Friday, March 28, 2008

Guns and National Parks

There is a discussion going on nationally about allowing people to carry firearms in National Parks. It started when members of Congress asked the Secretary of the Interior, which manages the national parks, to review the policy, see letter (PDF). The original policy, implemented in the 1930's to answer potential wildlife poaching in parks, outlawed fireams. It was revised in 1983 to allow them if they are properly stored and transported either secured and inaccessible or inoperable.

Now the Secretary wants to allow people to simply carry them whenever and wherever they want inside any national park, perhaps with some restrictions for national security, such as Washington DC or similar situations or circumstances. The Tacoma News Tribune has a recent article on this for Mt. Rainier NP. It's clearly a divisive issue.

The guns rights advocates have a good point that it is the exercise of the Second Amendment. But that reason makes the false assumption that all people who carry firearms are competent to carry and use them and would only for personal defense. And we know from the many crime statistics that's not close to the reality and truth. Mt. Rainier has had only 3 crimes involving guns since 1978, so the dangers for having them for protections is untenable.

What is important, something the gun rights advocates fail to recognize, understand and accept, is that it's about the public rights, as all citizens, to feel safe and secure in the national parks. No one doubts there are some parks where law enforcement personnel routinely need to carry firearms and even wear chest protectors, and all parks where it's a need for some situations where visitors and employees lives are concerned.

But, in my view, there is no reason for any non-NPS employee to have or carry a firearm in Mt. Rainier NP. And where there may be the need in some parks, no one has provided good reasons or evidence it's needed in Mt. Rainier NP. And quite the opposite, it, in my view, can only lead to visitors and employees feeling less safe and secure as they don't know who is or is not carrying a firearm and may be a danger to them.

This is especially important in the backcountry areas where hikers would have to be worried if anyone they meet is carrying a firearm and be a threat to them. Any danger from wildlife has and still can be dealt with using conventional methods as has been shown with so few attacks by wildlife on hikers. And the last thing everyone wants is people using the backcountry for firearm practice.

So, if you plan to visit a National Park this coming year, you should express your concern about changing this policy. We all want visitors, and especially families and international visitors, to know national parks are a safe place to enjoy, without the fear of anyone carrying a firearm. This is not a Second Amendment issue, but one about the safety and security of everyone.

Let's keep National Parks Firearm Free Places

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