National Park Visitors Rely on Self-Defense
On Jan. 9, 2009, the Department of the Interior implemented a new regulation for national parks and wildlife refuges that respects the right of citizens to defend themselves. This change did not come easily, or quickly. It was the culmination of a four-year effort led by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) to change regulations that made it a crime to have any form of self-protection.
The national parks continue to outlaw mace, pepper gas, bear spray, tasers, and previously usable firearms.
The new regulation allows concealed firearms, if they are legal in the state where the park is located. VCDL consistently advocated for self-defense in national parks, and not just with guns -- it was never about guns until the National Park Service made firearms an issue.
Four years ago, VCDL members began contacting members of Congress about relaxing the regulations. The Park Service would have none of it. VCDL, along with more than 48 other organizations, petitioned to have the regulation amended. We provided hundreds of pages showing the hundreds of violent crimes, vehicle thefts, abductions, sexual assaults, and rapes reported over the course of three years in the parks. Park Service spokesmen continued to insist the parks were safe. A protracted battle ensued in which the Park Service refused to turn over evidence. After pressure from congressional offices, it finally responded and had no evidence to support its denial claims.
Opponents of changing the rules proclaimed a host of evils -- from "blood in the park streets," to poaching, to making people uncomfortable. These excuses have not been borne out by the facts. Eventually, Interior relented and agreed to permit only concealed firearms. Now citizens can defend themselves in national parks and wildlife refuges -- if it's legal in the state wherein the park resides.
David Yates, Virginia Citizens Defense League.