Under the headline “Pistol packing picnics,” The Philadelphia Enquirer calls the February 22 removal a federal firearms ban from national parks “wacky.” “Every day could seem like the start of deer hunting season with people strolling the parks armed. That has to be a frightening prospect for families and others who aren’t accustomed to being around guns. And there’s also the risk of accidental shootings. And to what purpose? There has never been any reasonable justification for civilian park visitors’ needing to be armed for their own protection. Since hunting isn’t permitted in national parks, it makes even less sense – other than as another bullying NRA legislative victory.” Clearly, the paper’s idea of “reasonable” doesn’t include the concept of “self-defense.” In case the Enquirer doesn’t have access to Google, Wikipedia offers a helpful list of fatal bear attacks. Not all of these occurred in National Parks but . . point taken? If not, YouTube “bear attacks.” As for intra-human threats . . .
There’s been a lot of media chatter about the rising tide of crime in America’s national parks (at least until now). ABC News 20/20 did a major piece on the problem with a segment Are National Parks Becoming Crime Havens? In 2006, the Parks Department reported 320 assaults without weapons, 1,950 weapons offenses, 843 public intoxication cases, and 5,752 liquor law violations. Citing these stats, Kurt Repanshek of The National Parks Traveler website asks “how many of those might have turned deadly were concealed carry allowed in the park system?”
Opponents of the new law are getting plenty of play, and have been for some time. Here’s the closing quote from a year-ago article in the LA Times.
Bill Wade, executive council chairman of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said people could be discouraged from visiting certain parks, such as Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where he served as superintendent. “How many of you would want to go out there if you knew that people were running up and down the Appalachian Trail with guns?”
More recently, the president of the Association of National Park Rangers complained to the Scripps News that the new law will bar rangers in some parks from questioning visitors for carrying weapons. “That will make rangers less able to prevent wildlife crimes because they will not be able tell poachers and guests apart,” Scot McElveen said. “Rangers will soon have to catch poachers in the act to make an arrest.”
And what of other dangers to other species? As a commenter on the Traveler site points out, “Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is so dangerous that backcountry overnight camping is prohibited and certain roads are closed due to the danger from illegals and drug smugglers.”
The debate continues.