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A View From The Overlook: Safety Issue


The National Park Service and other federal law enforcement agencies have always had a guarded, nervous relationship with the National Rifle Association, and with good reason.

The 4.5-million-member NRA is the largest armed entity in the world; larger than the American army, larger even than the Chinese Army, and is vociferously truculent in assertion of its rights.

True, there are some NPS rangers who are duly ordained life-members of the NRA and who support it enthusiastically and religiously (the NRA does indeed have some aspects of a religion).

Other rangers are not so sure. One ranger, who shall remain anonymous, as he is still making a living with the NPS, had this to tell me:

“PJ, early in my NPS career, I became a firearms instructor. As part of that training and in order to gain certification, I was required to join the NRA. I was furious and complained to my supervisor. My peers looked at me like I was some wild-eyed commie.

"After joining the NRA, I received an amazing amount of NRA propaganda, including subscription to two of their publications. It was very instructive to experience the materials that were sent to their members. I now understood why they hold the severe positions that they do and how they become so rabid about these issues; total mind-bending propaganda similar to what might have been seen in World War II Germany. I know it sounds extreme, but after you read their publications, I am confident you will agree," Ranger X told me.

One person who apparently agreed with Ranger X was the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. Unlike Ranger X, President Bush was an NRA True Believer; a life member. However, Bush resigned his life membership. What happened?

Among other things, what happened was Wayne La Pierre, “spokesperson” for the NRA.

It seems that Wayne spoke.

Well, you say, that’s what “spokespersons” are supposed to do, right?

Except in the case of Wayne. Not a bad person, Wayne was sort of like your Uncle Fred.

Every family has an Uncle Fred. A decent enough chap, but there are certain things that send him into raging, crazy tirades. Uncle Fred believes that the Democrats are putting fluoride into the water supply to turn everyone into liberal zombies. Therefore, everyone at Thanksgiving dinner is warned not to mention (A) Democrats (B) Fluoride or (C) Water.

In the case of Wayne, some of the trigger words that will set him off are (A) federal agents (B) guns (C) gun control and of course, (D) the Second Amendment.

La Pierre had a dim view of federal agents before the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 federal employees, including four commissioned federal law enforcement officers. Just days before the bombing he compared federal agents to some kind of fascists in a letter soliciting support for the NRA in its opposition to gun-control legislation.

“What did Wayne say that was so bad?” you ask.

Basically, Wayne said that the federal law enforcement officers were “Jack-booted thugs.”

After the bombing, President Bush resigned his life membership in the NRA with the following letter to La Pierre.

“…. Al Whicler, who served on my Secret Service detail when I was Vice President and President, was killed in Oklahoma City. He was no Nazi. He was a kind man, a loving parent, a man dedicated to serving his country and serve it well he did.

"I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of the NRA’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.

"However, your broadside against federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slandered a wide array of government law enforcement officials who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us…”

Well said, Mr. President!

Now among the “wide array of government law enforcement officials” are the National Park Service's commissioned law enforcement park rangers, who don’t wear Jackboots and are not thugs. (Wayne may have watching too many old World War II movies on TV.)

Now, one of the problems of protecting the public is the “Security Bubble Illusion,” the fondly and widely held belief that somewhere, someplace, somehow, there is a ” Camelot of Safety,” an enchanted place where Nothing Bad Can Happen.

This is often described as being some rural village in the “Heartland" ---until, of course, something really horrific happens there.

Another “Camelot of Safety” is America’s National Parks where John Muir’s injunction to “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings!” is expected by the gentle and naive to cure even potential mass murderers of their desires.

Unfortunately, that is not in the mountains’ job description. Since humans visit national parks; this means the potential of random violence exists in even the smallest, most bucolic historical park. Even something as mundane as a dog off a leash can escalate into murderous violence. This was exactly the case at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park in Hawaii, and cost a responding park ranger his life.

More recently, Ranger Margaret Anderson was killed in Mount Rainier National Park on January 1, 2012, by a paranoid fugitive who was headed up the mountain toward the heavily used Paradise Visitor Center. The killer’s intentions are not known, but they were unlikely to have been pleasant. The killer’s plans were disrupted and in the ensuing manhunt, Mount Rainier itself exacted the ultimate vengeance.

There is no “Camelot of Safety” in national parks. Things happen. Last year, a mountain goat improbably gored a visitor to death.

So, with the smarmy oleaogeness of a crooked undertaker, the National Rifle Association offered a plan to protect the patrons of the national parks from dangers both animal and human.

How? Well, the NRA believes that everyone who visits a national park should potentially be armed and dangerous (to the bad guy or “bad” animal of course)

Now this is the kind of bizarre idea that normally shows up in publications like THUNDERBEAR, which the NPS can ignore.

Unfortunately, the NPS cannot safely ignore the NRA.

Using malleable congresspersons who, for whatever reason, agreed with their position, the NRA put sufficient pressure on the Department of Interior and the NPS to reverse a nearly 100-year-ban on firearms carry in the national parks.

To be sure, since parks were often adjacent to U.S. Forest Service or other public land where hunting was permitted, bringing unloaded, cased, and/or disassembled firearms through a park was OK. That all changed when the gun people won the right to carry fully operational, fully loaded guns in the parks, the rationale being defense against dangerous animals or people. (One envisions Wayne LaPierre being enveloped by an Everglades Python!)

Do the NPS Resource Management folks agree? Generally speaking, no.

The wildlife management folks understandably believe that their years of education and experience in animal behavior trump the knowledge of a used car salesman with the price of a Glock pistol.

The wildlife rangers point out that bison often manage people with false or bluff charges when us pesky two leggers get too close. However, the charge can become a real one if 9 mm rounds irritate the bison.

Some Yosemite National Park bears adopted a clever mugging strategy. While they would not directly attack a backpacker, they would seize the bottom end of the backpack and hold on. This is a Tug O’War that no human can win. The hiker is forced to abandon his pack.

Seems like a clear case for Mr. Glock or Mr. Colt, doesn’t it? Nope, the NPS believes that the bear should learn human avoidance, but not by dying, and the NPS would much prefer that you use the very effective bear sprays.

Ah, but what about the human predator? Again, the law enforcement ranger spends hundreds of hours in training, and later with that stern teacher, Experience, in learning when to shoot and when not to shoot. They prefer that you leave these decisions to the ranger.

“But what if there is no ranger available?” you ask. What if you are hiking a dark and lonely trail 20 miles from civilization and you come upon a strange and suspicious character, possibly a liberal or maybe even a Democrat, coming down the trail, directly toward you! What are you going to do? Shouldn’t you have the ability to shoot him?

Well, an actual and similar situation happened to David Michael Keane, son of the present president of the NRA. In the year 2002 The 21-year-old Mr. Keane was driving the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service. An aggressive driver cut off Mr. Keane. There was not a park ranger in sight (never around when you need ‘em!) So young Mr. Keane hauled out his legal 9mm semiautomatic and fired one shot at the offending driver. The bullet shattered the rear window and lodged in the headrest of the driver’s seat. (Not bad shooting from a moving vehicle!)

Bullets are strange things, once fired they cannot be recalled and they change lives forever. The aggressive driver was not injured (except for being scared out of his Okole, as the Hawaiians say). David Michael Keane on the other hand, could not unshoot that single bullet and it changed his life. He was arrested on December 5, 2002, pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years in federal prison where he was to learn anger management and the manufacture of interpretive signs for the NPS.

Something to think about.


As interesting as this thread has been, at times, we're closing the door on it. The Traveler is about national parks, not the NRA, not the 2nd amendment, and it would seem this issue has been picked clean.

It seems though that they are slowly alienating the average citizen

That must be why their membership has swelled in recent weeks and why they have a 54% favorable rating.

So do most Americans acording to the latest Washington Post and Gallup polls:

And most Americans think an AR is a military assault rifle and don't know the difference between a clip and magazine or a bullet and cartridge. Most Amercans also are unaware of the 1.5-2 million people that defend themselves or their property with a gun every year. Primarily because the media doesn't want them to know.

Those are interesting. Still don't see any case where there was an extended battle with police officers that was enabled by a high capacity magaizine. In fact in most cases (of all cases off that list) it appears that the killer quit firing or killed themselves before completely empying his magazine.

Look over the full list (from which you compiled your sample). In many cases, the shooter fired a fraction of the magazine's capacity. In many others, he fired many multiples of the capacity - showing how easy it is to reload and continue shooting.

This is the house organ for the American Communist Party. They think this gun regulation is a great idea.

So do most Americans acording to the latest Washington Post and Gallup polls:

Ec - It didn't take long to answer your question, using the link provided above.

Here are some excerpts with examples showing both shootouts with police responding to the incident, and even more important, examples where bystanders were able to tackle and subdue the shooter once he stopped to reload.

In all cases, large capacity magazines allowed the idiot to fire a lot of shots in very little time. I doubt you'd agree that there would have been fewer victims if the shooter had been forced to stop and reload sooner, but these examples sure suggest otherwise. Ask any police officer if their odds are better facing a bad guy with 9 rounds vs. 30 rounds in his weapon, and I suspect you'd get some pretty uniform answers.

A few examples:

1. August 5, 2012 Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Police officers arrived on the scene in response to 911 calls, and exchanged fire with the shooter. Page killed six and injured three, including a responding officer, before committing suicide.

Weapon: Springfield Armory XD(M) 9mm semiautomatic handgun equipped with a 19-round large capacity ammunition magazine.

2. January 8, 2011 U.S. Rep. Gabriel Giffords incident, Arizona

Subject first shot Rep. Giffords in the head from about three feet away and then turned to the crowd, firing over 30 rounds in just 15 seconds. Among those killed include a federal judge, Hon. John M. Roll, congressional staff, and civilians ranging in age from 9 to 79.

Loughner was tackled while attempting to reload his firearm with another large capacity ammunition magazine.

3. November 5, 2009 Fort Hood, Texas

In four minutes Hasan fired off about 214 shots, killing 13 and wounding 30 more. After running outside the building to chase down a wounded soldier, Hasan was confronted by a police officer. Engaging in a brief firefight, the officer managed to down Hasan with a shot to the torso.

Weapon: FN Herstal 5.7 Tactical Pistol equipped with 20-round large capacity ammunition magazine

4. May 20-21, 1998 Thurston High School Springfield, OR

Subject was armed with multiple weapons including a 50-round large capacity ammunition magazine. Walking through a school hallway, he shot 27 students, killing 2 of them, before he was finally tackled to the ground by other students while trying to reload.

5. December 7, 1993 Long Island Railroad

Subject was armed with a handgun and four 15-round large capacity ammunition magazines, He emptied approximately 30 rounds upon 25 people, killing 6. Stopping to reload, he was tackled by three train passengers

6. January 17, 1989 Cleveland Elementary School Stockton, CA

Subject killed 5 students and wounded 30 others, including one teacher, firing approximately 106 shots with an AK-47-type assault rifle over less than two minutes.

Weapons: Chinese-made AK-47-type semiautomatic assault rifle, 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a 75-round large capacity ammunition drum magazine, a 75-round large capacity ammunition rotary magazine, and four 35-round large capacity ammunition banana magazines.

re: your comment, "DOJ studied [role of large capacity magazines] and concluded it didn't necessarily lead to more victims." Of course not, since that can't be absolutely proven. However, if you truly believe the ability to fire a large number of shots in a short period of time before the shooter has to stop and reload isn't a factor in the number of victims, then it's too bad that famous bridge in New York isn't still for sale.

The NRA thrives on FUD and paranoia. It seems though that they are slowly alienating the average citizen who has no problem with reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.

Lee, PJ and others: Here's a link for ya'll....

This is the house organ for the American Communist Party. They think this gun regulation is a great idea. Maybe the greatest since 1917. It's gonna cure the epidemic of violence in America. Or maybe it will disarm a hostile American public so that their goals can be more easily achieved....

There are extreme opinions on both sides. I guess a paranoid, gun nut like myself has to line up with the right. Who said the Red Menace was dead?

I'd suggest that such weapons not only lead to more victims, they place responding police – or legally armed citizens who try to intervene – at a serious tactical disadvantage.

You can suggest that but the DOJ studied that and concluded it didn't necessarily lead to more victims. And since I don't recall any, perhaps you can identify where a mass killer used high capacity magazines to fend off law enforcement.

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