The New York Times goes after legislation that would let permit holders have guns with them in the national parks.
February 20, 2008
New York Times
Packing Heat in the Parks
A sound and bipartisan public lands bill is being held up in the Senate in behalf of the gun lobby’s attempt to overturn decades-old safety regulations barring people from carrying loaded guns in national parks.
Well, despite the impression created here, it is a bipartisan group of senators who have tried to change the ban in the national parks. At least eight Democratic Senators have asked that the ban be lifted. The restriction has been in place since the early 1980s, and there is no evidence that I know of that permit holders were creating any problems prior to the implementation of the ban.
Owners are now required to keep their guns unloaded, disassembled and stored when in national parks and wildlife refuges. Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, is threatening to block the public lands bill unless it includes his amendment to allow the packing of live firearms in the parks..
There is no justification for such a change. Senator Coburn’s office is reduced to offering a scenario out of a “Death Wish” movie: “Guns locked in your trunk are of no use when a rapist is attacking your family.” A coalition of retired park rangers has warned that wielding live firearms would increase the risk to public safety and more easily empower game poachers than family vigilantes
Unloaded, disassembled and stored guns are useless for people being able to defend themselves. Those in the parks face risks not only from wild animals but also human criminals, and there is no reason to expect a fast response time from a 911 call, even if such a call were possible.
The Coburn amendment is another attempt by the gun lobby to extend laissez-faire gun rights to college campuses, churches and workplaces even as the nation suffers firearm fatalities and rampages that take 30,000 lives a year. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is right to oppose it as a poison-pill intrusion into the lands bill, which — among a multitude of useful and largely noncontroversial provisions — would authorize new wilderness areas and safeguard historic and cultural sites from coast to coast.
Guns do cause harm, but they also protect people from harm. The question is what the net effect is, and guns protect people far more frequently than they cause harm. Can the New York Times provide any evidence that permit holders pose any risk to the safety or health of others? No. Why is this provision a "poison pill"? All this provision would do is allow the permitting rules in a particular state to apply to those permit holders who enter a park in that state.
The temptation for lawmakers to pander to the gun lobby is never-ending, and 47 senators are on record in favor of tolerating loaded weapons in the parks. But at least their position was expressed in a plea to the Interior Department, where a hearing process would presumably encourage open public debate. The Coburn amendment is the gun culture’s dangerous end run around the public interest.
The discussion here with terms like "pander" is unfortunate. Would the Times want people to refer to its arguments as hysterical and emotional? Proponents of this change care about people's safety, and the Times references no evidence that permit holders pose a real risk to others.
Thanks to Ben Zycher for sending this link to me.