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Association of National Park Rangers Opposes Change in Park Gun Regulations


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."


It is my beleif that the Second Amendant givies everyone the right to Self defence. It follows that everyone that is every person has the constitutional right to Arm themselves for self defense agaist any enemy, be they human or not. If a person citizen does not have the right to self defense niether does the State or nation or the people emloyed by said nation and or state.

that is true, also what do they mean by negligent discharge, any law abiding citizen who has a legal ccw or cancealed carry firearms permit is not going to just be letting off rounds in the park for no reason if any citizen with a legal ccw is discharging there firearm its because of a rabid wild animal or bear or mountin lion which are EVERY where!! we all have a right to protect our selves from 2 legged AND four legged creatures, for crying out loud people are even getting killed by animal IN FRIGGIN ZOO'S!!!

I don't see the strength of the argument. It's the same story of banning the law abiding citizens while ignoring the fact that the bad guys (criminals, poachers etc) will be armed with or without the ban. If you have passed all the checks and are deemed to be a responsible adult then it shouldn't make a difference when you walk from state woods onto the NPS woods. Either you can affect an outcome in a life or death situation or you trust to the whims of the predator that your facing.

Perhaps then, we should allow people to arm themselves in a school building...after all, you can have guns out on the road in front of the school and there have been rapists who turned out to be teachers, and doesn't the 2nd Amendment state that we can carry weapons? There's a chance of crimanals carrying guns in our schools, so shouldn't we be allowed to protect ourselves from that possibility?

Why should the government place reasonable restrictions on me to protect other people?!

Schools are not federal property as are national parks. Citizens should be able to carry weapons in national parks, and those who use weapons cavalierly in national parks (for target practice or poaching) should be punished. But the Second Amendment, which seems to protect individual rights to carry arms, should not be ignored. Those who think that the Second Amendment protects only the rights of a militia to carry arms overlook the fact that the surrounding amendments protect individual rights, not group rights. The amendment also mentions the "people" as do those protecting individual rights. Would anyone argue that First Amendment's protection of the "right of the people to peaceably assemble" is a group right rather than an individual right?

Also consider the Founders' and their contemporaries' views towards arms:

"The great object is, that every man be armed." - Patrick Henry

"...who are the militia, if they be not the people of this country...? I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers." - George Mason

"They [proposed first ten amendments] relate 1st. to private rights. . . . the great object in view is to limit and qualify the powers of government . . ." - James Madison

If our society has changed and outgrown the need for the Second Amendment, we should change it, not ignore it.

i agree,people with the proper permits are a very small amount of the problem, illegal arms are....... this law seems to prevent me from visiting all our national forest and parks, this is another way to chip away at the 2nd amendment, how many shoot outs have you heard of in a national park....... i think the present laws are just fine....

As a long-time professional in the "media biz" I can say that press accounts of backcountry violence are about exceptional, unusual, extraordinary events. In other words, they're weird, that's why they're news. Literally, the likelihood of these kinds of mishaps happening to any one of us is in the one-in-many-millions chance.

Yes, violence does happen. But I'm just not too worried about loosing with those odds. You're far more likely to meet your fate at the hands of hypothermia, a fall, or a traffic accident on the way to a trailhead--thousands of times more likely--than from anything any sort of weapon would help you with.

I'll accept that some number of situations exist where a deadly weapon would be the only viable solution. But then again, thinking about someone who's so afraid of the dangers that they feel they have to carry a powerful weapon, what are the odds that they'll be tempted to use that weapon in situations where, given some thoughtful consideration, a less drastic alternative would have been adequate?
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