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Park Raving Mad

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A new order lifting the ban on licensed concealed carry in national parks brings a tremendous outcry from ignorant, gun-hating “mainstream” media sources. Is anyone really surprised?


Millions of law-abiding, licensed citizens in just about every state in the nation carry concealed handguns for protection of themselves and their families. So it made perfect sense when the Bush administration recently supported a change to a Department of Interior ruling that now allows these people to carry their loaded firearms in national parks.

That is, it made perfect sense to anyone who has truly studied the issue of Right-to-Carry, rather than basing their opinion on emotions, innuendo and hyperbole.

Enter the so-called “mainstream” media, now famous for taking sides rather than objectively reporting on issues, and for repeating hysteria disseminated by gun-ban groups rather than doing a little research and finding out the truth for themselves and their audiences.

No firearms issue in the past few years—and there have been many important ones—has frustrated and irritated me quite as much as the furor that has erupted over concealed carry in national parks. Here’s why.

Records prove that Americans with Right-to-Carry licenses are among the most law-abiding citizens in our country. In fact, that’s true in every state that has passed a Right-to-Carry law in the last 20 years.

Also, those same citizens now legally carrying firearms in national parks have long been carrying their guns in a variety of public places outside the parks—places where they stood side by side with pro-gun and anti-gun citizens alike on a daily basis without those people even being aware they were armed.

You know that guy in the Wal-Mart checkout line who was heading out for a day at Yellowstone with his family? He had a concealed Glock semi-auto in a holster under his shirttail. And remember that nice lady pumping gas at the station just outside the entrance to Smoky Mountain National Park? She had a loaded .38 revolver in a special compartment in her purse.

Now those same people would be allowed to carry their firearms into the park, with no negative effect whatsoever on the gun-hating visitors to the park who despise the idea. It really shouldn’t be an issue to those who choose not to carry firearms for whatever reason.

Yet many in the mainstream media—just like back in the days when Right-to-Carry laws were first being considered—have taken on a doom-and-gloom fervor to bash the rule change as being perhaps one of the most dangerous to ever occur in this country.

“A new rule allowing people to carry loaded, concealed firearms inside national parks and wildlife refuges is a sop to the National Rifle Association that poses a needless threat to the safety and security of millions of visitors, federal staff and wildlife,” editors at the Hartford Courant wrote. “The rule change is dangerous and unjustified.”

“National parks are supposed to be sanctuaries, not only for people, but for wildlife as well,” stated an editorial in the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times. “But the possibility that the peace and tranquility of national parks will be violated has increased with the latest executive order by President Bush that will allow concealed, loaded weapons in federal parks and wildlife refuges.”

Under the headline of “Smokey The Bear Accidentally Shot,” The Enterprise of Brockton, Mass., actually published, “That headline about Smokey could appear in newspapers across the country soon. For the first time in 25 years, a new Bush administration rule will allow people to carry loaded, concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges. Will the majority of people who visit these parks feel safer because of this new ruling? What do you think?”

But the Reading (Pa.) Eagle might just have been the most ignorant of all:

“To our dismay, a new type of packer will hit the trails of the national parks in roughly half the states come January,” the Eagle stated. “While others will be content to carry food, shelter and perhaps a camera, this visitor will be packing a loaded firearm …

“A few people may feel safer with a loaded gun on their person, but many nature lovers will have the opposite reaction when visiting parks ...” the editorial continued. “Weapons create such an absolute imbalance of power that those unarmed by choice will feel more apprehensive knowing that the stranger they pass on a remote trail could be armed with a lethal weapon.”

Since Right-to-Carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding citizens in the country when outside of parks, what makes these writers think that will instantly change once permit holders enter the park gates? And since violent crime is lower in Right-to-Carry states, why do these uneducated, self-proclaimed experts think that anything different would happen inside our national parks?

Not to be outdone by the media frenzy, gun-ban groups have jumped into the fray. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly Handgun Control, Inc., which changed its name because most Americans don’t favor “gun control”) has filed suit to stop legal concealed carry in national parks. And they’ve done so under the most ridiculous of reasons: The Department of Interior did not do any research on the environmental effects of the proposal!

You see, to the Brady Campaign, Right-to-Carry permit holders like you and me are just a bunch of idiot Bubbas who (they believe) are going to terrorize other visitors and wildlife and not spare the trees and rocks, either.

Give me a break! That’s a totally ridiculous argument! Why can’t they just admit they hate self-reliant people who have chosen to be responsible for their own safety and that of their families, rather than rely on the government to take care of them 24 hours a day?

Unfortunately, some other groups feel the same way. Recently, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees filed suit in U.S. District Court to stop legal carry in the parks, citing the same reasons as the Brady Campaign. These groups are either profoundly anti-gun or they just haven’t taken the time to research the success of Right-to-Carry in America. If they had, they’d quickly come down on the other side of this issue.

In all fairness, let me mention in closing that not all media have taken the crazy, gun-ban side in the parks carry controversy. Some have published quite reasonable responses.

Take the Redding (Calif.) News, for instance:

“Nobody could expect gun-control advocates to like rules that make it easier to carry concealed weapons. It’s just not in their DNA,” that newspaper printed on their editorial page. “But the reaction by some opponents of a U.S. Interior Department rule allowing concealed-weapons permit holders to carry in national parks is just out of touch with reality …

“Nobody wants to see shootouts over campsites at Manzanita Lake, but is there any evidence that permit holders are likely to engage in such dangerous activity? By definition, they’re law-abiding citizens who’ve paid fees and subjected themselves to fingerprinting and background checks.”

Now that’s refreshing—an editorial writer who has actually spent some time studying the issue and understanding the facts about permit holders. Too bad so many others in the media don’t take the time to do the same about such an important issue.



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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.