LETTER: Constitutional Rights Don’t End at Park Boundaries

By Beacon Staff

Every time a law restoring Second Amendment rights is passed, it is inevitable that a few people will come forward crying that the world as we know it is about to end. Jerry Reckin’s letter (March 3 Beacon: “Guns in Parks Will Change the Ranger Image”) bemoaning the restoration of the right to carry a firearm for protection in our national parks and refuges – a right removed under Pres. Reagan – predicts the same thing.

Blood was not running down the trails of our parks because of legally armed visitors before this right was removed by Reagan, nor will there be a bloodbath now despite Reckin’s fear mongering. To quote him: “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” – this change in law simply removes an unnecessary “fix it” that Reagan never should have signed into law.

Reckin’s homily about his time spent as a ranger in Yosemite managed to omit a few points. First, there have been murders and rapes in Yosemite, along with other violent crimes, just as there have been in other parks. As one ranger said regarding this issue: “If it happens in the cities, it happens in the forests.” Second, while violent crime in the parks is not what it is in our inner cities, violent crime against visitors is rising. And third, park rangers themselves are the first ones to point out a park ranger is 12 times more likely to be assaulted or murdered than an FBI agent. There’s a reason there are armed park rangers: crime statistics for parks aside, does Reckin want us to believe that the violent criminals who assault and murder park staff aren’t equally as likely to assault and murder visitors? Can Reckin guarantee that an armed park ranger will be there to protect a victim suddenly faced with violence and death? Of course he can’t. Would Reckin advocate for disarming all rangers as well as visitors? If the dangers in parks really are minimal, why not?

The simple fact is that constitutional rights do not end at park boundaries, much as Reckin and his fellow travelers might wish they do. It is also a fact that while criminal violence in parks is minimal, and attacks by wild animals even less likely, they do happen, and rarely while an armed ranger is standing beside the visitor to protect them. For those who, inside or outside a park, look at their odds of being a victim and choose to go unarmed and play the victim lottery, nothing changes. For those who believe you’re ultimately responsible for your own safety and it is better to have and not need than need and not have, this change in law restores the basic human right to enforce your right to life and security.
Rick Lowe

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