A group of congressmen, led by two members of Washington state's delegation, is trying to reinstate a ban against visitors carrying firearms in national parks.
Rep. Jim McDermott says he and Rep. Norm Dicks decided to introduce legislation that would ban guns in the parks in the wake of the murder of a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. Their effort would seem particularly bold during an election year, as the National Rifle Association doesn't hesitate to wield its powerful lobby against politicians whose views it disagrees with.
Park Ranger Margaret Anderson, a 34-year-old law enforcement ranger, was shot and killed on New Year's Day when she tried to intercept a suspect wanted in connection with a shooting in Seattle earlier that day. Benjamin Colton Barnes had fled a routine checkpoint where park visitors were checked to see if they had chains for their tires.
At a point on the road above Longmire and about a mile from Paradise the ranger used her cruiser to block the road so she could stop the man. Before she could get out of her cruiser, though, Mr. Barnes killed her with blasts from a shotgun, according to park officials.
"The dreadful and deeply saddening event that occurred on Mt. Rainier makes me question why on earth people should be allowed to carry loaded weapons in our national parks,” Rep. McDermott was quoted as saying to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The controversial rule change that allowed park visitors to both openly carry weapons, carry concealed weapons, and even carry rifles in the parks took effect two years ago this month, when the provision was amended by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, to popular legislation pertaining to the ground rules credit card companies must follow.
Under the change, firearm regulations in a specific park resemble those of the state in which the park is located, except, however, when it comes to federal facilities. They are still off-limits to visitors with guns. Previously, gun owners could bring their weapons into national parks, but the firearms had to be unloaded and out of reach.
According to the newspaper's report, at least eight House members have signed on to the legislation.