Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rights of NPS Rangers

It's time we stood up for the rights of the National Park Service rangers who do the work in our NP's to provide the best and safest experience for all visitors. And those right include not only the right to a safe and secure visit, but more so the rights of the rangers to also work in a safe and secure environment when interacting with visitors.

We know rangers are at risk and we know rangers risk their lives for us during our visit. We saw evidence of that with the death of ranger Margaret Anderson in Mt. Rainier NP this last weekend (1/1/12) when she used her vehicle to block the highway a half mile from Paradise with 125 visitors and many staff and rangers from someone with an arsenal of weapons heading there.

She was shot before she got out of her vehicle and the man fled into the woods where he died overnight from hypothermia. This was the first death in the line of duty from guns in the NP's history, less than two years after the law allowing guns to be openly carried or displayed in NP's.

The law would not have prevented this event but it might have changed the event itself with the response of the rangers if guns were banned and the man was treated as a threat. This we won't know but banning guns not only protects visitors, it protects NPS rangers and staff. This is true at the visitor facilities but more so in the backcountry where someone with a gun would be less likely to be discovered and their actions with guns not discovered for some time.

Banning guns makes sense because it protects the NP's and protects all the people, visitors and employees, when they're in the NP. As the law is now, you can only carry a weapon in the NP. You can never remove it or use, even in self defense from attack by a person or an animal. That's the law. So what does a gun in a NP prove, other than you can carry it there?

Nothing. Other than showing your willfull disregard for others and their safety and security in a public place. And I have yet to hear from, read about or meet anyone who actually carried a gun in the backcountry and it saved lives. And even if it did once or so, all the times they didn't need it? So why carry it? Why make others worry if they know you have it?

Why raise the level of concern with others or with a ranger? When this law was passed in 2009 and went into effect February 2010 I knew and said then this would result in the death of a NPS ranger from someone with a gun. Guns don't protect people, they only provide the opportunity for someone to injury or kill someone. We have seen that now.

So Congress and the President, how about it? Restore the Reagan era law on guns in NP's immediately. The Republicans stuck the change in the Credit Card Reform Act because they knew it would pass and not be vetoed by the President, so the Democrats can stick the repeal in a bill which will do the same.

Pass the law and put the ban in effect immediately. It's easy to do, NP's just post the old signs at entrances and ask visitor if they have guns, and if so, please secure under the rules. If they don't they will be cited and their gun(s) confiscated. Very simple and easy to do. And all of us visitors feel safer and all the rangers can treat people with guns as threats if they don't comply with the law.

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