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Debate Heating Up Over Park Gun Plan

May 5, 2008

Helenwood, TN - Gun policy in U.S. national parks is in the crossfire. The U.S. Interior Department is taking public comments on a plan that would allow loaded weapons in some parks in Minnesota and around the country, and it's getting an earful from people like Scott McElveen, president of the Association of National Park Rangers.

"We definitely have concerns about safety for wildlife, safety for the public, and safety for our own employees."

Currently, any firearms brought into the parks must be unloaded and inaccessible. The plan to change that has support from the National Rifle Association, which cites the Second Amendment and states' rights.

McElveen believes easing gun restrictions would change the character of national parks.

"We want to think of them as special places to get away from our everyday lives. And worrying whether someone next to me has a gun, concealed and loaded, under his coat, is one of those things that a lot of people don't want to have to think about when they're on vacation visiting a national park. They want to know that people are required legally to have them unloaded and stowed in a manner that prevents them being readily used."

The Interior Department will take public comment on the proposal through the end of June.

McElveen says, under the plan, loaded guns would be allowed only if the state had a concealed carry law, and that would create confusion from park to park.

"You'd be required to know what each state's regulation was. Or you'd be required to know if there was some kind of reciprocity between the state that you live in and the state that you're going to, and the national park units in that state. It would also be confusing for our National Park Service rangers to try to know what each of the 50 state laws concerning weapons are."

To voice your concerns or make a comment regarding the use of guns in national parks, visit
www.regulations.gov and reference identification number 1024-AD70.

More information is also available online at the National Parks Conservation Association website,
www.npca.org.

Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MN