Monday, March 10, 2008

JMO - Guns in National Parks

I read editorial in the Tacoma New tribune about guns in National Parks. There is a rider on a bill in Congress to remove the ban to carry guns in National Parks, where the rule currently is that guns must be empty (rounds) and stored so no one can gain access to them while in the National Park. This was an easement in 1983 of the original outright ban in 1936 when Congress wanted to curb poaching in National Parks.

Now the NRA has convinced members of Congress to reverse this rule and if that doesn't work, the Secretary of the Interior Department, who oversees the National Park, wants to use the rule process. The rule would require National Parks to follow existing state laws for carry permits. This is blatant political pressure by the NRA without any justification for changing the existing rules, and will do more harm to backcountry rangers and any hiker in the backcountry.

And I am one of them. The last thing I want is hiking or photographing miles from the trailhead thinking someone with a firearm could easily rob, injure and even kill me and no one would know until I was found, if ever. That's scary. That would make people the most dangerous animal in National Parks than any other species, even bears, wild cats, or whatever.

The proponents for the change argue the National Parks should have uniform rules which follows the states which have laws for carry permits and allow guns in parks, but this argument is backwards because it's a National Park, not a state or local park, and the uniform rule should be a national standard one for every Park, not a hodgepodge of state(s) laws. All Natonal Park should be regulated and administered with the same standard.

Right now rangers can carry and use firearms when and where there is clear evidence of criminal activity, and they know anyone displaying a gun can and will be arrested and their gun seized. The law enforcement rangers have to go through an intensive and thorough training program to know how to use the firearm and the legal application of a firearm. There has never been a case of a ranger misusing this power or his firearm.

But adding people carrying firearms is more dangerous. We know the proliferation of guns in the US, it's out of hand, but allowing people to carry them in National Parks is too much. While the proponents are arguing it would allow citizens to protect themselves, we know that there is rarely a need for that, and most of the cases will be criminals and people who just want to use the backcountry for target practice.

In addition it would make each National Park subject to the firearms laws of each state(s) requiring rangers to know all the local, state and federal laws when enforcing the laws in the National Parks as well as learning to decide who is legally carrying a firearm and who is not. This is unworkable. The crimes by people and attacks by animals statistics doesn't support the need for the right to carry firearms.

The last thing I want is hiking and photographing in Mt. Rainier National Park and have to keep an eye out for everyone because they might be carrying a weapon and decide I'm fair game.

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