Sunday, February 5, 2012

Missing the Point

Apparently gun advocates can't seem to understand people making the point about the killing of a NPS ranger in Mt. Rainier NP this last January 1st. The argument that some have put forth the thought returning to the Reagan era rules about guns in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges would not have prevented the gunman from his flight through the mandatory check and his shooting of the NPS ranger.

While they continually to make the point that anyone carrying a handgun openly or concealled with a permit is a Second Amendment right and "might" have helped, they forget that's all you can do in the NP or WR, carry it. Nothing else. You can not remove it from the holster. You can not use it in any manner, even in self-defense of another person or yourself, like in this situation. You can not carry it in a backpack to protect yourself in the backcountry unless you have a permit.

What the law would do is give the NPS rangers reason to stop anyone openly displaying weapon(s) in their vehicle and ask anyone they suspect has weapon if they have them, and if necessary, verify they are properly unloaded and then secured and locked in their vehicle. It also would have problaby given the rangers reasonable suspicion anyone avoiding stops or checks would have weapons, and treat them accordingly.

What we know is that none of the NPS rangers were armed that day because they had good reason not to be armed. Arguing to arm rangers just because isn't a reason to say it would have helped. The ranger was shot and killed sitting in her vehicle, so her carrying any weapon would not have prevented the situation.

She followed protocols to initiate a stop to check the driver for chains. The rangers chasing the gunman had no reason to suspect he had a considerable stash of weapons and ammunition until they heard gunshots, who by all reason, intended to go to Paradise where all the 100-plus visitors and 25+ other staff were in or in the vicinity of the visitors center.

What people who make the argument guns first don't seem to grasp that the NPS can't enforce such policy and practice. They now treat visitors with suspicion, but only as a threat if it's obvious they have weapons. Otherwise, they can't use them. And neither can any visitor carrying a weapon.

And even if they had, do you think they would have had a chance against this gunmann trained and ready to shoot and kill anyone in his vicinity? They wouldn't have until the gunman had killed or injured many of the visitors, staff and rangers. And armed visitors would have only added to the risk to others and rangers who wouldn't know who are the threats.

We saw what armed citizens could have done at the Tucson shooting when one legally armed man almost shot the two people wresting the gun from the actual shooter. He said later he decided not to use his weapon because he didn't know who to shoot. Imagine that at Mt. Rainier, armed citizens firing weapons and the NPS trying to sort out who's the gunman.

Imagine being a ranger trying to discern who to shoot at and still protect unarmed visitors. Imagine the public outcry if they shot a visitor in a case of mistaken identity. Blame the rangers would be the outcry, when it should be the blame the armed visitors acting recklessly and endangering other visitors. Rangers are trained for these situation, the vast majority of armed citizens aren't.

The reason to return to the Reagan rules is for the safety and security of all the visitors, the contract and NPS staff and the NPS rangers, not the right of a few who could care less about others and just their absurb right to needless and potentially harmful self-expression with weapons.

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