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Taking Aim at National Park Safety

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 By Chris ThomasContact
February 25, 2008

Seattle, WA – The National Parks in Oregon welcome almost two million visitors a year -- and many of them could be carrying loaded guns, if supporters of a change in policy have their way. The U.S. Interior Department is drafting new rules for the National Park system, which would allow people to carry loaded guns in parks and wildlife refuges. It was prompted by a letter signed by about 50 U.S. senators and backed by the National Rifle Association.

But Sean Smith of the National Parks Conservation Association says the current gun restrictions are in place for good reasons, to prevent poaching and vandalism, and that loaded weapons don't fit the family atmosphere of the parks.

"We're not opposed to the Second Amendment; however, we're concerned about the potential wildlife and public safety issues. So, it's not an anti-gun issue, it's a 'pro-park experience' and public safety issue."

The current law doesn't completely prohibit guns, but says they must be unloaded and stowed in National Parks. Smith, a former park ranger, adds that with park budgets already cut significantly, allowing loaded weapons could be a maintenance problem, as well as a safety issue.

"In a number of places, we see roadside exhibits and signs are shot up. There are some historic facilities and structures, as well as monuments that have been shot up. And so, we're definitely concerned about that."

Those who want to change the policy say loaded weapons are allowed on state and Bureau of Land Management property, which they feel makes the park rules "inconsistent and outdated." More information about the proposed gun rule change is available online, at www.npca.org. The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed changes starting in May.

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