Monday, July 14, 2008

No Guns in NP's

Despite an overwhelming outcry from Department of Interior senior career managers within the National Park Service (NPS) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and from retired NPS Park Superintendents, the Secretary of the Interior is continuing his effort at the behest and on behalf of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to allow concealed and loaded firearms in National Parks (NP) an Wildlife Refuges (WR).

The Secretary and his staff are doing this in the disguise of a perceived but imaginary threat on people in NP's and WR's and the percieved but imaginary infringement on the freedoms of citizens' "right to bear arms" anywhere in federally owned lands, with the only exception as identified by specific regulations, which are rare. It's a sham on the public to be safe in NP's and WR's, and would very easily make it worse.

The rule change, published in the Federal Register, written as to appear innocuous unless one reads through it. It states,

"A person may possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded, and operable firearms within a national park area in the same manner, and to the same extent, that a person may lawfully possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded and operable firearms in any state park, or any similar unit of state land, in the state in which the federal park, or that portion thereof, is located, provided that such possession, carrying and transporting otherwise complies with applicable federal and state law."

In additon some gunowner groups are pushing its membership through the public comments to revise the rule removing the word "concealed", allowing everyone to have and carry a weapon in a NP and WR, in public view (not concealed). The public comments are infected with the same response no common person would right let alone many writing the exact same comment. Clearly the public comment section just got spammed.

That's it, wrapped in nearly two pages of political rhetoric about allowing state laws for gun ownership to govern managment and use of federal lands. And while it argues this applies to US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands and is only consolidating federal rules with those adhering to state laws, it's a ruse to equate those lands with NP's and WR's, which are managed under different policies and for different purposes.

And this proposal has the backing of a small number of Senators who favor the NRA's position on the total freedom of individuals to own firearms and take them anywhere for their personal safety without regard for the safety of everyone else. They're arguing individual rights trump the rights of all of us as a society, country and nation. It's not about the right to carry guns, but the right of everyone to be safe from guns.

This would create the risk of anyone visiting a NP or WR to realize that there will be people anywhere they go that may, and likely will, have a firearm on their person or in the backpack. And for what purpose would anyone do that except to show they can? The risk of needing a firearm in a NP or WR is lower than being hit by lightning, and where the risk is assessed to need a firearms, NP and WR rangers are trained and licenses to carry and use one.

We don't need vigilantism in NP and WR. We don't need to generate fear of other people in NP's and WR's of someone having a loaded firearm. We don't need to put NP and WR rangers at risk for that reason too, not knowing if they stop and inquire with visitors they can, and maybe will, have a loaded firearm ready at hand. Do we want the rangers treating every visitor as a suspect for carrying a loaded firearm? Or worse, treating everyone as suspects instead of visitors? Or starting conversations with, "First, do you have a gun in your possession or are you carrying a weapon right now?"

This is what it boils down to, your safety to visit and enjoy our NP's and WR's and the rights of those who feel the guns belong everywhere and are willing to risk everyone else's life for that behavior. I make no bones about the fact I want to visit, hike and photograph in Mt. Rainier NP without the fear someone else on the trails and especially in the backcountry will have a gun, and the fear they could, and likely will, use it.

It's a very simple argument that federal lands, especially National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, shouldn't be the province or under the jurisdiction of individual states. It's our land for the benefit of all of us and all the visitors to enjoy their visit without the fear of people with guns.

The window for public comment has been extended to August 8, 2008, see the Web page for additional information for additional information and the Web page for your comment.

So, for the sake of the visitors' and their families and ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable visit to NP's and for the sake of the National Park employees, concessionaire employees and volunteers who work in the Parks.

Let's keep National Parks Firearm Free Places

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