Firearms have been banned in National Parks for 94 years; on Monday February 22nd, 2010 the ban will be lifted. Fierce lobbying by gun rights activists and an administration seeking to appease them has ended a ban that has been effective in protecting National Park Service employees and park visitors. It has been eighty-three years since the only National Park Ranger was killed by gunfire in the line of duty.
After pressure from gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, in its final months in office the Bush administration lifted the ban on concealed weapons in our National Parks. A federal judge blocked the move last year, but the Obama administration declined to appeal the ruling, and Congress passed the law.
February 19th 2010 President Obama signed the measure without comment as part of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (or Credit CARD Act) of 2009. The Law States “Protecting the right of individuals to bear arms in the units of the National Park System and the National Wildlife Refuge System — the secretary of the Interior shall not promulgate or enforce any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm … in any unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System.”
The Park Service told me It will depend on individual state gun laws, visitors will be able to carry concealed and loaded guns into parks. Loaded guns allowed in the park include handguns and shotguns, including semiautomatic weapons. Locally the law does not allow any of these weapons to be discharged within a National park or National Wildlife Refuge. It will still be illegal to fire a gun within a National Park or Wildlife Refuge in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The National Park Service has posted a notice regarding the new gun laws on their site.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees says guns and parks just don’t mix — because the atmosphere of a peaceful sanctuary in nature could be damaged, says Bill Wade, chairman of the group’s executive council. “Most American visitors somehow think of the parks as being very safe, very secure, where you don’t have to worry about guns,” Wade says. “Now you could see that guy with the rifle over his shoulder. The context is just wrong.” (Salt Lake Tribune)
The National Park Service Mission is to “…to promote and regulate the use of the…national parks…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C.1.
The first National Park Ranger killed in the line of duty died from a gunshot wound. National Park Ranger James Alexander Cary – 31, shot by bootleggers in Hot Springs National Park on March 12, 1927. He was also the last Park Ranger killed by gunfire in a National Park. The ban on guns in our National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges has insured a safe environment for National Park Service employees, the wildlife they preserve and the millions of visitors who enjoy the parks each year.