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Sen. Crapo and Rep. Hastings Introduce Bills<br>to Allow Firearms for Protection in National Parks

Monday, April 27, 2009

On March 24 and April 2, respectively, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced H.R. 1684 and S. 816 -- the "Preservation of the Second Amendment in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges Act" -- to legislatively enact a regulation adopted by the Department of the Interior last year, allowing the carrying of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges by people who have been issued permits to carry firearms after passing criminal background checks and meeting other state requirements. The bills became necessary after a federal district court in Washington, D.C., on March 19, granted a preliminary injunction against the regulation, which had been in effect without incident for over two months. 

This legislation simply provides that "a person may possess, carry, and transport concealed, loaded, and operable firearms within a national park area or national wildlife refuge area in accordance with the laws of the state in which the national park area or national wildlife refuge area, or that portion thereof, is located." It leaves in place the federal law that prohibits carrying a firearm into a "building or part thereof owned or leased by the federal government, where federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties" unless "incident to hunting or other lawful purposes." 

Current regulations, adopted in 1983 with hunters in mind, require that firearms transported in national parks be unloaded and enclosed. However, the primary reason people want to have firearms on national park lands (and generally) today is personal protection, as underscored by the fact that since 1983 the number of Right-to-Carry states has increased from six to 40, to include states with the largest tracts of national park lands. 

As the number of Right-to-Carry states has increased to an all-time high, the nation`s murder and total violent crime rates have decreased to 43- and 35-year lows, respectively. Nevertheless, parks have their share of dangers: 

  • The National Park Service reported 11 murders, 35 rapes, 61 robberies and 261 aggravated assaults in 2006.[1]
  • Parks contain hidden methamphetamine labs and marijuana fields, and drug and illegal alien smuggling routes.[2]
  • At least a dozen grizzly bear attacks were reported between April-December 2007[3] and guides in Alaska`s parks (where different regulations apply) routinely carry firearms for protection against attacks by bears.

 

Today, 31 states allow the carrying of firearms in state parks, all with satisfactory results. Extending the carrying of firearms to national park lands, under state laws, will yield similar benefits, without the consequences claimed by people who oppose carrying firearms generally.



[1] "Crime in National Parks," Washington Post, 2/28/2008.

[2] Note 1 and Zachary Coile, "National parks` pot farms blamed on cartels," San Francisco Chronicle, 11/18/2005 and www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/border_travel.htm (last visited 4/21/2009).

[3] Matthew Brown, "Some Push for Hunts As Grizzlies Surge," Associated Press, 12/4/2007.

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