Bush Triggers Arms Race in US Parks

December 6th, 2008 - by admin

Peter Fimrite,/ San Francisco Chronicle & Trailspace.com – 2008-12-06 09:47:46


Guns Will Be Allowed in National Parks
Peter Fimrite,/ San Francisco Chronicle

(December 6, 2008) — Campers may now pack heat along with their sleeping bags when they travel to national parks.

The Bush administration on Friday struck down federal regulations banning loaded guns in most national forests, a move that was widely seen as a parting shot on behalf of the National Rifle Association.

The ruling overturned a 25-year-old federal regulation severely restricting concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges. The new rule, which would take effect in January, would apparently allow anyone who already has a concealed weapons permit in his or her state to also tote a gun in federal parks within state boundaries.

Conservation groups, park officials and many politicians blasted the decision as a politically motivated slap against public opinion in favor of the gun lobby.

“This is something the park service does not want that is being driven by the political appointees in the Department of the Interior,” said Bryan Faehner, associate director for park uses for the National Parks Conservation Association, a nonprofit group established in 1919 to look out for the interests of the national parks. “This is pretty outrageous. We’re concerned that there is going to be an increase in gun-related accidents in parks and opportunistic poaching.”

The decision shoots down a 1981 wildlife refuge and a 1983 national park regulation signed by President Ronald Reagan requiring firearms to be unloaded and placed somewhere not easily accessible, such as in a car trunk, when visiting federal parks. Faehner said folks will now be able to lock and load in 388 of 391 parks, refuges and sites in 48 states, including California.

Only the three national park units in Wisconsin and Illinois, which do not issue concealed carry permits, are excluded.

The idea behind the ruling, according to Lyle Laverty, the assistant interior secretary, was to foster the long-held tradition of having states and the federal government work together on natural resource issues. He said similar rules were recently adopted by the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We are pleased that the Interior Department recognizes the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families while enjoying America’s national parks and wildlife refuges,” said Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association’s chief lobbyist.

The NRA lobbied hard for the change to the gun regulations, which Cox said were inconsistent and unclear. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., had also supported the change, organizing a letter-writing campaign to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne complaining about the gun restrictions. The letters were signed by half the Senate – 41 Republicans and nine Democrats.

As of 2007, there were 40,296 people with concealed weapons permits in California, according to Scott Gerber, spokesman for the state attorney general. Such permits are issued by police and sheriff’s departments, usually to people in high-profile positions or to those who show a legitimate need for their protection.

The attorney general’s office checks the fingerprints of all applicants and excludes people with felonies and violent misdemeanors on their records or who have been committed to mental hospitals.

Faehner said the new regulations go even further to loosen gun regulations than what was proposed earlier this year by the Bush administration. The earlier proposal, he said, would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons in federal parks only if the state parks allowed it.

California state parks do not allow loaded concealed weapons, but the newest ruling ignores the state parks and says that if state law permits concealed weapons, it is OK in a national park within that state’s boundary.

“It appears that people who have been issued concealed carry permits will be able to travel into Yosemite with their guns, but they would be prohibited from entering the state parks in California,” Faehner said. “So the bar has been lowered.”

The change came despite more than 140,000 comments that were sent to the Department of the Interior after the earlier proposal was made. The overwhelming majority of those who commented opposed changing the regulations to allow concealed firearms in national parks, according to representatives of park rangers, retirees and conservation organizations.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., joined numerous organizations, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, in denouncing the move.

“This unprecedented rule change wipes out common-sense regulations originally enacted by the Reagan administration,” Feinstein said in a statement. “There is simply no good reason why this administration would change a rule that has helped make our national parks among the most popular and safest places in the country.”

The regulation, which will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday and go into effect 30 days later, was timed so it would be in the books by the time President-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20. Changing it would require a long bureaucratic rule-changing process possibly lasting years. Several groups, including the conservation association, are considering a lawsuit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. E-mail Peter Fimrite at pfimrite@sfchronicle.com.

© 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.

Would You Bring a Gun While You Backpack?

Terrible Tom
I have been a recreational shooter & hunter since boyhood. I have never taken a firearm backpacking. Pack-in hunting, which I have not done, would be interesting. How do you pack out the head & hide of a 12′ brown bear?

I would be more likely to carry a small folding rifle than a hand cannon. Probably useless in a bear emergency, but from the survivalist POV, any rifle is much better than a handgun. The discontinued but still available Springfield Armory M-6 Scout is a perfect example of what I’d consider my kind of backpacking gun–if I were to have such a thing. 22LR or 22 Hornet over 410 shotgun. All stainless, folds up nicely and weighs only 36oz.

For country where bear encounters are common and known to be dangerous, I’d consider a handgun. I don’t think I’d want a 500 S&W. Too big & heavy. A 44 Mag should be plenty, and I’d consider a 10mm or .41 cal if the weight savings were significant.

BTW Ive ugraded to a .500 magnum.

Last time I went to Alaska I was with a group that was grizzly hunting. One of the guys there was dead set on bringing down a grizzly with his new Smith and Wesson 500 mag. The group of guys all had licenses to hunt grizzlies. All of them brought large caliber rifles as well but Jim had brought the previously mentioned revolver as well. As it turns out the very first day Jim got his chance. A grizzly showed up just as we were leaving camp for the day, about 1000 yards into our trip. He was huge! I would guess 12 feet claw to claw and one of the biggest I have ever seen while on the ground. Jake and Tom had their rifles trained on the bear while Jim inched up to get a little closer.

Finally at about 25 yards Jim fired the 500 mag. And the bear dropped INSTANTLY. So impressed were the other folks that they opted to use Jims 500 mag as well. They had all practice shot with the gun before the trip. Jake and Tom by the end of the trip had both bagged grizzlies (although smaller in size then the first behemoth that Jim dropped). Both of the other bears dropped on the first shot. I was not hunting myself. I don’t like killing things (anything) unless I have to but I was so impressed with this guns performance I bought one the next week while in Oregon. Some of the other people here are right about one thing…you have to be calm while you shoot or you wont hit a damn thing.

Dave S
I don’t really see the need to carry a gun in the backcountry. If you were being charged by a bear odds are you startled it coming around a turn in the trail and you won’t have time to get at much of anything. Even if you did have time are you going to be able to think enough to get at the gun or are you just going to stand there wishing you had an extra pair of shorts. Another likely time to come across a bear is on your way to get your bear bag in the morning but if you leave the bear alone then you should hopefully be fine; as long as you hung your food well enough that the bear can get at it. .

I personally have not had a close call with a bear that I know of. The closest call I have had was coming across a grizzly cub in glacier Natl Park. The cub it self is not so scary but a pissed off mom is. The closest I have gotten to that is a bear in a front-country campsite out side of anchorage eating our soap and lighter fluid (how it picked those two items to eat I don’t know). I never saw the bear but others in my group did. I have seen another couple of bears from horse back. But that’s it. But I’m only 17 and have been backpacking for only 4 years. I do Cary bear spray but have never used it, and I’d like to keep it that way.
as far as cell phones go around here they are pretty much useless unless your by the interstate but then I live in Wyoming and cell phone service is probably better in other parts of the country.

On occasion I will bring a pistol when backpacking. Where I live the issue is mountain lions and the two-legged predators. If I am in a national park, or if I am really counting ounces, I will bring pepper spray.

Best answer: depends upon where you backpack and why. If you backpack a gun, it means you are willing to kill something or someone using it. Is that why you backpack? If so, may we never meet on the same trail. My gut feeling about it is (and this is because I would like to keep my guts exactly where they are now located), if you carry a gun, you are no longer a backpacker. You are a hunter.

I would not carry a gun (handgun, rifle or shotgun) while backpacking – in general when I go backpacking I’m looking to bring back memories – not pelts and meat.

I can understand why hunters in brown bear territory would go into the woods armed – their behavior needs to be the polar opposite of what “good” behavior in bear country is – they need to be quiet – they often wear game scents – they immitate the call of a weak or wounded animal from time to time – they operate at dawn and twilight – and they tend to do so alone – quiet – and off the trail.

As backpackers our normal, clomping, clanging (if you’re an external frame user like me!) tramping along the trail is generally more than enough to warn bears that I’m comin’ down the trail.
So no gun – just enough rope to hang my food out of Yogi’s reach – see – I don’t want Yogi gettin’ a bad reputation either!

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