Defendants’ views changed. On December 14, 2007, forty-seven United States Senators
wrote to the Secretary of the Interior asking to have these restrictions lifted. 73 Fed. Reg. 74,966,
74,967 (Dec. 10, 2008). Four additional United States Senators made a similar request on
February 11, 2008. Id.6 The DOI “chose to address this issue” on April 30, 2008, by proposing a
new rule to allow persons to possess concealed, loaded, and operable firearms in national parks
and wildlife refuges to the extent permitted in any state park or wildlife refuge in the state in which the federal park or wildlife refuge was located:
an individual will be able to possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded, and
operable firearms within a [national park or wildlife refuge] 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 state wildlife refuge]
in the state in which the [national park or wildlife refuge], or that portion thereof,
73 Fed. Reg. 23,388 (Apr. 30, 2008). The DOI explained that the purpose of this proposed rule
was to better respect the rights of states, forty-eight of which “provide for the possession of
concealed firearms by their citizens,” a larger number than when the previous regulations were
promulgated. Id. Accordingly, the DOI explained that the regulations “should be amended to
defer to this development in State law.” Id. at 23,389.
Conspicuous by its absence, however, was any indication that the previously-recognized
“public safety” and “protection of natural resources” concerns had been alleviated over time. Id.
Instead, the DOI simply acknowledged “its obligations under NEPA to assess the impact of any
Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, health, and safety,”
and noted that it was “currently working to determine the appropriate level of NEPA assessment
and documentation that will be required for promulgation of this regulation.” Id. at 23,390.
The proposed rule requested public comments until June 30, 2008, a date that was later
extended by an additional thirty days. 73 Fed. Reg. at 74,967. In total, the DOI received
approximately 125,000 public comments on the proposed rule. Id. Significantly–and as
described in greater detail below–many of the comments suggested that allowing persons to
possess concealed, loaded, and operative firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges would
result in the use of those firearms, particularly for self-defense. See, e.g., A.R. 1927 (“I  go back packing and would like to be able to carr[ry] my fire arm [sic] with me for possible wild
animal attack”); A.R. 5609 (“for those of us who have conceal[ed] carry permits, we carry
[firearms] for the protection of our families and self from those who would do us harm. We are
not looking to shoot anyone unless we are forced to in order to protect our family”). The DOI
formed a working group to analyze these comments and to provide responses in the Final Rule.
73 Fed. Reg. at 74,968-74,970.