Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guns in NP's

Several people have told me that the events in Mt. Rainier NP have nothing to do with the law allowing open carry or display of guns in NP's. They say the two are not connected. Not so fast. Everything is connected. And they said the gunman wanted to hide from the law after being called a "person of interest" in the shooting of four people in south Seattle. Not so fast there either. Why?

For one, if he planned to get into the backcountry and hide for a few days or longer, and as experienced survivalist, he could have easily done that in the vast areas in and around Mt. Rainier NP. Not by going to Paradise. But it raises the question he didn't bring a lot of clothes or supplies to hide in the backcountry, or at least has been reported. He bought a small arsenal of weapons.

And if he wanted to get away from people to hide, why was he going to Paradise where there was people and armed NPS law enforcement officers? And why did he pass up several good trailheads to hike into the backcountry and not be found for days if not weeks, where there was less than 2 ft of snow and in many areas little or now snow. Perfect for travelling and hiding out.

Yet he travelled to the 5,400 foot elevation near or above treeline with over 5 feet of snow everywhere, without bringing snow shoes. Where was he going to hide when winter is just getting started, there are no trails, there is no food and airborne infrared cameras will easily find you. And experienced winter travellers and law enforcement officers can and would easily track you.

Why head to a place full of people with a small arsenal of weapons when you want to get away from people to hide?

And while the gun ban would have little effect on these events, it might or would have changed how the NPS rangers reacted to him from the minute he entered the NP. They could have asked him about guns at the entrance, noting any suspicions. They could have assumed more than he blew by the chain checkpoint because he didn't have chains. They could have assumed he was armed and had more than two rangers chase or intercept him.

What he thought and what he planned will never be known. He died of hypothermia overnight. We'll know the details over time as the FBI and NPS investigate him and the events, and what he brought to the NP. I suspect, however, it will still be unknown since he suffered from PTSD and may have had mental issues which distorted his thinking. But all that said, it still raises the question why.

The why he decided to go to Paradise with a small arsenal of weapons. Folks can argue it wasn't his goal or intent, but logic and common sense doesn't bear eliminating possibilites, and that one NPS ranger died in the line of duty saving a lot of other people when she blocked the highway making the gunman stop just a half mile short of his destination.

The why the law allowing guns in NP's isn't connected to this event when it was all about guns in this NP. The law banning guns in NP's wouldn't have prevented or stopped him. It could have changed the response by the NPS assuming possibly being armed and not just not having chains.

The first will never be answered. The second can answered by restoring the ban on openly carrying (or concealed with a permit) and displaying weapons in a National Park. We can restore the rights of all the visitors by requiring all guns be unloaded and be secured and locked in vehicles out of harms way. And anyway with a gun can be treated as a threat by the NPS.

That's not only fair, it's good and right for all of us who visit NP's. This event more than proved the point that the two-year old law has one death in the NP when the previous law had none for nearly 30 years and none in the history of the NP going back to 1899. I'd rather be safe knowing no one has a gun than everyone can have a gun. I'd rather think no one has a gun than the fear anyone can have one.

I'd rather hope for the best than fear the worst. Guns don't protect us from the fears or the worst, it only adds to the fear of others hoping someone with a gun doesn't act on their fears against innocent or wrong people. No guns assures the possibility. Guns only assure fear. Which would you rather live by and think when visiting a NP?

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