Friday, October 22, 2010

It's not about guns

I've been reading the stories, blogs and commentaries about the hiker killed by the mountain goat in the Olympic National Park (NP), and understanding the circumstances of his death, which was tragic, it doesn't give credence to the gun rights advocates to argue for the use of guns in a NP. This was the first death in the NP from an agressive goat.

And while gun rights advocates argue someone with a gun could have killed the goat and possibly saving the hiker, note the injury was so severe it was remote at best any chance of saving him, it is still illegal to withdraw and display a gun and more so it is still illegal to discharge one in a NP. And it is still illegal to shoot or kill wildlife in a NP. Both of these violations would result in fines and possible imprisonment.

The open carry law only allows that and only where appropriate under state laws. The problem I have with the gun righs advocates over this event is that it misses the point that we (hikers) are the visitors and the wildlife are the ones living there. We are invading their territory, their home if you like, and they will react accordingly. We would do no less with our home and for our loved ones.

So why are we blaming a goat for a hiker's misjudgement? We would not have argued if it was bear or mountain lion. It was goat and the NPS had issued advisories and warning in the past about agressive goats going after backpacks and threatening people, and on rare occasions, attacking people. We invaded their space. What's not to understand?

Personally I'm against guns in NP and Wilderness Areas (WA's) unless it's a clear and obvious persistent threat, as in the case of Alaska where you can get a permit or hire an armed guide for hiking there. In many places the USFS and NPS requires it for the protection of the hikers and the preservation of wildlife. Both are important to these areas.

I have no doubt there will be attacks in NP, and even Mt. Rainier NP, but they are rare enough to keep guns out of the NP and rely on hikers being aware and exercising protection measures to ensure their safety. Wildlife don't like people and will avoid us in almost every situation, until we threaten them in their territory or with their familes (eg. bear cubs).

Sometimes it's unavoidable and sometimes it's accidental. And yes a gun to ward off the wildlife might help, but that's all and there are other measure equally workable, such as noise, size, pepper spray, etc. Those are far less dangerous than guns. And to that end I will always advocate for the ban on guns in NP's and especially Mt. Rainier NP. They're unnecessary for the experience and enjoyment of being, hiking and photographing there.

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