Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Family in tow for a tour of national treasures far from Washington, President Barack Obama is trailed by criticism from gun opponents and parks advocates for allowing firearms into such majestic places as this.
“There is still time for Congress and the president to take steps to keep loaded firearms away from the valleys of Yellowstone, the cliffs of Yosemite, and the Statue of Liberty — but they need to act quickly,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
A bill that Obama signed in May permits licensed gun owners to bring firearms into national parks and wildlife refuges as long as state law allows it. The new law, which takes effect in February, will replace rules from the Reagan administration that generally require that guns in national parks be locked or stored in a glove compartment or trunk.
“If they wanted to fight that, they could have,” said Jonathan Dorn, editorial director of NationalParkTrips.com and editor-in-chief of Backpacker magazine. “That one just felt like a very political decision that was maybe more about politics than about maybe paying attention to the preferences of the vast majority of people who are frequent park users.”
Still, Dorn called the law “one hiccup” in an otherwise supportive parks agenda so far by the Obama administration.
The Democratic-controlled Congress passed the less restrictive measure with bipartisan support after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., inserted it into Obama-backed legislation imposing new restrictions on credit card companies. Democratic leaders decided not to challenge Coburn, and Obama signed the gun measure without comment.
The Obama family — the president, the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha, and other relatives — had a busy sightseeing weekend planned: visiting Yellowstone National Park on Saturday and touring Grand Canyon National Park today.
“Oh, that’s pretty good. Cool! Look at that. That’s a geyser there,” a casually dressed Obama said as he and his family watching Old Faithful erupt after they strolled up a path with park rangers.