Don't change: Keep loaded guns out of our national parks
READER'S VIEW BY JIM HOLCOMB-Idaho Statesman Edition Date: 01/17/08
The Idaho Statesman newspaper went on record with its Jan. 7 editorial in favor of allowing national park visitors to carry loaded guns. The position is in support of a letter sent by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne advocating consistent gun rules on all federal lands.Let me give some reasons why this is not a good idea. National Parks are not just federal lands; they are places of very special national and world importance, and of special inspiration. The legislative act which established the National Park Service in 1916 provides that the park lands shall be regulated to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Other federal land management agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have far different operating mandates that use the land's resources.
Whose interest is being served by carrying loaded guns in the national parks? Certainly the interests of wildlife and historical resources are not being served, and probably not public safety. The Statesman assumes that gun owners are "law-abiding." Most of them are, but there are far too many who are not. Recently I read of a big-game sting operation conducted by the Fish and Game Department and I was amazed as to the large number of "law-abiding" shooters arrested. I hike and frequently travel the Idaho back roads and see many signs that have been riddled with gunshot. Do we want to take these problems into the parks? Come on senators and the Statesman, lets give the national parks and the park ranger a break, they are already stripped to the bone with operating funds and don't need another big job of policing loaded-gun carrying visitors. This request is a bow to the gun-carrying lobby and nothing less.
I have two gun-carrying or hunter memories from my days of working as a park ranger at Yellowstone. Of all the times I have checked the firearms of Yellowstone visitors, not once did I receive complaints or gripes about having to place the firearm in the trunk or place a seal in the action. All contacts seemed happy to comply. The other memory is of elk illegally killed in the park. The elk were left where they fell with only the choice teeth taken.
We are fortunate here in Idaho to have Yellowstone National Park as our neighbor. People travel across the nation and around the globe to visit this first national park in the world; it is a lifetime experience for many. Let's not change what works very well and protects the wildlife and historical resources of this valuable national heritage. I am surprised that Idaho's leaders don't feel the same way.