September 29th, 2008 11:23 PM
Article: Senate Panel Votes to Allow Loaded Guns in National Parks
National Parks Examiner: Senate Panel Votes to Allow Loaded Guns in National Parks
Slipping in unnoticed under the roar of this month’s financial crises and ongoing presidential election coverage, a Senate panel voted on September 11 to allow visitors to carry loaded guns into America’s national parks.
What’s the rationale for this? According to the bill's description, the purpose of this bill is "to protect innocent Americans from violent crime in national parks.”
Have we missed the news of a rampant crime spree in our parks?
Not according to statistics provided by the National Park Service. Here are the facts:
In 2007, a total of 275.6 million people made recreational visits to the 391 national parks—and another 163.8 million visited for non-recreational purposes—but only six were victims of homicides. Three more sets of human remains were discovered in the parks, but the dates and nature of the deaths are not stated. That’s nine violent deaths, out of 439.4 million people. Not a city in America can claim that kind of safety record.
Of the six homicides, one actually took place 30 years ago, but was discovered in 2007 and the killer confessed. In virtually all of the cases, it appears that the victim knew his or her killer personally. One victim was pushed off a cliff, while another drove himself and his girlfriend off a cliff in Glen Canyon. A gun was involved in only one of the crimes—a shooting over a drug debt.
Other violent crimes did take place in the parks: In 2007, the entire National Park System saw 49 attempted or committed rapes, 57 robberies involving a weapon, and two kidnappings. While there were nearly 3,000 cases of larceny or theft, these did not involve attacks on visitors.
In all instances except for rape, these figures are actually lower than the 2006 statistics.
If anything, crime has decreased in the national parks, and no one but the law enforcement rangers are carrying guns as protection.
So why, exactly, must we protect ourselves by carrying loaded weapons in some of the safest places in America?
Until now, most national parks have permitted guns to be carried through the parks, as long as they are safely stored in a car and are not loaded. Essentially, the law on the books allows transportation of guns, but no use in the parks. Hunting is not permitted in any national park, although many national recreation areas and wildlife refuges do allow (or even encourage) hunting on their grounds.
More than 50 senators are in favor of this change in national park regulations, and the National Rifle Association has made it a major plank in its 2008 platform. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne himself supports this regulatory change, with a caveat: The gun law should be decided based on each state’s existing laws. In essence, if a state allows guns in its state parks, it should allow them in its national parks as well. If the state has a no-gun law in its parks, the national parks in that state also would not permit loaded guns.
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has taken a strong stand to prevent the passage of this bill (S.2619 and H.R. 5434) in both the House and the Senate. “These bills falsely claim that guns are not allowed in national parks,” NPCA’s website notes. “This is not the case. The National Park Service’s policy does not allow loaded, concealed weapons in national parks. This is a reasonable policy.”
Let’s open the floor for discussion on this issue. Here are my questions:
1. Do you feel unsafe when you visit national parks—and if so, why?
2. Will you feel safer if you know that some visitors are carrying loaded guns (or if you carry one yourself)?
I’ll look forward to your comments.
Topics: National Park , guns
ShareThis Subscribe Feed Discuss / Read 9 Comments:
Alan Rose: A few problems with your train of thought.
1. You seem to infer that guns should be banned where ever some committee deems the area to be safe. Who gets to be on this committee? How do you define safe?
2. Since at least a few park visitors are murdered, raped or robbed, I submit that National Parks are not safe. Safe parks would have no crime. I believe that one murder is just as notable as one hundred.
3. When I am in a National Park, alone in the wilderness as it were, and by chance become a victim of assault, who will come to my cry for help? Who will call 911? Will my assailant take a time out and allow me to unlock and load my weapon?
4. Please define "random violence."
5. Tell us about the swarms of concealed handgun permit holders who have "gone postal." You may find a handful. You will also find that permittees overall have a criminality rate markedly lower than the general population. Many practice shooting more than the police, who usually qualify once or twice a year, and they often have a better hit ratio in actual gunfights.
6. I have had to draw my weapon during an assault. No shots were fired. I may actually be alive today because I was able to defend myself. No one is going to take that right away. I look forward to visiting the National Parks, once I can do so without locking up my safety. Until then, this American is not welcome, and that's a shame.
September 29, 10:59 PM
Loden B. Kwik: Of course you're safer with a gun; that's why cops carry them.
September 22, 6:49 PM
Dave Y: The National Park Service never had the authority to usurp the right of the citizens to bear arms for self defense.
That is the entire premise behind the effort to repeal the National Parks ban on self defense currently under review at the Department of the Interior and US Senate. Randi Minetor proclaimed that there is no rampant crime in National Parks, but that's just parroting the misleading half-truths of Karen Taylor-Goodrich and others at the National Park Service. Unfortunately, many people fall for this without a critical examination and "parrot" the public relations statements of NPS disguising it as reporting, or editorializing. Let's examine the "Parks are Safe" half truth.
According to NPS, they administer 79 million acres with another 5.5 million not under federal control. Using the former figure, if you combined all the acreage of NPS land you would have an area of 123,437.5 square miles, or equivalent to a ranking of 5th among the states, just larger than New Mexico, but smaller than Montana. The NPS likes to throw out figures using this land management but fails to mention that there are few, if any full time NPS "residents". There are no "inner city" issues to contend with. So, while on the surface it appears that 49 reported attempted rapes isn't too bad for 123.4 thousand square miles, you have to consider that there is essentially no population density in the National Parks per se. In fact, when you consider how sparse the population of the Parks is, their crime rate is significantly higher than most states. NPS tries to torture these numbers enough so that they will say what NPS wants. Unfortunately when you dig deeper into the figures, you realize that NPS, and the press who parrot these statistics as justification for not allowing citizens to defend themselves in National Parks are trying to pull a fast one on all of us.
NPS supporters fail to mention what the average response time to a 911 emergency is in a typical National Park. It isn't fast. Yes, if you're one of the unlucky 49 who are the victim of one of the attempted rapes, the act will be over and done with and your body buried before NPS rangers arrive on scene. Not a pleasant thought. Even More important though is that NPS has publicly admitted it cannot protect it's visitors on more than one occasion.
Back in 2003, a well known grass roots civil rights organization named the Virginia Citizens Defense League began work on a petition to amend the NPS weapons ban. Their petition, joined by over 4 dozen state and national organizations is currently under review at NPS and is primarily responsible for the change effort. Much of the data collected in this effort is hosted by a VCDL member at The National Park Service self defense ban repeal effort time line. Part of the petition process was to deliver copies of data to support the petition, which represented several hundred PAGES of newspaper articles, NPS Morning Reports showing violent crimes in National Parks and animal attacks. Yes, several hundred pages spanning 2 years. A great deal of these reports dealt with pot farming on NPS land. There are several parks where drug dealers have very large marijuana growing operations, sometimes guarded by the drug dealers. Another problem is border areas which happen to be National Parks or monuments.
http://bighammer.net/images/020608_NPS_permit.pdf - NPS requires persons to promise not to hold the government liable if you are hurt or killed in one of these parks. That's not a ringing endorsement for how safe National Parks are is it?
One has to ask what exactly NPCA and other NPS supporters are afraid of? It's not poaching because they neglect to tell you that poaching is still going on despite the gun ban that NPS imposes. At least according to the public comments, an overwhelming majority of comments favor NPS lifting the ban on self defense without the "Rube-Kempthorne" 'analogous state lands' restrictions. The fact is that "feeling safe" and being safe aren't necessarily the same. Lots of visitors to National Parks probably feel safe. But, if you've been raped, robbed, attached or victimized in a National Park, you probably realize that you weren't ever actually safe.
Back in 1987 a great hue and cry was raised by people who simply hate firearms and the idea that citizens should defend themselves when the state of Florida began issuing concealed handgun permits to citizens who were not disqualified. They, as the NPS supporters now do proclaimed there would be "Blood in the streets!" They lied. Not only Florida, but EVERY state which followed suit saw crime statistics get better or stay the same. Not one got worse. Despite this, the media continues to be a willing participant in this "blood in the streets" lie. It's shameful and dishonest.
The petitioners who seek to amend the NPS weapons regulations are simply trying to enable citizens to protect themselves if they need to in a National Park or Wildlife Refuge without fear of criminal prosecution. Nobody should be prosecuted for defending themselves from attack, but that is exactly what the NPS will do.
The National Park Service does not now, nor did it ever have the authority to promulgate a regulation banning firearms for self defense and effectively banning self defense. The recent US vs. Heller decision struck down a firearms ban that is almost exactly what the NPS regulation does and it is long past time for the National Park Service to revise it's regulations to better reflect the will of the people and respect the right to self defense.
September 21, 3:58 PM
Bruce Jackson: jacksonbruce at yahoo.com
It is a little used address. I will get your eamil and send it to an account I use.
There has not been a single case of a CHP holder in America shooting an innocent by stander while defending themselves.
September 21, 12:13 PM
isaac hubbard: I find this columnist disgusting for suggesting that "only" six deaths isn't enough.
How many deaths will it take for you to be satisfied?
September 21, 11:16 AM
Randi Minetor: Bruce, Tess and Art -- Thank you so much for your comments. I am glad that we're having a discussion on this issue from both sides. In the months since this issue came to the Congressional agenda, I've been fascinated by the comments on blogs and news sites following any mention of guns in the national parks: The fact is that most people who comment are in favor of the measure, which is not what I originally expected.
Bruce, you're right about the poachers -- they don't care about the law, and will bring their guns and shoot animals anyway. The anti-guns concern, I believe, is about the accidental gunshot that hits a ten-year-old hiking with his family. This does not happen in parks now, but the fear is that such an accident is more likely if people can carry loaded guns. I'd be interested in your view about this.
Thanks for the invitation to the VCDL meeting -- I'm in upstate New York, but you've made a good point; it would be interesting to talk with pro-gun organization members, and I will look for the opportunity here.
I don't have access to your e-mail addresses, so please feel free to share if you wish. Thanks again for your comments. -- Randi
September 21, 10:49 AM
Tess Ailshire: No, I don't feel unsafe in national parks. I don't feel unsafe in my children's schools. I don't feel unsafe in the Post Office, or a courthouse. If I did, I wouldn't go there.
What I do feel is more confident in my ability to protect my family if the need should arise, while I hope every day I never have to face the situation. I liken it to having a fire escape plan in my home, and practicing it, while hoping I never have to use it.
Bruce Jackson is right. A person who feels safer in an unsafe location just because he's carrying a gun probably has some growing up to do. A person who carries a gun in case a "safe" place suddenly isn't -- like Columbine, like Northern Illinois University, like McDonalds, like Lubys -- has made a conscious choice to be prepared.
I don't carry a gun to feel like a man. I carry a gun for the same reason I lock my doors, wear a seatbelt, keep a fire extinguisher handy, and own an insurance policy.
Why should I feel less safe if others may be carrying guns? Others already are, but they're the people I hope never to meet -- the ones who aren't following laws, but mean me and mine harm.
September 21, 10:18 AM
Bruce Jackson: If the law abiding having guns for self defense will increase crime then fire extinguishers increase the risk of fire....
1.) no, I do not feel unsafe. If I did I would not go with or without a gun. The gun does not authorize me to go into a place that is unsafe, it allows me to defend myself when a safe place I am in goes bad!
2.) See the answer to number 1. It is the same basic thing. I carry my gun. It affords me to defend myself and my family if things starts to go bad in the normaly safe place I am in. It does not matter what others do. My concern is for me, my family, and those in my care.
Art - come on man. The gun does not make someone a man especially since many ladies carry too. You don't get a gun to man-up, but you do get one when you grow-up and realize the world is not safe and that the police are neither required or capable of keeping you safe.
and a couple of tips for you Art...
1.)The poacher is the one dragging the dead animal.
2.)You should feel less safe already then, because the only ones this law impacts are the LAW ABIDING! The criminals already have them. Oh, and let me add they will be CONCEALED so how will you know? or are you just going to have a panic attack every time you cross paths with another mushroom picker, hiker, or those infamous all ready armed rangers?
If Randi Minetor will send you my email address from this post (sone sights filter them out so I will not bother adding it here) I would be willing to put up a c-note ($100.00)to cover your bet. The National Parks gun crimes will not increase outside of any national trending.
Oh, and my fiance would be very offended to think you believe she had to carry her .357 magnum to feel like a man when all she really wants to do is make sure her kids are safe. Remember, with 2.5 MILLION defensive uses of a firearm in this country every year, Guns SAVE Lives.
PS Randi Minetor please come to a VCDL meeting. It is a Virginia pro gun organization and since they are the ones that started this ball almost 6 years ago, you might get a good glimpse of the other side.
September 21, 9:27 AM
Art: In all actuality, I will feel less safe with guns allowed in National Parks, and I am willing to bet that crimes involving guns will INCREASE in National Parks if this bill passes. It will also make poaching on national narkland easier. If you need a gun by your side at all moments to feel like a man., you have a big problem.
September 20, 8:09 PM
"Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18
Guns Save Lives. Paramedics Save Lives. But...
Paramedics With Guns Scare People!
September 30th, 2008 01:46 AM
We shall see what happens. If unintended consequences does not appear, then the carry law in National Parks should stand.
My bias, for now, is try it and see if it works.
September 30th, 2008 03:18 PM
I think it comes down to this:
Do you think that the 112 people who were the victims of violent personal attacks would have preferred that they could have drawn a firearm to protect themselves?
Citing statistics regarding people who aren't being victimized is misleading. Ask the VICTIMS of crime not the ostriches who don't believe that it happens which is better.
September 30th, 2008 07:36 PM
Most visitors never leave their car and if they do, they visit crowded places. If you look at the trail crime instead of Old Faithful crime, I bet the rate goes through the roof. It belongs to us, not the dirt bags.
Les Baer 45
N.R.A. Patron Life Member
September 30th, 2008 08:07 PM
The real animals alone (not the human animals) make this a 'no brainer'...
The last Blood Moon Tetrad for this millennium starts in April 2014 and ends in September 2015...according to NASA.
Certified Glock Armorer
NRA Life Member[/B]
September 30th, 2008 08:56 PM
9 homicides doesn't sound like a lot unless you're one of them. The more areas concealed carry is allowed, the better.
"First gallant South Carolina nobly made the stand."
Edge of Darkness
September 30th, 2008 11:10 PM
I carry in the national forests and would like to carry in the national parks also. I have a CHL and rather like being able to protect my family and myself against any critters 2 or 4 legged. I often go into wilderness areas and backpack in some pretty remote places.
October 2nd, 2008 10:59 PM
I have never had a problem with the wildlife in the parks, a little knowledge will allow you to avoid bad situations more often then not. The two legged variety is a lot more unpredictable and dangerous. I have found myself in a bad situation twice with them, unarmed thanks to the stupid regulations. Once I was alone the second the wife was there, which made it worse. Fortunately, I was able to get out of both unharmed but it could have went bad easily. Now we carry some good quality pepper spray and a knife, not ideal but better than nothing.
October 15th, 2008 12:44 PM
When I worked for the Fed's I always carry, and now carrying with a CCL, and it's hard to remember there are places I can not legally carry.
And while some places like secure areas in airports and courthouses, are no brainers, not being allowed to carry a pistol in a National Park is just plain stupid.
As some others have stated, most citizens never travel far from there vehicle and when they do it's to visit an attraction where there are allot of people. So the stats are off, and do not reflect the citizen who like to travel far off the beaten path.
If you look at stats National Wildlife refuges or State Park I think you'll see there are
no accordance of a crime being committed by a CCL holder.
WHAT happen with the vote?
Last edited by tns0038; October 15th, 2008 at 12:45 PM.
Reason: what happen
October 15th, 2008 01:25 PM
"...bad decisions that turn out well often make heroes."
Gary D. Mitchell, A Sniper's Journey: The Truth About the Man and the Rifle, P. 103, NAL Caliber books, 2006, 1st Ed.
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