differing from the surrounding state.

And the contention made by you and others that those who support the existing set of gun regulations -- that weapons may be transported as long as they're out of reach and broken down -- do so out of fears that gun owners would "turn into homicidal maniacs" is weary and off-base. Read Rick Smith's comment above. I share his position.

I agree Kurt that in the NPS that are in several states that which state law governs is a big problem.

However the NPS is not an independent state and cannot have jurisdictional authority and has to abide by the DOI. That is why regulations have to very thoughtfully thought out and the exceptions clearly defined.

As to the attitude of distrust the comment of Jim D “Just what we need: a bunch of violence-predisposed people carrying guns in our national parks, which historically are among the safest places in the entire country.”

Rangertoo expressed the idea that children need to be defended from the sight of men with rifles.” understand that not everyone who owns a gun is a nut, but at least now, if someone shows up at a children's program with a gun, the NPS can take action to protect children.”

Jim Hiker expressed a similar opinion “but to protect the wildlife in the NP's from poachers, and people carring firearms/weapons who don't respect the wildlife for what they are; wild”

So if you really do not believe that people will abuse the right then what is the objection? Because this objection existed when the idea was just to allow CCW holders. I understand the discomfort that people may suffer from seeing civilians with guns openly holstered or rifles slung over the shoulder. That is because they are not used to the sight. It is not scary to see people carrying rifles and guns at a range because that is expected. People are used to seeing police and rangers with guns. They quickly become accustom as long as those people do not brandish or appear to threaten with a gun.

Personally I am more concerned that those who are not CCW holders will be less careful; and will shoot signage, flora and fauna. However I want those people arrested and charged if they do. I want that type of behavior punished.

I love my NPS lands and like to enjoy them. I generally travel to them on vacation and take my dogs and they have been a lot of fun. As long as guns stay in holsters and in cars I do not mind. They only time they come out is maybe cleaning and if in defense only.

Because of the risk of dogs getting bears, cougars to come to humans I have refrained from bringing my dogs at those parks because I do not want that situation where the dog is chased by an angry bear or hungry cougar. I do not expect to have to use a weapon against a bear or cougar and succeed unless the situation is dire.

A handgun is a poor tool to defend against a bear anywhere, even a black bear. At best the sound may discourage but the bullet won’t.

However I like to take a weapon and find ranges in other states and not to have to worry that I have violated a technically of storage will be a great relief. So I do want the laws liberalized in the NPS.
I expect that once the thrill of ability has worn off most will continue to keep guns hidden so not to disturb others. People in some states have the ability to OC and most do not do so. I expect that pattern to continue.

I read Rick C’s comment and the ability to carry a handgun or rifle will not change that experience of being a in a special place. A gun on the hip will not change the experience as much as the cell phone. People are always chattering on those and it is disconcerting. Hunters often travel to wilderness locations to hunt, but they spent most of their time enjoying nature. Some hunters stop hunting because they do not enjoy the hunt and trophy more than the trip.

Many of parks were created by the desires of hunters to maintain areas that would not be developed. They felt the best way to protect these special places was by creating parks. The history of NPS is full of great hunters that protected the land and put it in protection

Please. RAH,don't say that a gun on the hip will not change my experience as much as a cell phone. That is ludicrous. No one fears a cell phone. You might annoy me with a cell phone , but if I am hiking a trail and meet you with a weapon on your hip, I am going to be afraid.

Your point about hunters and national parks is valid. Teddy Roosevelt was a hunter and conservationest.

I know that you keep your dogs on a leash when they are in a national park area and refrain from taking them in the back country. Many don't however, and I don't think carrying a weapon to protect your dog off a leash in the back country of a national park area is not a valid reason to permit weapons in national parks.

Rick Smith

That is the point Rick; you fear a tool that should not come out of the holster to be used. I concede that if the gun is used that you have basis for fear. The cell phone is used constantly and thus an irritant.

The typical analogy is a fire extinguisher that is not used unless there is need, which is rare. The fire extinguisher is not a tool than can kill so in that it is different. But the purpose is the same to prevent a fire from getting worse. A defensive use of gun is the same to stop a bad situation from getting worse.

The tool should not be feared but the person who abuses it. I will not transfer my rational fear of a human predator using his greater strength and weapons to the weapons he uses. The weapons are harmless unless a human wields them.

That is why I assumed until Kurt objected that most object because they fear that gun carriers will abuse the use and shoot at flora, fauna, and humans.

Rick, I agree that many will feel the same as you. But rights are not restricted due to a feeling of fear.

This issue will not go away. The Supreme Ct affirmed it is an individual right and those people who support that will continue to push for our rights to be respected. So NPS will eventually have to accede to the right of visitors to carry in NPS. The form is yet to be determined.

Gotta say something. Carrying a gun does change things. A gun has a single end purpose - to kill. It is not to wound or even to discourage, although these may be byproducts of its primary function. I recall sitting in a restaurant having breakfast in the Bettles Lodge in northern Alaska when some out-of-state sport hunters walked in with revolvers strapped to their hips. They had just returned from a guided sheep hunt and were waiting for the scheduled plane back to Fairbanks. Most of the customers were local residents who were also active hunters, but there was a noticeable chill in the air as these three hunters strode in. The sport hunters seemed to think that they were in Dodge City at the O.K. Corral. Equating a gun with a common tool and expecting others to simply accept it as a normal part of life is ridiculous. The average park visitors encountering someone with a gun on a nature walk trail will have a negative reaction. FWIW, I have owned and used guns most of my life.

Ray, it's macho and image thing...straddling in looking like a bunch of big time gut pile hunters. I sense a couple of weak egos somewhere.


Nor should rights be confirmed based on fear.

Rick Smith

What about the concept of natural rights?

The BOR affirmed what many at the time though did not be discussed that all those rights were to be respected. Howver some states insisted on the BOR in order to pass the Constitution.

That pesky 2A which has many purposes and one of which is personal defense. This right is not confirmed by fear but an extension of the natural right of a living being to defend his/ her life.

To quote the great American socialist--the answer to Hitler (excuse me) and Mussolini--FDR: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Get with the program, socialists and statists. You have nothing to fear from guns.

Your fear of freedom is the only thing you should fear.

It's a done deal. The House of Representatives passed H.R.627 today which included an amendment to repeal the gun ban on National Park Service (NPS) land and wildlife refuges.

The Coburn amendment passed the House overwhelmingly by a vote of 279-147. Logic and the U.S. Constitution (as well as state law regarding concealed carry) prevails.

how many times have you used it illegally? many people respect the animals, there is a difference. A lot of people love the animals and wish for their success. when the bears are obviously around slough creek, they cordon it off, because its a small campground area that is more remote. quit misleading people who have never been there, ridiculous.

Coming to a park near you? People often do dumb things in the heat of the moment. If there is a gun handy there is a good chance it will be used. I fear that once the new law goes into effect some park visitors who in the past were comfortable unarmed will feel the need to have a gun to protect them from others who will be armed. It effectively sets off an arms race.

Mr. Bane: "I fear..."

Your fear is baseless as National Forest Service land has not turned into the mythical* wild west. Your fear also must succumb to others' natural and constitutional rights to defend their life, liberty, and property. Sorry. But you'll get over your fear. (And comparing bars to national parks? Really?)

Mr. Bane: "...that once the new law goes into effect some park visitors who in the past were comfortable unarmed will feel the need to have a gun to protect them from others who will be armed. It effectively sets off an arms race."

Thanks for the domino theory reference and slippery slope argument. (The domino theory has been debunked, and you have no evidence that the rule change will result in increased firearm possession in national parks. That's a very slippery slope, sir.)

*(According to UCLA historian Dr. Roger McGrath in Gunfighters, Highwaymen and Vigilantes: Violence in the Old West, violent crime rates in the Old West were far lower than today, and McGrath attributes those lower rates to the open carry of firearms.)

>....National Forest Service land has not turned into the mythical* wild west<<

Perhaps it hasn't turned exactly into the Wild West, mythical or otherwise, but some incidents in parks, forests, and BLM lands are worth noting because they do support concerns many have expressed about exactly what might happen in national parks:

* In 2007 there was a campground shooting in Sequoia NP. A no-doubt-fearless camper started firing his 9mm into the night, presumably spooked by what might have been a black bear cleaning up table scraps. Rangers found 9 shell casings.

* A Minnesota Court of Appeals just this week upheld a prison sentence for a 21-year-old involved in a 2007 "drunken shooting spree" in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, which is located in the Superior National Forest, where firearms are permitted.

* At a BLM property near Santa Fe, NM, someone "damaged by deliberate shooting" a panel of 8,000-year-old petroglyphs.

* In the Ironwood Forest National Monument, near Tuscon, Ariz., officials are thinking of banning target shooting because some visitors are resorting to old computers and TVs as targets and leaving the mess behind.

* BLM officials in Arizona also report target practice on saguaro cacti, as well as on a microwave oven that was placed in an ironwood tree.

Those incidents were cited in a story from Greenwire that ran in the NY Times on Thursday.

Also from that story:

Revisions to gun policies are also under way at other BLM sites, including Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado and Aqua Fria National Monument near Phoenix, Ariz.

The Forest Service, meanwhile, has opted to close 81,000 "urban interface" acres in the nearly 3-million-acre Tonto National Forest in Arizona to shooting due mostly to concerns about trash and public safety.

Ah, Frank C., you're back on the gun issue, slippery slopes and all. Please admit that people can disagree with you. That's what this forum is all about. You get your say, Ray Bane gets his, I get mine. Is that an example of the domino theory?

Rick Smith

Rick, thanks for trying to control the conversation and censor me again. My conversation was with Mr. Bane, but thanks for chiming in.

Kurt, thanks for showing through the use of numerous examples that prohibiting weapons does not stop people from being stupid and using weapons illegally. The acts you reference, which are illegal now, will remain illegal under the current ruling. As for the BLM land in Arizona, I have visited the BLM land near Quartzsite, Arizona where many camp during the winter months. I'm told that the BLM has stepped up education about and prosecution of those who saguaro cacti for target practice, and the effort seems to be working.

>>Kurt, thanks for showing through the use of numerous examples that prohibiting weapons does not stop people from being stupid and using weapons illegally.<<

Frank, just for clarification, while guns were, and continue to be, prohibited in Sequoia at the time of the shooting I mentioned, the other incidents occurred on U.S. Forest Service and BLM lands where weapons were permitted. Perhaps if there had been a ban the incidents wouldn't have happened. Surely target ranges wouldn't have been set up.

That said, I would agree that some people will do what they want with firearms, regardless of the regulations.

great comments and sufficiently said Desert Explorer!!!