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Interior Dept. Seeks “Loaded Comments”

April 28, 2008

Seattle, WA – This week, you can have your say on whether people should be able to carry loaded guns in National Parks. The public comment period opens on Wednesday, on a U.S. Department of Interior proposal to change the current park rules, which allow firearms only if they are unloaded and not readily accessible.

At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating a similar topic, and a ruling is expected this summer on what may be a landmark Second Amendment case. Bryan Faehner, legislative representative for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), says the ruling may also play into the guns-in-parks decision.

"The Park Service and Interior Department should just wait and see what happens, because it's thought by many that this Supreme Court decision will have a trickle-down impact on gun laws across the country."

Faehner says the case, District of Columbia v. Heller, involves a security guard who challenged a handgun ban in Washington, D.C. It is the first in many years to be heard by the court about private individuals' gun rights.

Supporters of the change contend the current rules are confusing for gun owners, because they vary on different types of public land. But, as Faehner puts it, that's missing the point.

"National Parks are different; they are not Bureau of Land Management lands, or Forest Service lands. They have a very unique and special mission -- that is, to protect the park resources unimpaired, for future generations."

Faehner says NPCA has already heard from many park rangers who are opposed to allowing loaded guns in the parks. Their view is that they invite trouble, such as poaching and vandalism, and that there hasn't been a problem with the current rule. The National Rifle Association is the chief proponent of allowing loaded guns in the National Parks.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA