You can add the Association of National Park Rangers to the groups that oppose a change in gun laws to allow concealed weapons to be carried legally in the national park system.
Across the nation newspapers have been batting this topic back and forth, some for, some against, but none have employees who work in the parks on a daily basis and so have a direct and specific concern over the fate of the issue.
Now the ANPR, whose members do work and often live in the parks, is weighing in on the issue, and not just from an aspect of safety.
"Of course we believe that there are increased risks for humans, both visitors and NPS employees, if the 47 senators get their way," Scot McElveen, the group's president, tells me. "But in terms of the reasons that the 1983 regulation was promulgated, the legal argument for opposing a regulation change on human safety grounds is not very strong.
"Here’s why: Units of the national park system are not created as defined by the (National Park Service) Organic Act or enabling acts for public safety," Mr. McElveen continues. "They are created for the nationally significant resources they contain and the enjoyment the public can gain from them in ways that leave them unimpaired. If you argue the public safety angle, then the question that must be asked is, 'Can we make a legitimate legal argument that people deserve to be safer from firearms inside an NPS unit as opposed to their own communities, schools, stores, cities, counties, and states?' Don't each of us deserve to have our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness protected from illegal or negligent firearms' discharges everywhere in the U.S. at the same level?
"Every state has laws on the books that protect people from firearms such as minimum distances for firearms discharges from structures and roads. That pretty much covers NPS developed areas already."
However, Mr. McElveen points out, the 1983 regulation that banned concealed carry in the parks was designed to "ensure public safety and maximum protection of natural resources."
"States can make a pretty good argument that public safety from firearms discharges is ensured to a reasonable level everywhere in their state," he says. "What they cannot argue is that wildlife, other natural resources, and the integrity of cultural resources receive the 'maximum protection' in their states... That is the winning argument (to retain the ban) in my opinion, because it is supported by federal statutory law and federal case law."
That said, ANPR also believes the 47 senators who want to change the regulation are using the 2nd Amendment argument "selectively."
"Certainly there are federal, state, and local government lands that prohibit the possession of firearms, as well as private businesses that will not allow firearms on their premises," the group says. "Examples include postal property, some schools including school grounds/athletic events, courtrooms and buildings, U. S. Capitol grounds and buildings (including the Senate office buildings), the White House and grounds, portions of airports and certain airplanes, and some churches and church grounds.
"These examples clearly show that USA society does not view the Second Amendment right to bear arms as absolute in all locations and at all times."
Furthermore, the group says that, "Since the creation of the NPS by congressional act in 1916, it seems clear by the language Congress used that lands and waters administered by the NPS would be regulated more stringently and for different purposes than other federal lands."
"While other federal land-management agencies permit consumptive uses such as hunting on the majority of the acreage they administer, regulated primarily by state law, in contrast the NPS has a statutory mandate for preservation of natural and cultural resources as its priority, (its) fundamental purpose. Wildlife is one broad group of natural resources in parks specifically mentioned in the 1916 NPS Organic Act to be preserved. When wildlife in parks is illegally taken, firearms are frequently involved."
If gun-rights advocates believe the park ban should be overturned in the name of adding "consistency across federal land-management agencies," says ANPR, then "why isn’t that same consistency necessary for other consumptive uses on federal lands? If firearms policy should be consistent across federal lands by adopting state law……why not allowing logging on all federal lands per state law? Or mining? Or aircraft use? Or where new roads are constructed? Or a host of other consumptive or resource damaging activities?
"In short, why not just turn federal lands over to the states for management by state laws and regulations? ANPR believes the reason is fairly obvious. USA citizens, through their elected representatives in the U. S. Congress, have legislated their desire for a variety of experiences on federal lands. If this was not the case we would have one federal land-management agency to manage all federal lands under the same set of laws and regulations."