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Former National Park Service Directors Urge Interior Secretary To Keep Guns Out of Parks


Seven former National Park Service directors have written Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne with a request that he not change current gun regulations in the national park system.

If you were Interior secretary, how would you respond if seven former National Park Service directors lobbied you on an issue? In the case at hand, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is being urged not to allow national park visitors to carry weapons.

The seven former directors today sent a letter (attached below) to Secretary Kempthorne in which they argue that the current regulations, which allow guns to be transported through parks if they're unloaded and stowed out of reach, are reasonable and should be continued.

The National Rifle Association disagrees, and has succeeded in getting the Interior secretary to rethink those regulations, which, somewhat ironically, were adopted by the Reagan administration. A much earlier version of the regulation was established in 1936 to prevent the poaching of wildlife, and was included in the Park Service’s first general regulations adopted after the creation of the agency in 1916.

"Informing visitors as they enter a park that their guns must be unloaded and stowed away puts them on notice that they are entering a special place where wildlife are protected and the environment is respected both for the visitor’s enjoyment and the enjoyment of others," reads the former directors' letter. "While most gun owners are indeed law-abiding citizens, failure to comply with this minimal requirement can be a signal to rangers that something is wrong. Removing that simple point of reference would seriously impair park rangers’ ability to protect people and resources, and if necessary manage crowds.

Signing the letter were former NPS directors Ronald Walker (1973-75), Gary Everhardt (1975-1977), George Hartzog (1964-1972), James Ridenour (1989-1993), Roger Kennedy (1993-1997), Robert Stanton (1997-2001), and Fran Mainella (2001-2006).

A similar position already has been voiced by the National Parks Conservation Association, the Association of National Park Rangers, the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Former Director Mainella, who served during the early years of the current Bush administration, believes "it is critical to leave the current regulations in place if we want the best protection for our resources, visitors, employees and volunteers."

In November, current Park Service Director Mary Bomar told U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, that she believes the current regulations "provide necessary and consistent enforcement parameters throughout the national park system."

In December of 2007 and then again in February of 2008, Secretary Kempthorne received two separate letters orchestrated by the NRA and signed by multiple U.S. senators asking that he re-open the firearm regulations for national parks and national refuges and allow for state firearms laws to be applied instead. The letters misstate current law, erroneously stating that firearms are prohibited in national parks. As a follow-up to the senators’ letter to Secretary Kempthorne, Senator Tom Coburn, R-OK, filed an amendment and later introduced a freestanding bill that would prevent the Secretary from enforcing current firearm regulations for the parks.

“Our national parks are some of the safest places in the world-in fact, the probability of becoming a victim of a violent crime in a national park is less than being struck by lightening during one’s lifetime,” said Bryan Faehner, former park ranger and legislative representative for the NPCA. “NRA politicking must not be allowed to trump the limited and reasonable regulations that have proven effective against combating poaching and keeping our parks safe for families.”


This site again avoids the Constitutional issue. As an anonymous commentor has already voiced, if you don't want people to carry loaded arms on federal land, work on amending the Constitution. Red herring arguments, like safety or necessity, ignore the 2nd Amendment. Why are citizens outraged when the NPS wants to limit the 1st Amendment's free speech protections on the National Mall to a "pit" to protect grass, but then embrace the NPS when it violates the 2nd Amendment to supposedly protect deer? Poachers will continue to ignore regulations and poach; meanwhile, law-abiding citizens are denied their Constitutional rights.

Ranger Tyler, how is the constitutional issue being avoided? Doesn't the Constitution provide for the establishment of laws, and isn't the current regulation a law? Just as it's reasonable to have laws that impact First Amendment rights (You can't incite a riot or yell "fire" in a theater without being arrested in most states or libel/slander someone without facing the consequences), why is it so outrageous to have reasonable laws that involve the 2nd Amendment?

If you want to argue constitutional issues, what about states that currently deny concealed carry or have tighter restrictions than the NRA would approve? After all, under the NRA's current drive, they want national park gun laws to mirror those of the states in which the parks are located. So even if the current regulations are changed to adopt those guidelines, unless you live in California and have a California-issued CCW permit you won't be able to carry in Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Death Valley or other NPS units there as that state doesn't recognize other states' CCW permits.

Of course, this all likely will be moot after the Supreme Court rules on the D.C. gun case.....

Well said, Kurt. Let's hope the NRA isn't able to push guns into our treasured national parks. The NRA is trying to create a society where gun-owners' rights trump the rights of all other Americans. The gun lobby apparently doesn't care if this results in more gun violence - we are told that is not even a consideration. We need groups like yours to stand tall and affirm that public safety isn't only a necessity, it's a basic component of "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" mentioned in our Declaration of Independence. Thank you for your efforts.

There is no absolute in any law. If we want to take the 2nd Amendment argument to legal extremes, we would be encouraging children to bring guns to school, and everyone else to carry weapons into government buildings, bars, etc. But this is outlandish, and the law clearly prohibits these actions, just as it prohibits loaded weapons in national parks. To most "law abiding citizens," this seems reasonable. Others, of course feel compelled to carry a gun at home, at work, in the car, to the baseball game (oh wait, we can't take guns there, either—imagine what could happen if you were rooting for the wrong team!), to the bathroom, and everywhere else. Maybe they fear the entire world. In any case, the laws of this great nation place clear limits on the right to bear arms. And personally, I'm not as worried about poachers in our national parks as I am about gun-toting, "law abiding citizens" who, feeling secure in being miles from civilization, decide to take a few pot shots at their fellow park-goers.

With permission, I quote "Anonymous" who said it much better than I can:

I'm afraid ignorance of our Constitutional rights and their continued erosion by both liberals and conservatives because of personal prejudices are a ticking time bomb. Each has foisted constitutional abuses on the American people. Conservatives are guilty of abusing the Commerce Clause to support the war on drugs and liberals have introduced various gun bans that are clearly un-Constitutional. These represent the slowly warming water that will ultimately boil us to death.

I think it was said best by one of our brightest founding fathers.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

American's need to grow a thicker hide and stop looking to government to solve our problems, because we all know they create more problems than they solve.

Even with the 2nd amendment, we still restrict the use of firearms in many places including airports, public buildings, schools, etc. The parks are just another area that needs this protection.

When is enough ever enough for the NRA lunatics? I have hunted in the past, I support the right to hunt, and still own a gun for personal safety in my home, so I'm not opposed to the right to own firearms - I'd be upset if I lost that freedom. But the NRA and their supporters are so extreme in their positions it's just sickening. Who in the hell needs an assault rifle? Why not allow them in National Parks too? It seems there's no limit to the ridiculous justifications they push. The analogy another reply offered was, to my mind, very realistic.

Guns have no place in schools, government buildings, airports etc. and the same is true of national parks. But the NRA never rests in its tireless and senseless assault on common sense - what are these people thinking? And it's no surprise that this appalling administration would actually consider this ridiculous proposition. We can only hope the remaining 10 months of their insanity won't result in WW3. But then we'd all need assault rifles, right? It would be good for business.

It's good to see that so many people haven't read the proposed legislation again. This "rule change" would only allow those people who YOUR STATE has already determined have passed the necessary courses in order to carry a weapon on their person. The constitution clearly says they should be able to do this without a course, class, test, written deed, or any other joke of a legislative permission. I don't quite understand how we can miss the phrasing "SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED". Did we miss something in the understanding of infringed? NO PART SHALL BE TAKEN AWAY. While you want to paint the NRA as a bunch of lunatics, its members contribute more money to charity, and environmental issues than green peace. You continue to look at what their efforts are as a point of insanity. The reality is we all have to live together. That means we are literally walking among criminals and bad people as well as good people. You are willing to look at the extreme unlikliness that there will be any sort of attack or need for a weapon, but will turn the same argument the other way when we want to carry the guns we already carry among you. Please quote me your statistics about NRA members? Please show me where legally obtained firearms are more likely to kill than alcohol? Why are we not banning alcohol? What about classic automobiles? (They don't have airbags, and some no shoulder belts) What about the Dr. who killed my brother through malpractice? Surely he should be banned. (What do you mean from what? Life...he killed someone and had he not existed my brother still would)

Don' t be ignorant. Guns are a tool for saving lives more than they are for losing lives. The 2nd ammendment was put in place for one purpose and one person (not to ensure we can shoot deer, ducks, or anything else). It's purpose is literally to protect YOU from YOUR government. The awesome part is we still live in a government where we feel we can make change without violence. Mexicans are fortunate enough that they can leave a country full of corruption and void of opportunity. They are so gratefuly for this America we have. They don't have the permission to own weapons to compete with their own government (Just ask the gorilla groups who are fighting against their corruption). Want more examples? (Check the Philippines). We don't really either. If the evolution of all government is to pass new laws then we eventually give up all freedoms. Where in the history of the world has a people ever taken back their freedom without bloodshed? For the record I dont' belive it'll be in my lifetime or my kids. I just want to had down a country where the people rule and the politicians work for them.

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