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Advocates Take Legal Aim at Guns in National Parks

January 8, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – National Parks advocates are suing to stop a Bush administration regulation allowing loaded, concealed firearms in parks such as Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest. The new rule is to take effect Friday.

Bill Wade, chair of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, is a former (Shenandoah) National Park Superintendent. His organization is a party to the suit, and he says he's concerned for the safety of campers and other visitors.

"It's a real element. I've had to respond personally to disputes in campgrounds in parks. Not that these kinds of things happen all the time – but it certainly changes the equation when there's a possibility of guns being present in the situation."

However, supporters of the new regulation say it will help them defend themselves against predators, both four-legged and two-legged.

The lawsuit, which was jointly filed with the National Parks Conservation Association, alleges the Bush Administration adopted the new policy without following required legal procedures. Wade says it's a solution looking for a problem.

"There's just not been a huge public outcry that this is a problem. The current regulation has been working fine and, I think, has been pretty protective of the park resources and visitors and employees. And so, we see no real big reason to change it."

The National Rifle Association lobbied for the rule, arguing it would eliminate confusion for those who hold valid concealed-carry permits for their home states. Wade disagrees.

"This rule is likely to make things more confusing, because it applies each individual state's permit requirements for concealed-carry weapons. Now, we're going to have applications of different state regulations and state permit requirements, from state to state."

The new rule would apply to national parks in all states except Illinois and Wisconsin, which do not permit concealed weapons.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ