Why would anyone want guns for personal activities in public parks? Prior to 1983, the National Park Service had problems with tourists carrying firearms on public land to stalk and destroy wildlife or engage in target practice. Appropriately, laws were passed putting limits on gun-owners who choose to have their weapons in the parks or in wildlife refuges.
At present, guns cannot be readily accessible. Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a case or in the trunk of the vehicle being used by the gun owner.
A recent Associated Press article, however, notes that members of the U.S. Senate are trying to get those laws changed. Forty-seven senators, including both of those from Kansas, have signed a letter asking President Bush to repeal the restrictions of firearms and allow tourists to carry guns pretty much as they wish.
The letter to Bush says the rules "infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners who wish to transport and carry firearms on or across these lands."
Jerry Case, chief of regulations and special park uses for the National Park Service, told the AP that the current rules were developed to ensure public safety and protect park wildlife. Before the rules were adopted, he said, "people would go out and shoot wildlife in national parks," including bears, wolves and other animals.
Given that seeing large animals in their natural habitat is a primary attraction for visitors to the national parks, not to mention the illegality of such shootings, it seems clear why the current policy was put in place.
Case added that national parks have a lower crime rate than many similar-sized communities and that with the large campsites that are a part of many national parks, "If you have people start plinking around with weapons, then you have accidents."
We support the Second Amendment, but one has to question the thinking of senators involved in this effort. What possible justification is there to endanger both wildlife and humans so that people can brandish guns in national parks?
The senators who signed this letter should explain a bit more about why they are so eager to ease these gun restrictions before the president even considers their request.