Monday, December 15, 2008

Guns, U.S. Parks: A Deadly Mix

From the Hartford Courant
Guns, U.S. Parks: A Deadly Mix
A Needless And Risky Rule • Don't let people carry concealed, loaded weapons

December 15, 2008

A new rule allowing people to carry loaded, concealed firearms inside national parks and wildlife refuges is a sop to the National Rifle Association that poses a needless threat to the safety and security of millions of visitors, federal staff and wildlife.

Firearms have been allowed in national parks and wildlife refuges since the early 1980s. But under existing rules, the guns had to be unloaded, stored securely and not readily accessible.

It was a sensible rule that balanced the right to bear arms with the right of millions of tourists to a safe experience while enjoying the nation's parks and wildlife refuges.

On Jan. 1, that will change. Under the rule adopted by the U.S. Department of the Interior, state laws that allow people to carry loaded, concealed weapons will extend to national parks and wildlife refuges within a state's borders. Currently, 48 states have such laws.

The rule change is dangerous and unjustified.

Crime rates in the national parks are down significantly. Yet the international trade in animal organs may be pushing poaching to new heights. The National Parks Conservation Association reports poaching is partly responsible for the decline of at least 29 species of wildlife in national parks. Nineteen species — including grizzly bear, lynx and the desert tortoise — are in danger of being eradicated.

Letting people carry loaded, concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges will make it more difficult and dangerous for rangers to enforce anti-poaching laws. It also diminishes the safety of the millions of people from here and abroad who visit the national parks each year.(read)

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