Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bush Administration OKs Packing Heat In National Parks

I've been writing about the Bush administration's destructive domestic endgame, the goal of which is to work against the interests of the American people in terms of health care, labor, the environment and civil liberties. Now, thanks to the Bush administration, if you're taking a stroll in a national park, you'd better watch your back. From

People will soon be able to carry concealed, loaded guns in most national parks and wildlife refuges.

The Bush administration said Friday it is overturning a 25-year-old federal rule that severely restricts loaded guns in national parks.

Under a rule to take effect in January, visitors will be able to carry a loaded gun into a park or wildlife refuge -- but only if the person has a permit for a concealed weapon and if the state where the park or refuge is located also allows concealed firearms.

The new rule goes further than a draft proposal issued last spring and would allow concealed weapons even in parks located in states that explicitly ban the carrying of guns in state parks. Some states allow concealed weapons but also ban guns from parks.

...The Interior Department rule overturns a Reagan-era regulation that has restricted loaded guns in parks and wildlife refuges. The previous regulation required that firearms be unloaded and placed somewhere that is not easily accessible, such as in a car trunk.

...The National Rifle Association hailed the rule change, which will take effect next month before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Following its custom, the NRA has defied the common sense recommendations of those who are charged with maintaining public safety:

A group representing park rangers, retirees and conservation organizations said the rule change will lead to confusion for visitors, rangers and other law enforcement agencies.

"Once again, political leaders in the Bush administration have ignored the preferences of the American public by succumbing to political pressure, in this case generated by the National Rifle Association," said Bill Wade, president of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

"This regulation will put visitors, employees and precious resources of the National Park System at risk. We will do everything possible to overturn it and return to a commonsense approach to guns in national parks that has been working for decades," Wade said.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued a statement that pointed out the dangers of concealed weapons:

"The Bush Administration's parting gift for the gun lobby to allow hidden weapons in our parks threatens the safety of these national treasures and those who visit them," said Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke. "We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry firearms in our parks. We urge the proper authorities to use common sense, and stop this senseless rule."

...Experience in states that have allowed concealed carrying of firearms has shown that thousands of dangerous people are able to get licenses. In Florida, for example, more than 4,200 licenses were revoked because many of these licensees committed a crime. Since becoming the first state to allow the concealed carrying of firearms in 1987, Florida consistently has had one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation. Florida has been ranked as the state with the highest annual violent crime rate more often than any other state in the last two decades.

Many states' concealed carry licensing systems have endangered public safety by allowing licenses to be obtained by dangerous people who commit violent acts with their firearms. Numerous concealed carry license holders have been arrested for crimes after they were granted a license. Utah, for example, has even granted licenses to thousands of non-residents, including citizens of foreign countries. Many of those individuals received licenses without any background checks or proof of adequate firearms training.

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