As a young police officer, I did lots of hiking at US National Parks. I always debated whether or not to violate gun bans at the parks and sneak my firearm onto federal property. Reluctantly and knowing my luck, I decided that I would be more likely to be found in violation of the law versus encountering a situation where I actually needed the gun. My colleagues thought I was nuts going unarmed, but fortunately nothing ever happened.
You may have seen this week that President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that would allow visitors to US National Parks to carry concealed firearms. These restrictions have been in place since the Reagan years, and as with anything gun-related, it has been hotly debated.
Conservative commentator S.E. Cupp had this to say about the issue:
…First, what the bill doesn’t do. It doesn’t make hunting in national parks legal, so everyone can stop worrying that Gomer and Bubba are going to single-handedly deplete the bighorn sheep population in Yosemite. Hunting in most national parks is already prohibited, but not by law.In my opinion, the most persuasive argument with the public concerning anti-gun laws is that they create an environment that no one will have firearms except authorities. Certainly, this idea is debatable, but the rationale for gun bans make even less sense at national parks in the US.
Individual park superintendents determine hunting regulations, so those who’ve banned hunting in their parks will likely keep it that way.
It also doesn’t mean we can expect more violence at the Grand Canyon. The expansion of Right-to-Carry has historically had an overwhelmingly positive and vitiating effect on violence. As the number of Right-to-Carry states has increased – there are now 40 – the nation’s murder and violent crime rates have decreased.
And it doesn’t mean we should prepare for a rush on assault weapons. The bill doesn’t have anything to do with buying guns, nor does it make it easier to buy guns…
Now for what it does do. First, it corrects a significant restriction on 2nd Amendment rights, which shouldn’t apply everywhere except in our national parks. — The idea that I can protect myself from predators in suburban Florida but not in the wilderness is absurd.
Furthermore, it provides some much-needed uniformity to federal land restrictions, which are made unnecessarily complicated by patchwork regulations and conflicting bureaucratic rules. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, for example, allows the carrying of firearms, but the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do not…
It will also allow the hunter, on private land on the edge of the national park, to stalk his kill past the gates without getting arrested for unlawful possession.
And it will allow a couple hikers to legally defend themselves in the wild –- against the crazy escaped convict or the charging grizzly…
In many of these parks, visitors can quickly find themselves isolated—-with no police or even a method to contact someone else if the need arises. As a result, each individual has to rely on his/her own abilities to survive if danger is encountered--making guns illegal there offers affords less protection to visitors.
Allowing concealed weapons in a National Park simply allows those visitors who want to go armed one other reasonable option in a life and death situation.
If I had seen the horrific stories on hikers who had fatal encounters with bears at parks like Christine Courtney in British Columbia, as well as graduate mapping student Alyssa Heberton-Morimoto who was murdered by a felon in a Colorado national park, I may have changed my mind, went armed on my visits back then, and just risked being caught.