NPCA Backs Call For Ban On Assault Weapons

Four years after it lobbied hard against a proposal to allow national park visitors to arm themselves with firearms, the National Parks Conservation Association is backing a move to block assault weapons sales.

NPCA President Tom Kiernan last week called U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's legislation to ban the "sale, transfer, importation, and manufacturing" of a wide range of assault weapons one step towards making national parks safer for visitors and wildlife.

The senator's legislation if signed into law would not only ban 150 specifically-named assault weapons, but also "an additional group of weapons that accept detachable ammunition magazines and have one or more military characteristics," said Mr. Kiernan in a prepared statement. "The bill would also ban high-capacity ammunition magazines. If passed, this bill would apply to our national parks. The National Parks Conservation Association strongly supports it and encourages Congress to vote for it.

"Nearly four years ago, a law was enacted allowing guns in national parks, specifically authorizing people to carry firearms into national parks to the extent allowed under state law. We aggressively opposed the 'guns in parks' law which made it legal for people to carry assault weapons into many national park units. Some states also allow for open carry of such weapons," he went on. “National parks are places where families, wildlife watchers, recreationists, international travelers and so many others go to enjoy the scenic beauty, historical meaning and cultural diversity of our national heritage.

"Assault weapons have no place in the National Park System unless they are in a museum. We applaud and support Senator Feinstein’s effort to make our national parks safer for all visitors and wildlife.”


Because there have been so many instances of law abiding citizens bringing assault weapons into parks and harming people?

Actually, yes. At least one instance is one too many.

I guess you are one of those "if it saves a single life" people. Is the next step shutting down the world?

Btw. What is the "once" that you refer to when an otherwise law abiding person entered a park and caused harm?

One example from Grand Teton of law abiding citizens being law abiding.

The rational by the NRA and others to allow any firearms into national parks was for self-defense against either criminals or wild animals. An "assault weapon" is certainly not the appropriate firearm for either of those threats, minimal as they may be, in national park service areas.

As the name indicates, an "assault weapon" is desiged to kill the maximum number of adversaries in the shortest possible time. I'd ask supporters of such weapons to offer statistics which validate their need in a national park.

Gun supporters are hard-pressed to find examples of innocent park visitors whose lives are in danger from assaults in national parks. The very few assault incidents that do occur in parks are primarily domestic disputes, drug-related incidents in urban areas, or situations which began outside a park and ended in a park. None of those represent a threat to law-abiding park visitors.

The merits of bear spray vs. guns has already been debated to death on the Traveler, so if you're really paranoid about being the victim of a rare bear attack, and insist of having a gun at hand, the weapon of choice is a 12 gauge shotgun with slugs. If you're fending off a rare bear attack, that situation occurs at very close range. Any kind of rifle, whose rounds can travel long distances, pose unacceptable risks to others in public areas such as parks.

And two more from Dinosaur National Monument:

Lee - obviously not law abiding citizens. Prime example of criminals ignoring the law. Just as the do in violence capitals like Detroit, Washington and NYC where guns are banned. And those criminals should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

For MtnLiving - NPCA is not calling for a ban on so called assault weapons in the parks but for the entire nation.

ec, I'll post only this reply and then let other readers decide which arguments are more rational. No sense getting into yet another endless argument with one who is very accomplished in the art of dodging weaving twisting and eluding reasonablness.

First -- I have NEVER advocated eliminating all guns. I DO NOT advocate disarming law abiding citizens.

Second -- But we have some very serious problems with laws as they now stand. So I DO advocate background checks on ALL people who want to buy guns. That includes so called "private purchases." There should also be a national database tracking purchases of guns and ammunition. That might allow us to spot purchases of large quantities, such as the 6000 rounds allegedly bought by the Colorado theater shooter. If it appears that someone is collecting an arsenal, then they could be checked out before they use it. That would be the same sort of thing now in place for purchases of such things as ammonium nitrate for bomb making.

Third -- We must have some way for mental health providers to report any clients who present concerns. This will mean overhauling some of our privacy laws to allow that. We also need a national mental health database of some kind. But this will be an extremely limited solution because many people who have been involved in shootings have never been seen by a mental health provider. There probably also needs to be a way for ordinary persons to report a neighbor or acquaintance who presents signs of instability.

Fourth -- As it now stands, there are countless individuals who now possess weapons legally but who, for one reason or another, should not. They have not been convicted of a felony. (The folks who shot up those signs would be guilty only of a misdemeanor if they were caught. But do the bullets that passed through those signs present a danger to others who might be downrange in the vicinity?) Police officers will tell you of their frustration when they find an active gang member in possession, but cannot take the weapon away from them because they are not felons -- yet. They may have a long string of convictions for misdemeanors, some involving violence, but because they have not been convicted of anything more than a misdemeanor, they may legally possess firearms. The same holds true of individuals involved in domestic violence. In almost every case in which a gun was used in a case of domestic violence, the shooter had a long record of misdemeanors but no felony until it was too late for his victim(s).

Fifth -- I DO support sensible restrictions on weaponry and who may possess it. I don't know exactly what those restrictions need to be, but there do need to be restrictions.

Sixth -- I have long advocated that anyone possessing a gun should be required to take some kinds of well planned safety training. Twice, I came home from flying with bullet holes in my aircraft. Both times back in Ohio and both times while on the downwind leg of a landing apparently from people with rifles who just took a pot-shot at the plane as it flew over. Once in Paria Canyon I was pinned down along with the Scout troop I was leading when some folks began just shooting for fun. We were crouched down behind rocks as bullets zinged over us and impacted just a few feet away. We could hear the rifles from a long distance away down the canyon. Far enough that our shouts were apparently not heard by the shooters. They fired for about fifteen minutes. It was a very interesting experience.

Seventh -- America is a nation of mostly sensible people. One problem is that in the last several years, we have allowed our country to be hijacked by some extremists who are definitely not sensible. It's time now for sensible folks to stand up and demand to be heard. Solving this problem will require wisdom and that people at both ends of the extremes soften up a bit and work with those in the middle to find answers to an extremely tough problem. I submit that the NRA and others like them are not at all sensible, certainly possess little, if any, wisdom and that anyone who advocates as they do is joining them in insanity and outright stupidity.

This is an enormous challenge. But it's one that must be confronted and solved. Extremism will not help in any way.

Thanks Lee for this well reasoned post. Nothing to add.

Lee, I agree on all points.

Here we go again. I don't agree on all points.

You don't get to choose for me...

it says "shall not be infringed"


No national registry.

No magazine limitation

If you want to change the amendment, use the process established in the constitution please.

Mike G it says "well regulated" too

The Supreme Court has plainly stated that Congress can regulate guns.

"If you want to change the amendment, use the process established in the constitution please."

That might be what has to happen. If enough Americans feel it is necessary, it can be done.

I see this has turned into another general Second Amendment—guns in parks discussion. I have a narrower observation. It baffles me that the Nat'l Parks & Conservation Ass'n would choose to interject itself in the controversial question whether assault rifles, as they're commonly termed, should be banned under Sen. Feinstein's legislation. Whether that ban passes or not would seem to have nothing to do with the national park system. This strikes me as the ideological equivalent of, to offer a hypothetical example, the Int'l Mountain Bicycling Ass'n (IMBA) opposing fracking because it could impact a trail somewhere in Pennsylvania or New York. I sure hope IMBA never does anything that foolish.

In sum, and with no pun intended, NPCA's action seems to be not only a self-inflicted wound by the NPCA, but one inflicted without even the hope of some potential benefit.

Let me just add a couple of more general points. Everyone who wants to be able to continue to comment intelligently on guns in national parks should, at some point, read Justice Scalia's excellent and highly persuasive majority opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller. That'll bring about a clarification of what rights the Second Amendment guarantees. In brief, however, Heller held that (1) "we find that [it] guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation" (p. 19), an "individual right unconnected with militia service" and "necessary for self-defense" (p. 33); but (2) "[o]f course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment’s right of free speech was not." (P. 22.) Accordingly, the court decided as follows:

As the quotations earlier in this opinion demonstrate, the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right. The handgun ban amounts to a prohibition of an entire class of “arms” that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose. The prohibition extends, moreover, to the home, where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute. Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied to enumerated constitutional rights, banning from the home “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family,” 478 F. 3d, at 400, would fail constitutional muster. (Pp. 56-57, fn. omitted.)

But this rule is subject to broad and important limitations:

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. [Citations.] For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. [Citations.] Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be
taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those
“in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.” [Citations.]

It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely
detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the
protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

It's against that legal background that debates over gun ownership have to take place. You have an individual right to possess a gun for purposes of self-defense, but not just any gun and not in every place and at every time of your choosing. The Second Amendment's guarantee is at its strongest in your home and in certain other places it gives you no right to carry a weapon at all. That's the law as handed down by the Supreme Court in 2008 in the Heller decision.

imtnbke - thank you for a well considered post.

As suggested by the NPCA statement on this issue, part of the appeal of a park visit is the chance to experience, even briefly, a change of pace from day-to-day life, including a sense of escape from a society that's far too violent.

Is that experience diminished if, during a hike down a tranquil wooded trail, you encounter another visitor toting a military-style assault rifle? Just an opinion, but I'd venture to say the answer is "yes" for a goodly percentage of visitors. There's just no way to judge that person's intentions or state of mind, but several incidents of the past 12 months raise the level of discomfort if we encounter armed strangers in public places.

And no ... I don't dislike guns. I've been a gun owner for a long time, but I don't feel the need to tote one to a national park.

I realize there are some who feel insecure anywhere unless they are armed, and they'd counter by saying their experience is diminished because - evidence to the contrary in a national park - they feel unsafe without a firearm.

If you're in the second group, as pointed out in a earlier comment, you certainly don't need an assault rifle or a handgun with a large capacity magazine for self-defense in a national park... or anywhere else, for that matter. If firearms are legal in parks, at least have the courtesy in such settings of keeping your heat out of sight.

National parks have been - and continue to be - places where violent crime is extremely rare. I haven't seen any evidence that situation has changed by the ability of visitors to bring firearms into what's the point, other than it's your "right"?

Will any of the proposed bills specifically adress the question of assault weapons or other firearms in national parks? If so, do they have any chance of passage?

Too soon to tell, but sadly, it's seems unlikely on both counts.

And ditto to Jim.

Two useful posts above by Lee and imtnbke, and the summary of the 2008 Supreme Court decsion could certainly be applicable to weapons in national parks, especially in the context of the types of weapons currently under discussion.

The status quo re: guns in the U. S. is clearly not working.

A John's Hopkins study in October 2012 notes, "the homicide rate in the U.S. is seven times higher than the combined homicide rate of 22 other high-income countries" and "The higher prevalence of gun ownership and much less restrictive gun laws are important reasons why violent crime in the U.S. is so much more lethal than in countries of similar income levels."

Lee's on target when he said, "Solving this problem will require wisdom and that people at both ends of the extremes soften up a bit and work with those in the middle to find answers to an extremely tough problem."

Hi, Lee — You're most welcome.

an opinion piece from today.... a well known liberal playwright is the author. Please consider his comments...

If I may say so respectfully, I saw David Mamet's fiery Wriston Lecture to the Manhattan Institute on C-SPAN recently, and his speech made clear that he has veered to the hard right (he is happy, even eager, to acknowledge this, although he might not welcome the specific ideological term) and can no longer be thought of as a liberal playwright:

This speech does not necessarily make him an idiot, although some will think it does. But he has emphatically renounced liberalism. Here's one of the more intemperate passages:

"The culturally unsettled need a strongman, someone unquestionably superior to themselves in vision and intellect and thus deserving allegiance that will replace the structure sacrificed in the culture's abandonment. This is the czar so beloved of the Left: Lenin, Marx, Freud, Castro, Stalin, Hitler; car czar, enemy czar, director of bisexual-trans-gay-lesbian-questioning-then-queer studies, someone whom one can believe in amid 'the mess we've inherited,' which was previously known as the United States of America. See also Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon, Bernie Madoff, and all those claiming by intellect or faith that they can supervene the natural laws."

However, one need not rely on David Mamet for a thoughtful defense of the right to bear arms. (I'm not saying the essay MikeG links to isn't thoughtful; I skimmed it for 30 seconds and so can't tell if it is or isn't.) Sam Harris, the well-known advocate of atheism, has provided one:

Advocates for more gun restrictions will have to answer or dispel some of Harris's arguments, I think. That's not an ideological position, but one grounded in practical reality, as people living in East Oakland, inner-city Detroit, or near a San Francisco housing project can explain more articulately than I can.

Nice post @ 2:04, imtbke.

Thanks, justinh.

A lot of points Lee - I will try to address them in order:

1) You don't want to disarm law abiding citizens. Maybe YOU don't, but there are many people that do and this is merely the first step. Like was stated earlier, 10 years of a ban wasn't enough to determine if it worked therefore try 20-40. I fear that after banning "assault" weapons with no effect the next step will be to ban more weapons until ultimately the law abiding citizen is disarmed.

2) Serious problems - yes but I don't see them as necessarily with guns. Family structure, entitlement mentality, psychotic drugs, ethnic diversity, drugs, gangs, video games and violent movies are more likely the cause of our high gun violence vs other countries. Heck, everyone in Switzerland had an "assault rifle" but their violent crime is nowhere near ours, while England and Australia have no guns and they rank 1 & 2 in violent crime.

Background checks- I have no problem with that if they are handled as they are in CO. After the check is done, all records are destroyed.

No on tracking. Sport shooters easily can go through 6 thousand rounds. No mass shooting has involved more than a few hundred rounds. Are we going to interrogate anyone that buys 200 rounds of ammo?

3)I don't necessarily disagree on the mental health - that clearly is an issue as nearly all the mass shooters have had mental health issues. Most are on psychotic drugs or recently came off. Currently you can't pass a background check if you are a marijuana or other drug user. I would not vehemently object to those on psychotic drugs going on a no buy list although the privacy issue is a little troubling

4)So someone with a traffic violation shouldn't own a gun? Maybe the answer here is to change misdemeanor charges that indicate someone is prone to violence, to felony charges.

5)Restrictions for restrictions sake? Worthless and unconstitutional. Demonstrate the restrictions will have benefits that outweigh the consequences - and are Constitutional and I will be glad to listen.

6)Nice examples but you have no idea whether those that shot at your plane or those on your Scouting outing had training or not. Again, demonstrate that would address a real issue (i.e. higher levels of danger from those without training than with), and I would be willing to listen. BTW - interesting you have been hit twice and I have never heard that happening to anyone else.

7) Your definition of "sensible" is that they agree with you. 53% of Americans approve of the NRA - you stated the nation is "mostly sensible people" but for some reason your don't respect their "sense".

And for David Crowl, the term "regulated" at the time referred to training and organization, not to controlling what arms were held by the people. There isn't a single known comment from a founding father indicating they wanted to control what kind of weapons could be owned. In contrast, there are many citations available showing that they wanted the "militia" to be on par with the capabilities of any standing army - foreign or domestic.

Re: Imtnbike. I read the Harris piece. It's excellent. The writer does a fine job of putting some logic into this issue.

I must say, some of you people confuse me.... Mr Mamet, as you say, isn't as liberal as he was. I don't know how 'right wing' he might be, but it doesn't matter to me. Just like it didn't matter to me when he was a 'liberal' playwright. His work was magnificent.

You on the other hand, dismiss him out of hand, to the point that he might be an idiot, because he ain't where he used to be politically...30 seconds to skim his piece? Please.

I never expected the majority of liberal commentors here to read Mamet's piece. I hoped one or two would. They would benefit.

I expect that many might read the Harris piece because it's proposed by someone who thinks 'right-wingers might be idiots'. I'm ok with that because if they take the time to actually read Harris, they'll learn a lot that will make them've done us all a service. Thank you. Kurt, thank you for letting this run. It seems to be a little more civil than the last one, with more valid comments by all. Even though we aren't really talking about parks...

The Harris piece cited above by imtnbke makes many excellent points - it's worth reading.

I definitely agree with his comments on the need for more stringent vetting - and training - of individuals receiving permits for handguns. At present, such vetting and training is either a sham, or non-existent, in too many situations and states.

If groups such as the NRA would put their muscle behind both of those steps, I believe at least some of the current opposition to the carrying of handguns by private citizens would be defused.

Hi, MikeG —

I would respectfully reply that you're painting me with too broad a brush. There are in fact thoughtful people on the left (Andrew Sullivan, e.g.), the right (Ron Unz, e.g.), and the hard-to-characterize (the late Christopher Hitchens). One of the best qualities among them is that they are open-minded and not locked in an ideological jail of their own making, as most people are.

I would have to say that Mamet doesn't fit in that group, from what I've seen. His speech to the Manhattan Institute was hotheaded and overblown. Maybe he was that way in his liberal guise too; I don't know. I would never say, however, that Mamet or anyone else is an idiot because he moved to the right, only that his speech could come across as idiotic.

I watched Mamet's address for at least 30 minutes on C-SPAN, lest anyone think I wrote him off after skimming his gun control article for 30 seconds, which your post could imply unless someone is reading it very carefully.

I realize this is drifting far off the topic and will try not to keep replying on these tangential points.

Yesterday, after ec questioned my honesty regarding having been shot at while flying, I emailed the Experimental Aircraft Association, FAA safety office and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association with a question. So far, only the EAA has replied. Here are the emails:


I have a question that I hope is unusual. Do you know of any instances in which aircraft flying in the United States recently have been hit by gunfire from the ground?

Back in the late 1950's when I was a student and young private pilot in Ohio, aircraft I was flying were hit on two occasions by rifle fire from the ground. Both times, I was on downwind for landing when the plane was hit. The first time it happened, I landed and told my instructor about a strange noise. He knew immediately what it was and we found a bullet hole through the right wing of the J-3. About a year later, while flying a T-craft at another airfield about 20 miles from the first incident, a bullet came through the fuselage just behind the right seat.

So I'm wondering if I'm a freak of some kind, or if this happens from time to time.


Good Morning Lee!

Thank you for contacting EAA. You are right, it is a little bit of an unusual question, but I am glad you asked. After receiving your question, I contact the staff in our Government Advocacy department, hoping that since they have access to numerous legal/case databases that they may have some answers. What I learned was absolutely astonishing.

According to the Government staff, there a numerous cases of pilots who have received gun fire from the ground while flying over United States soil. The gentleman I spoke with informed me that these occurrences are particularly common around airports. He said the reason for this is most likely disgruntled home owners near the airports who are fed up with the constant sound of aircraft flying over their house.

I myself have received gun fire while I was undergoing helicopter training at Fort Rucker in southeastern Alabama. I was flying around our local area of operations doing low level contour flight. Suddenly, my instructor pilot and I saw what was swore was three muzzle bursts at our two’o’clock position, followed by a prominent thud on our tail cone. We broke contact and returned to our local airfield. Upon further inspection, we discovered that the helicopter had been struck in the tail cone (the bullet barely missed the tail rotor drive shaft, which could have been catastrophic) and another had pierced the landing skid. We had an idea of where the fire had come from, but by the time the investigators went out, there was nobody there and the land owner claimed no responsibility.

I found this video on AvWeb and thought you would find it interesting since it relates to your question.

I hope that I have helped to answer your question. Pilots receiving gun fire from the ground over the US is still a real issue today.

Thanks Lee!

I was asked a few minutes ago to eliminate the name of the person who replied because he cannot speak for his employer. So I'll edit this to comply with his request.
UH-60M Blackhawk Pilot, WIARNG

Well thats interesting David. What has changed since the end of December? Not the NRA or any of its positions. Could the change possibly be related to the media's vilification and the uninformed sheeple are following along? lets see what the next Gallop poll says.

I also sent an email to Flying Magazine. (Sorry, forgot that in my list above.) This reply just arrived. I'll have to tag on to the enewsletter this afternoon and see what it says. In the meantime, here is this morning's reply from someone on the editorial staff there:

Hi Lee,

Glad to hear you survived those incidents unharmed. We actually have a story about this coming out in our enewsletter this afternoon. Keep a lookout!

Best wishes,
Bethany Whitfield

imtnbke, I to appreciate your very informative post regarding the 2008 "Heller" decision, thank you. I was involved in a class action suit (many years ago) by a group of NPS employees vs. the Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, over rental rates for government housing. We were meeting with our attorney at MacGeorge Law School (Sacramento, Calif), where he was also a professor. We had a couple of plaintiff officers who were pounding the table demanding justice in this dispute, no quarter given. I remember the professor telling us, "95% of those demanding their rights or justice in a court of law should be on their hands knees begging for mercy". It did give our group pause for consideration. I do not know imtnbke, but my empathy is with the NPCA position, banning "assault" weapons in parks has my support, but truly enjoy reading your arguments and comments on this listserve.

my empathy is with the NPCA position, banning "assault" weapons in parks has my support

Unfortunately, that is not their position.

Lee - maybe you should stop buzzing peoples houses by the airport.

BTW Lee - Maybe we should ban private airplanes. After all nobody really needs one and there are more people killed in private airplane crashes than by "assault" rifles. In fact, more than by rifles of any kind. And it looks like the problem is getting worse.

ecbuck, what happened is...the NRA spokesperson opened their mouth, and not everyone agrees with their position. The sheeple are the ones that think the NRA propaganda is gospel. I am not for removing all guns, but having better balance with background check, and what weapons are for civilian protection could be talked about without the NRA telling us what to think.

Thanks, rmackie. Very nice of you!

Also, regarding your experience concerning the legal system versus justice, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave a speech yesterday in which she said:

“You’re not God. Because hopefully, God is more merciful than sometimes you can be as a judge."

Quote available at this unpleasant website, with its intrusive popup ads:

he NRA spokesperson opened their mouth

Thats right - the NRA spokesperson hasn't ever talked before. No one knew their position before - (eyes rolling)

and what weapons are for civilian protection

The civilian protection envisioned by our founders was the protection from the government. Thus, they wanted the citizens armed on par (in not superior) to the government. And given the way our government is moving today, I think that is as relevant now if not more so.

BTW - Here is the position of the County Sherrifs of Colorado on the proposed gun legislation released today.

Essentially identical to that of the NRA. I guess we must have a bunch of kooks as Sherrifs. Funny how they keep getting elected.

Well, once again it's been fun, but things have digressed so far away from the parks that we're shutting this one down. Any input on rebuilding the Newfound Gap Road?