More Guns In National Parks

By Beacon Staff

You’ve probably heard about pending legislation to allow visitors to our national parks to carry loaded and accessible firearms. The cover story is the concern that people must be able to protect their families from perverts and wild animals infesting our national parks.

To this overused assertion, I must ask why doesn’t the gun lobby get out front with the real reason it does these things?

This amendment and, it seems, most other gun legislation, isn’t about guns or the Second Amendment. It’s all about politics, and the gun lobby is panicked about who might be living in the White House next year.

This one isn’t that hard to figure out. Republican frontrunner John McCain (R-Ariz.) already supports more guns in national parks, so this amendment is hardly about the right to bear arms. It’s about forcing Democrats Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to make an “anti-gun” vote before the general election.

In the meantime, S. 2483, the National Forests, Parks, Public Land, and Reclamation Projects Authorization Act of 2007, which has gone through many months of hearings and contains many conservation measures such as the designation of the Wild Sky Wilderness near Seattle, languishes in the quagmire of gun politics.

Instead of stifling congressional efforts to actually accomplish something, perhaps the National Rifle Association and the rest of the gun lobby should get it over with and ask one of their senators, such as Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), sponsor of this more-guns-in-parks amendment, to introduce a resolution that every member of the Senate and House of Representatives must vote on to get their retirement package. The resolution should contain only five words: “We support the Second Amendment.” Then, this yes-or-no vote can be used in all elections going forward, and we shouldn’t have to deal with such counterproductive amendments and riders that have no relation to the legislation they delay or kill.

The gun lobby won’t do this, of course. We all know what would happen. The vast majority of people and politicians support the Second Amendment. The vote might be close to 535-0 in support of the Second Amendment, and then how would the gun lobby raise money?

By accusing a lot of people who support the Second Amendment of being liars, of course.

Even with such a vote on record, the gun lobby would accuse Democrats who voted yes and then later voted against having guns in national parks, against taking concealed weapons on airplanes or against six-graders taking assault rifles to school of being “anti-gun,” and against the Second Amendment, if not against freedom.

Incidentally and ironically, and you won’t see this in the NRA press releases, the current regulation requiring guns taken into national parks to be disassembled, unloaded and inaccessible (such as cased in the truck) was put in place in 1983 by none other than an NRA darling, Republican Ronald Reagan and under the reign of terror of Beyond Republican Secretary of the Interior James Watt.

As far as guns in national parks go, is this a high priority issue? It is for park rangers who have opposed it, along with national park retirees who see it resulting in more poaching and public safety issues. But I suspect that people so afraid for their personal safety that they carry a concealed 9mm into coffee shops or legislative hearings probably take it into national parks, too.

Personally, I don’t have much heartburn about people having guns in the parks because I know some people do it anyway, which is why I keep saying “more guns,” and I can’t recall a single incident where this has been a problem. Plus, I suspect I’m not going to see many people packing concealed weapons at backcountry campsites where I stay.

But I do object to the timing, motivation and method of this amendment. If we want to vote on the issue of taking guns into national parks, introduce a targeted bill and vote on it. Don’t tie up major legislation and be honest about the motives.

Such a more-guns-in-parks bill would probably pass the Senate because 51 senators have already officially supported it, including senators (Democrats and Republicans) from Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, but it would likely get shot down in the House, the end result being more wasted time and money that could have gone to something worthwhile like curing our health care crisis or ending the Three Trillion Dollar War.

(I had to get that one in there.)

So, I hope the Senate finds the political will to strip the more-guns-in-parks amendment out of S.2843, pass this major legislation, and move on to something else that needs to be done.

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