No need for firearms in national parks
A proposal would let visitors carry loaded weapons in national parks and other sites.
America's national parks are among the safest places in the country. So says the Interior Department, which calculates a visitor would more likely be struck by lightning than suffer a violent crime. It is peculiar, then, that the Bush administration is proposing people be allowed to carry concealed, loaded weapons while hiking Yellowstone, photographing ruins at Chaco Canyon or touring any park, wildlife refuge or monument.
But take into account the National Rifle Association's belief that law-abiding citizens are at great risk while paddling a canoe on Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons, and the proposal makes perfect sense. With just eight months left to pander to the gun lobby, the outgoing administration is hustling to change a Reagan-era rule when it needs no changing.
Puffed up as a states' rights issue and as a way to make gun-packing laws consistent, the department intends to dump a requirement that weapons be kept unloaded and stored while in parks.
Instead, state concealed-weapons laws would apply, depending on a park's location. But removing the rule, meant to curb poaching, would cause more confusion since some refuges and parks are bordered by more than one state. In addition, because federal law bans weapons in government buildings, visitors would have to clear metal detectors or be frisked before they can even enter a park restroom.
The NRA's chief lobbyist says people need protection if they "stumble upon meth labs" in the wild, or encounter a grizzly bear.
He need not fret; there were fewer than a dozen homicides and 370 violent crimes in the nearly 400 parks visited by more than 400 million people in 2006.
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