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Thread: VA-ALERT: MSNBC Article on National Park Ban!

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    VA-ALERT: MSNBC Article on National Park Ban!

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Philip Van Cleave
    Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2008 10:40 AM
    Subject: VA-ALERT: MSNBC Article on National Park Ban!

    Here is an MSNBC article on the proposed repeal of the National Park
    gun ban. VCDL Executive members Dave Yates and Mike Stollenwerk are

    There is also a POLL. Please be sure to participate in that poll by
    clicking on the link to the article! The poll is toward the bottom
    under a red title, "Where do you stand on guns in parks?"

    Thanks to David Ham for the link:

    Showdown over packing heat in national parks
    Comments due on NRA-backed proposal to ease ban on concealed weapons
    By Mike Stuckey
    Senior news editor

    In 40 years as a ranger, manager and superintendent of national parks
    from Alaska to North Carolina, Doug Morris says he never responded to
    a crime that would have been prevented had a visitor been carrying a
    concealed weapon. Nor did he hear complaints from gun owners about the
    rule requiring them to unload and lock away firearms while in national

    But Morris, who retired three years ago, says he did see cases where
    visitors shot wildlife or fired wildly into the night in crowded
    campgrounds. That’s why Morris and a majority of his fellow members of
    the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees adamantly oppose a
    National Rifle Association-led effort to lift the decades-old ban on
    concealed weapons in the parks. “Nothing is broken about the existing
    rule,” he said.

    But David Yates, a gun-rights activist from Alexandria, Va., says he
    believes the current rule tramples the Second Amendment rights of all
    law-abiding Americans to bear arms. Yates, who usually carries a
    handgun for self-defense where legally allowed, has given up visiting
    national parks as “a point of honor and principle.”

    “I won’t go there because they make a political issue out of
    preventing somebody from defending themselves,” Yates said.

    NPS manages nearly 400 sites

    Morris and Yates are on opposing sides in the latest showdown over
    U.S. gun rights, which would ease the ban on loaded weapons within
    some of the 58 national parks and 333 other sites managed by the U.S.
    National Park Service. The dispute involves a proposed rule change
    that would allow visitors with concealed weapons permits to carry
    their firearms in national parks, as long as doing so also would be
    legal under state law. Rifles and shotguns and “open carry” of loaded
    handguns would remain illegal in the parks.

    The NRA’s long campaign to ease the ban appeared to be close to
    succeeding a month ago, but lost momentum when the Interior Department
    extended the period for public comments on the plan until Aug. 8.

    The NRA sees the extension as yielding to “bullying” by anti-gun
    members of Congress who are “trying to run out the clock ... possibly
    until after the election, into a new administration.”

    Interior spokesman Chris Paolino said the department wanted to be fair
    to parties who wanted to comment in light of a Supreme Court ruling in
    June. That decision affirmed the Second Amendment right of individuals
    to possess firearms along with the government’s right to regulate them.

    Paolino could not say when a final decision would be made.

    25-year-old rules
    Under rules last updated 25 years ago, visitors to the parks must keep
    all firearms unloaded and inaccessible, generally locked in a trunk or
    elsewhere in a vehicle.

    When those rules were written, just a handful of states allowed
    citizens to carry concealed weapons. Since then, with help from
    campaigns by the NRA and other groups, all but two states now allow
    citizens to obtain permits to carry loaded, concealed handguns. In
    many of those, known as “shall issue” states, any citizen who is
    entitled to own a handgun may obtain a permit to carry a concealed

    Given changing state laws, the NRA for years has said rules for
    national parks should change so that gun laws are consistent on
    parklands within each state. But a bigger issue, an NRA spokesman told, is the right that all “law-abiding Americans” have to self-

    “Just because you’re in a national park or on federal land doesn’t
    mean you’re immune to crime,” said Andrew Arulanandam, the
    association’s director of public affairs.

    Opponents counter that the crime rate in national parks is very low.
    “They’re extremely safe places,” said Bryan Faehner of the National
    Parks Conservation Association, which opposes the rule change. “You
    have a higher likelihood of being hit by lighting.”

    In recent years, statistics from NPS’ nearly 400 sites, which receive
    about 275 million visits a year, show a rate of less than one violent
    crime per 100,000 visits. According to the FBI, in 2006 the average
    rate of violent crimes in cities across the United States was 474 per
    100,000 people.

    The low rate does not sway the NRA. “The fact that you can throw a
    statistic out there is not going to provide any consolation to the
    family of someone who lost their life in a park,” Arulanandam said,
    adding that “violent crime rates have decreased (as) … the number of
    states that have right-to-carry laws has increased.”

    Foes of allowing guns in parks point out that the move is opposed by
    current NPS Director Mary Bomar, seven former directors and the
    Association of National Park Rangers, among others.

    “The No. 1 best argument is that the resource managers are against
    it,” said Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun

    'Resistance to change'
    But Yates, a member of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he
    believes the park service’s opposition is a matter of “institutional
    resistance to change.”

    “They simply have a culture that is averse to the concept of self-
    defense,” he said.

    He and the NRA’s Arulanandam said that rangers shouldn’t base their
    fears on past experiences with guns in parks, since those incidents
    involved people who were breaking the law to begin with.

    Not necessarily, said former Ranger Morris, who served as
    superintendent of Shenandoah, Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Saguaro
    national parks during his career. He recounted cases in California
    where campers, legally transporting guns in vehicles, were frightened
    by black bears.

    “They somehow found their gun, got it loaded and shot the bear,” he
    said. “In one case, they hit the bear and they did not kill it. The
    bear just danced around the campground kind of angry until a ranger
    came and had to kill it.”

    Black bears and many other animals in parks hardly ever pose serious
    threats to humans, Morris said, but “people who visit these parks are
    really out of their comfort zone and … they perceive threats that just
    don’t exist.”

    Rangers also worry that allowing concealed guns in campgrounds could
    lead to more human vs. human conflict.

    A potential for irony?
    Hamm of the Brady Campaign, who once worked at Interior himself,
    stressed that many sites administered by the NPS are urban and the
    rule change could have interesting consequences by overriding state
    laws that work in concert with state right-to-carry permits.

    Under Georgia state law, for example, “You can’t bring a gun into the
    Georgia state Capitol but under this loosening of the laws, I don’t
    see how you could argue that you wouldn’t be allowed to carry a
    concealed weapon into the Martin Luther King historic site,” he said.
    “There’s some irony there.”

    Both sides use consistency to make their case, with the NRA saying
    that one set of rules for all national parks would be easy to follow.
    But opponents argue that rules still would vary depending on the state
    the park is in; also, they say, some national parks extend across
    state borders, creating potential conflicts.

    'Open carry' backers would go further
    For that reason, some gun-rights activists would like to go even
    farther than the current proposal. Members of the “open carry”
    movement believe it should be changed to allow citizens to carry
    unconcealed guns in parks, a right they say is constitutionally
    protected. Calling the current proposal a “cruel hoax,” Mike
    Stollenwerk, a co-founder of, said, “You almost have to
    be a freaking international attorney to figure it out.”

    The park service has successfully defended its policies on weapons in
    parks for years against NRA efforts to change them, shutting the door
    firmly with a November letter from Director Bomar to a member of
    Congress: “The existing regulations provide necessary and consistent
    parameters throughout the National Park System.”

    So the NRA went to the top, appealing to Interior Secretary Dirk
    Kempthorne, a conservative Republican and former governor of Idaho.

    In Idaho, where per-capita gun ownership is high and the NRA’s backing
    is crucial to a politician, Kempthorne had been a solid member of the
    pro-gun camp before joining President Bush’s Cabinet 18 months earlier.

    As a U.S. senator, after receiving nearly $10,000 in campaign funds
    from the NRA, he voted against the 1993 Brady Bill, which requires a
    waiting period and background checks for handgun buyers. He also
    brought Michael Bogert, a onetime assistant general counsel at the
    NRA, to Interior to act as his counsel.

    The NRA enlisted Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Kempthorne’s successor as
    Idaho’s junior senator, to write a letter to the secretary seeking a
    revision of the gun regulation. The Dec. 14, 2007, letter was signed
    by 51 senators to whom the NRA has collectively given at least
    $618,033 in congressional campaign funds in the last 10 years,
    according to federal election records placed online by the Center for
    Public Integrity. Those who signed the letter included such pro-gun
    stalwarts as Republican Sen. Larry Craig, Idaho’s senior senator and a
    member of the NRA’s board for more than two decades, and Sen. Ted
    Stevens, R-Alaska, a former NRA board member.

    In the hot seat
    When Kempthorne didn’t respond, House Republicans put him on the hot
    seat at a Feb. 14 hearing before the Natural Resources Committee,
    speaking about Second Amendment rights and asking him about the status
    of congressional inquiries about the “bizarre” national park gun rule.
    Kempthorne promised he would reply “very soon.”

    Eight days later, Kempthorne wrote to Crapo that the Interior
    Department would propose changes to national park gun policy as sought
    by the NRA and members of Congress. The proposal, published April 30
    in the Federal Register, said the rules would be changed to “allow
    individuals to carry concealed weapons in park units and refuges to
    the extent that they could lawfully do so on analogous state-
    administered lands.”

    Thousands of comments poured in. Interior spokesman Paolino declined
    to say whether the majority favored or opposed the rule change.

    With the quick turn-around between Kempthorne’s February appearance
    before the House committee and issuance of the proposed new rule, the
    NRA had been expecting final approval by the end of the year and was
    dismayed when the comment period was extended.

    In a statement on its Web site, the NRA said the anti-gun Democratic
    chairmen of congressional panels with oversight of the parks, Sen.
    Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, pressured
    for the extension in a “blatant and intentional stalling tactic.”
    Spokesmen for Akaka and Grijalva both denied that was the intent of
    the extension of the comment period.

    But Hamm, the spokesman for the Brady Campaign, said the extension
    does improve the chances of opponents to keep the weapons ban intact.
    “The closer you get to a presidential election on an issue like this,
    the less likely the system is going to want to make a change,” he said.

    'Very mainstream'
    NRA spokesman Arulanandam, a former executive director of the Idaho
    Republican Party who once worked for Kempthorne, called the comment
    extension and threats by other lawmakers to block the rule change by
    other means disappointing. He also said the NRA, with 4 million
    members, is “very mainstream” although “there are a lot of people who
    try to portray us as otherwise.”

    Likewise, Faehner, the spokesman for the parks conservation
    association and himself a former park service employee, said some in
    the pro-gun lobby depict his side unfairly.

    “Our staff and our members, many of them are gun owners and hunters,”
    he said of the group’s 340,000 members. “We support the Second
    Amendment and we don’t oppose guns in any way. I was shooting shotguns
    when I was 10 years old. But there’s a time and place for everything.”

    While Arulanandam would not estimate the NRA’s immediate chances of
    victory on the issue, he said that a defeat this time would not be the
    end of the organization’s effort. “If you look at our track record, we
    get what we want, even if it takes a few years,” he said. “We don’t go

    Comments on the proposed rule change may be sent by mail to: Public
    Comments Processing, Attn. 1024-AD70, Division of Policy and
    Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax
    Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, Va., 22203. They may be submitted online
    by following instructions at

    ************************************************** *************************
    VA-ALERT is a project of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.
    (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization
    dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to
    Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right.

    VCDL web page:
    ************************************************** *************************

  2. #2
    Regular Member
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    Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, USA

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    What's your position on citizens carrying weapons in national parks?
    42663 responses

    State laws should apply.
    It should not be allowed.
    Concealed weapons should be allowed in all national parks, regardless of state law.
    Concealed weapons and "open carry" should be allowed in all national parks, regardless of state law.

    Wanna guess which one I picked? :celebrate

    And, (lack of) discussion thread:

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