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Interior Secretary Opens Door for New Gun Regulations in National Parks


Will national parks lose their "family friendly" image if visitors are allowed to carry loaded weapons?

And you thought the presidential campaign promised to provide enough excitement for the rest of the year. Now you can add a Second Amendment battleground to the calendar.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today called for a review, and possible overhaul, of federal regulations concerning the carrying of guns in national parks. He wants to see a draft regulation on proposed changes by the end of April.

This administration supports the long-standing tradition of affording states the right to determine those who may lawfully possess a firearm within their jurisdictions while preserving an individual's right under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and the federal government's authority to manage its lands, buildings and facilities," Secretary Kempthorne wrote to Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, and Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin.

I have directed Assistant Secretary Lyle Laverty, who oversees regulatory matters for parks and refuges, to develop and propose for public comment by April 30 federal regulations that will update firearm policies on these lands to reflect existing federal laws (such as those prohibiting weapons in federal buildings) and the laws by which the host states govern transporting and carrying of firearms on their analogous public lands.

Today's news shows that the National Rifle Association and its membership have succeeded in making this an election-year wedge issue, in part by portraying the national parks as dangerous places where wild animals and brazen criminals lurk.

The NRA was behind U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's proposed legislation that would prevent the government from banning concealed carry in the national parks, and also helped craft the letter that 50-some members of the Senate sent to Secretary Kempthorne asking for a change in gun policies in the national parks and national wildlife refuges.

Opposing a change in the existing regulations have been the Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Parks Conservation Association, just to name the most prominent groups.

There's no word yet on whether there will be hearings around the country on this issue, or simply a way for people to submit comments.

But as this goes forward you can be sure more groups will come out against a change. One that wouldn't surprise me by taking a stand against a change is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. This group, organized in the wake of the attempted assassination of President Reagan, devotes a full page on its web site to the dangers of concealed carry.

I'm sure, of course, the NRA can counter with its own page. Indeed, if you Google "concealed carry" you quickly find tens of thousands of articles, mostly pro-concealed carry.

As I've said previously, it's sad that the national parks are being pulled into a Second Amendment debate. National parks long have been viewed, and even promoted, as family friendly destinations. Will that view remain if you're left wondering at night whether the group in the campsite next to yours has loaded firearms?


Bad people are gonna carry guns regardless of any foolish "rule" applied...let law-abiding citizens protect themselves, there won't always be a ranger around to save you. Same goes for crazies-infested college campuses.

Hooray for doing away with another 'dis-armed victim zone'! It's a step in the right direction in eliminating the mis-guided practice of not allowing properly licensed and trained individuals to carry their means of protecting themselves, their families and others from harm.
There should be no restrictions placed nor laws passsed that dis-arm a person who has a legal right to be armed.
Concealed weapons permit holders are those that have demostrated their ability to safely handle firearms; undergone and passed background checks, fingerprint checks, found to be mentally and financially stable.
Criminals are not deterred by any other laws, what makes people think that they are going to go somewhere else just because 'guns aren't allowed here'?

I'm becoming more and more ambivalent on the gun issue.

Gun lovers are going to carry no matter what. I suspect many already carry in the parks now, who would know?

There is also crime in the parks. The Everglades, for example, were once notorious for drug runners (not sure if that still holds true today).

Not all gun carriers are "nuts", but not all are responsible, either. Just like every other facet of American society.

The NRA is here to stay, like it or not. I can only hope any new gun regs don't lead to an upswing in brown bear target shooting or other such abuses.

I'm more concerned about ATVs and snowmobiles in the parks than guns. IMO, they'll do more damage to ecosystems and the natural wonders of the parks.
My travels through the National Park System:

I just have a few questions:
1. Is it just a security issue that makes you want to carry a weapon into a National Park?
2. If it is just a security issue then what do you now? Do you visit the parks or take the family somewhere else? If you visit the parks do you carry anyway?
3. I've only been to a few National Parks out west, which I've never had issues with, so which parks seems to be the dangerous ones?

Just to let people know... I'm not a gun owner. Don't really care if people own guns, it's not my place to say if they should. Three of my brothers own and actively hunt/target shoot. I have no issues with it. I worked with weapons in the Navy and will use weapons when I'm visiting with family members who own them.

I'm more interested in why this is such a big deal for people. Most people will agree it's a risk going anywhere today, or so it seems. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have no issues hiking alone in the many open spaces here, only encounters here were with a couple mountain lions, to which I came out ok. I think we can all agree California has it's fair share of the criminal element and I've failed to encounter such things on the trail.

As for the controversy I guess I'd be against people packing 'heat' if that was the only problem we have in the parks. However as Paul stated above we have other concerns in the parks. Lack of funds, motorized sports eroding/polluting, conservation of wildlife and an ecosystem. Perhaps we should deal with them first!!!!! Oh yeah let's not forget the people who are abusing the land to grow illicit substances.

In the end I guess I just don't care. This is just one more item that is a non-issue. Something to keep people busy arguing while the status quo goes on in the federal government.

I just hope people are as passionate about the parks when funding cuts are announced!

My humble opinions.

I completely agree with "Barky". I have been in some very remote areas of our federal lands and on occasion I have wished I had brought a rifle, just in case. I do believe this is a state's rights issue, but I am very sympathetic to the park rangers who might stumble upon more gunplay than they have heretofor been subjected to.
I, too agree that someone with a weapon tucked safely in his or her pack is far less of a problem than 4:00 am ATV or snowmobilers tearing up the wilderness and scaring off the wildlife.

According to my state's records, most concealed carry license holders are older persons, with the most rapidly growing segment being the 50+ age group. These are mature responsible people who have a long life history without criminal behavior, and who've taken mandated courses in gun handling, responsibility and safety. My own license required a state and federal background check, as well as an investigation into my medical history, fingerprinting, tests, etc.. WE aren't the people to be afraid of. In fact, "concealed" carry licensees are required to do just unless you try to kill them, you won't even know whether or not the "group in the campsite next to yours has loaded firearms." Disarming responsible people who have been proved NOT to be criminals does not make any place safer.

On the other hand, armed "bad guys" in the campsite next door won't have bothered with licenses or other issues of social responsibility. They've already been carrying guns in the national parks and elsewhere and will continue to do so regardless of the rules. They're also far more likely to engage in the sort of behavior that makes them all the more dangerous when armed. They haven't followed the rules of the law or good behavior in the past and won't do so in the future. THEY are the gun carriers to worry about.

In these discussions someone invariably accuses someone else of "being paranoid." I hope none of you ever have to readjust your assumptions about your family's safety the hard way. Fear, or paranoia if you will, is not healthy and I won't live with it. Common sense is another thing though, and mine tells me that a tent in a remote campground is not more secure than my home was the night I and my family had our assumptions adjusted the hard way. So I would really appreciate it if people who hate the very thought of guns, or who are unconcerned about their own self-preservation, would kindly not deny me my right to it should the worst happen again.

This is an issue that has been manufactured by the NRA flexing its election-year muscle. There is no overwhelming public outcry for guns in parks. They are among the safest places in America. If someone doesn't feel safe without his/her concealed weapon, go to the public lands in our nation where carrying is permitted. National Park Service areas are special places; that's why Congress added them to the National Park System. Special rules apply there. Transporting weapons in a secure, not-readily-accessible manner is one of them.

Rick Smith

Rick, what I find most amazing is all across this country when this issue of government (that would be the Interior Department also) violating the people's Second Amendment Rights, it appears that the public is overwhelmingly in support of them to NOT do it. More and more often I randomly find these BLOGS/COMMENTS and articles, and in this case, and in this article, by an author who opposes the changes in the NPS gun regulations. Don't you find that interesting?

Maybe that's why the NRA is so vigilante? Maybe it's because they really do represent the people, and want to make sure any government, that we the people create, try not to dictate to us as to what we need?

Congress has set aside all public land for the people to enjoy. Each jurisdiction has different mandates. None of them (mandates) ever suggested that they become all too powerful to regulate the Constitution. The mere idea of an elite few, to suggest that we "good sheep" need to be protected by them is unacceptable dictatorship tendencies.

Scott Woodruff

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