In early 2010, National Parks opened their doors to those carrying concealed firearms. Naturally, the Brady Campaign went nuts and started prognosticating about the trees of liberty being refreshed with not so metaphorical blood of patriots. Now, over one year later, a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Herschel Smith has the hard and fast facts about reported crimes in our nation’s parks. And I have to say, the numbers don’t look good for the Brady bunch.
That’s not to say the numbers are outstanding, but they don’t definitively support the Brady campaign’s statements that “The Bush Administration’s last-minute gift to the gun lobby, allowing concealed semiautomatic weapons in national parks, jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law.” If their hypothesis were correct, then we would expect to see a jump in violent crime in National Parks. On the contrary, the total number seems to be remaining pretty stagnant.
This graph breaks out all of the major offenses recorded by the Parks Service for the years 1995-2010. Overall there is a definite downward trend , but larceny (petty theft) accounts for so much of the total major offenses that it masks the trends of the “violent” offenses.
This graph shows only the “violent” offenses reported through the FOIA documents. Aggravated Assault, Rape, Kidnapping and Homicide all show a slight to moderate increase over the previous year, but given the fairly regular ups and downs in the past trends for these crimes they don’t seem necessarily uncharacteristic.
I wanted to show this graph next to the national numbers, but I couldn’t find the crime statistics for 2010. All of those offences are nowhere near their 1995 numbers, and despite the population growing something like 17% the raw numbers have been either stagnant or trending downwards pretty regularly (indicating that park safety has increased greatly over that of the 1990’s).
The numbers are up compared to last year (yet still generally within the error bars compared to previous years), but that doesn’t necessarily prove causation between letting concealed weapons into parks and blood on the trails. Mr. Smith has an interesting analysis on that matter.
It [the numbers] doesn’t show what Henigan [Brady Campaign] wants it to. In fact, our national parks are not less safe than they were prior to 2010 when firearms were made legal. And I did research most of the homicides (through local news accounts) and they mostly have to do with situation-specific (and sometimes bizarre) incidents involving individuals who had no right to carry a firearms anywhere because they were convicted felons, or prisoners on the run, or other such exigencies. Not one incident that I researched had to do with an otherwise law-abiding citizen who suddenly went berserk because he had a gun in a national park.
In terms of statistics alone, it’s too early to tell definitively whether allowing concealed weapons in National Parks has made any changes to the “safety” of those parks. All we can tell for sure is that so far there have been no “mass shootings” in National parks, no one has “gone berserk” because they have a gun, and homicides don’t seem to be being perpetrated by CCW holders. In other words, exactly what we’ve seen with other recent “shall issue” converts.
On the other hand, as Mr. Smith notes, there has been at least one recorded instance of a hiker’s life being saved by a concealed pistol after he was attacked by a bear.
After all, if we can save just one life…