Comment Period for Proposed Gun Rule Change in National Parks Extended 30 Days

Interior Department officials have agreed to extend through July the comment period on a proposal to allow visitors to national parks to carry guns.

On June 26, the chairmen of the House and Senate subcommittees with jurisdiction over national parks wrote to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne requesting an extension of the comment period that was set to expire on June 30. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, and Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, stressed to the secretary that the previous 60-day comment period was an inadequate amount of time to allow the public to comment on such a controversial and complex proposal.

“While a longer extension such as the 60 days Senator Akaka and I requested would have been a more appropriate time-frame for the public to comment on this major change to current policies, I am pleased that at least the Interior Department is willing to give the public a bit more time to provide meaningful input on the issue,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It is my hope that ultimately the Department will decide to abandon this ill-advised idea for the safety of park visitors and wildlife alike.”

The Department of Interior’s proposal would allow visitors to carry loaded, concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges in states where guns are allowed in parks and refuges under state law, a change from current regulations that require guns to be unloaded and locked away during visits to parks.

“National Parks have long been a place where families and individuals can enjoy a peaceful connection with the natural environment and wildlife,” added Senator Akaka. “ Parks should be safe for children and visitors of all ages, as well as for park employees and animals that inhabit the parks. While I am pleased by the granting of an extension, I am hopeful that the Department of Interior will give serious consideration to the public comments, and the consequences of allowing loaded guns on parks.”

Comments

Thanks for the information, I'll pass it on.

Has anyone done any kind of tally on the comments? The last time I did one, I picked 11 pages at random. I recorded the number of those in FAVOR versus those OPPOSED on each of those pages. There were 77 that SUPPORTED the rule change while there were only 30 that OPPOSED the rule change. This is incredibly UN-scientific, but I think I can pick out a pattern here. How long will this denial of the obvious continue?

Had a little time on my hands and I was curious so I did another unscientific sampling. I selected pages at random: 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 25, 26, 39, 44, and 57. I read the comments on each of those pages. There should have been 100 comments but I might have counted one twice. Guess what the results were. You're RIGHT!! There were 95 posters who FAVORED the rule change allowing concealed-carry, while there were only SIX that OPPOSED the rule change!!

Yes this is very unscientific. But give me a break. How long will this "foot dragging" go on?? There's already more than 20,000 comments. Are we really expecting this ratio to change?

I really do not care what the final event is, I packing. I will not shoot an animal that is not on top of me! I will not shoot a person who is not trying to abuse my civil rights to enjoy myself in the great outdoors! Simple. Know there are idiots who would fire into the dark and that is what scares me though. They are going to be out there anyway and there still won't be a ranger where I go. Some people don't understand real back country and off road camping like Death Valley or Big Bend. You damned well better carry some protection especially in the Saline Valley from the nudists! Just joking of course. It was Chalie Manson's ol' stomping grounds though. He did settle in further south in the Panamint Valley (well, almost) which I believe is now part of Death Valley Nat'l Park.

Read a lot of good information on this forum and a lot of mis-information. Non-gun owners need to get educated before they comment because they look like idiots otherwise.

Later, Bill R.

Fred, totaling the votes doesn't matter when the government considers public comments. If that were the case, there wouldn't be any recreational snowmobiling in Yellowstone, where there were tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of more votes against snowmobiling than for snowmobiling.

The bottom line is the substance of the comment. Just saying "I believe in the 2nd amendment" makes no difference if said 1 million times or just once.

I guess the question is, why do we need to allow loaded, concealed weapons in the parks? How many of the millions and millions and visitors to our national parks have been killed in the parks over, say, the last ten years? Hardly any is the answer. So what is the need for this change in the law? What do we need of protection from, except for other people with guns? I realize that some "law abiding citizens" already are breaking the current law by carrying loaded, concealed weapons into our parks. I am concerned about these unlawful people—either in a national park or outside of one—who obviously love their guns more than the laws of their country, and I consider them far more dangerous than bears or other wildlife. But that still doesn't make me feel like I need to stuff a loaded .45 into my pants before hiking in Big Bend. Like I said, given the extraordinarily low levels of violence in our parks, why do we need to change the law? And if we do change the law, can I bring loaded, concealed gun into the Statue of Liberty and national other parks that don't have typical wilderness areas? One might say that common sense would preclude me carrying a gun there. But in light of the obvious LACK of need for loaded, concealed weapons in any of our national parks, it's clear that common sense has nothing to do with this argument. This is a political matter, not a safety issue, so let's not confuse it with anything to do with the common sense or public good. It is neither. For those counting, here is a vote against changing the current law, which seems to be working just fine.

Kurt - you're right on about the snowmobile issue and the comments. Almost makes you wonder why they bother to solicit comments. They just do what they want anyway. Whatever happened to "We the people"?

In response to Fred Miller, who asks "why bother" to solicit comments if "they just do what they want anyway" ...

First off, I think some decisions are pre-ordained politically, including this one on guns in the parks as well as snowmobiles in Yellowstone. It IS a sham when the NPS is forced to put the public through the guise of considering comments when we are unable to actually consider those comments. It's a waste of the public's time and it's a waste of huge amounts of agency (i.e. taxpayer) time and money that could be doing something more useful in the national parks.

That said, most decisions (thankfully) don't reach this level of political interference. Having been the decision maker on a number of plans where we solicited comments, I will tell you that I have personally read every comment that came in. I've looked in each for some kernel of reasoning that we had not considered, or that made me reconsider something we had analyzed. It unquestionably is not a vote, and organizations that think that telling me 100 times what they want me to do will somehow be more effective than telling me once, but articulately and thoughtfully, simply do not understand the process. In fact, organized letter writing campaigns rarely work and probably shouldn't as they don't reflect a cross section of opinion, merely those that are best organized.

I know that in one comment period we went through a single specific letter made a remarkable difference because it raised issues that were pertinent and nuanced in a way we (and the rest of the comments) had not considered, but should have. That one letter, from an ordinary citizen, was more influential than thousands of rote letters from interest groups.

I also remember getting an "action alert" at home from one particular interest group that I belonged to and believed in. It advised that I write a letter -- to me, the park superintendent -- and gave me talking points in favor of the groups's views. I was appalled at how simplistic and inaccurate they were. This from a group I supported, and in favor of a position I agreed with! It's made me highly skeptical of "groupthink" responses.

So the fact that the comments are highly in favor of relaxing the gun regulation in the national parks is pretty irrelevant, for two reasons. One, I don't think this administration cares what the public thinks since they have clearly indicated their preference and intend to ram it through before they leave office. And two, it is testimony to the (impressive) organizational skills of the NRA and other pro-gun organizations, little more.

J Longstreet
A National Park Superintendent

Where I would like to see comments collected would be at the gates of our National Parks. My guess is that your AVERAGE, actual bona fide visitor has no idea that this is even being considered; while you can bet your bottom dollar that every single NRA member has received an e-mail or mailing instructing them to comment, whether they ever actually visit National Parks or not. What do you bet?

Frank N --

You're absolutely right. And park managers have been all but told not to bring it up locally.

J Longstreet
A National Park Superintendent

Above, Bill R insists that even if it continues to be illegal to carry loaded, concealed weapons in our national parks, he'll be "packing" (a gun, I assume, and not a picnic basket) to protect himself from nudists and, apparently, Charles Manson. Of course, breaking this law would make Bill a criminal, not one of those "law abiding citizens" we hear so much about from the NRA. And if I'm not mistaken, criminals are not supposed to have guns at all. I'd suggest that someone who publicly expresses an eagerness to break the law might want to think things over a bit before calling non-gun advocates "idiots" for expressing a reasoned argument, based on facts and reality. In light of the miniscule number of non-accident related deaths in our national parks, there is no justification for visitors to be carrying loaded, concealed weapons in the parks, regardless of any danger posed by random naked people along the trail.

Censorship directed from the top Mr. Longstreet? Ah, American lobbyists showing their truly gutless colors. Pity that those who this affects most are at the same time the least informed that changes are being considered. And Fred, "We the People" haven't been in existence since the American political system degenerated into the ridiculous bi-partisan system of stalemate, bickering and finger-pointing that is now the "Blue and Red" bastardization of the original Republic of American Colonies.

Isn't it a shame when our own government gives its citizenry the impression that their involvement is important to the process, but then takes behind the scenes steps to suppress that involvement? Several NPS affiliated employee groups have been concerned about this in relation to the proposed gun rule. In a May 21st letter these groups wrote Director Bomar and in part said:

"Our question to you is: What specific steps have you taken or will you take to ensure that National Park System visitors and National Park Service employees will be informed of this proposed change to a regulation that has been in place in some form for 88 years? Will you provide them with the opportunity to know that they have the ability to officially comment on this proposed change? In our opinion the current regulation has served park resources, park visitors, and park employees well over the decades.

National Park Service employees were denied the ability to comment in their official capacities by Departmental directive earlier this year. Their professional expertise in managing parks should not be ignored in making this decision, nor should it be hidden from the public as they weigh their individual decision on whether to oppose or support the proposed change.

The more than 280-million-plus visitors to the National Park System is the exact constituency that the Department and agency should be making every effort to involve in this decision making process. Notice of this proposed change and instructions on how to send in comments should be placed in park newspapers or leaflets inserted in park brochures, on park bulletin boards and visitor center desks, added to park web sites, and broadcast on park radio stations. Park visitors are the group that will be most affected by the proposed change, and they should be informed of the proposed change and challenged to think through how such a change may impact the quality of their future park visits from a park resources standpoint as well as considerations related to personal safety and an atmosphere of tranquility.

In this decade where “civic engagement” has become an NPS buzzword and a mandatory process for all controversial NPS decision-making, surely the NPS intends to make every effort to “engage” its primary constituency before a final decision on this draft regulatory change is made. The members of the Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Retirees, and the US Rangers' Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police look forward to your timely response."

There has been no reply from Director Bomar or the NPS.

My wife and I are avid supporters of our national park system and to date have visited 40 national parks and goodness knows how many national monuments and historic sites. We are also members of the National Parks Conservation Association.

But at the same time, we are holders of permits to carry which are recognised in over 30 states. Although we very seldom carry a concealed weapon on our persons, there is always one in my vehicle and in my home.

We have not hunted in many years, but consider it important in these times of carjackings and armed criminals to be able to carry a weapon or to have one at hand.

At home we can lock our doors, but when camping in a remote campground, a canvas tent offers little protection, either from carnivores or from ruffians.

For these reasons I am supporting the rule change to allow firearms.

This is indeed a political matter, I will agree. This is not about trust, but about power and control. I simply don't understand the logic which equates an indiscriminate homicidal maniac with any responsible, law abiding citizen who happens to be carrying a gun. You might as well argue banning fire extinguishers in buildings with good safety records. Or why not legislate mandatory seat belt free zones because there have been so few people injured in those specific locations? Ridiculous is exactly my point. "Lack of a need" doesn't hold water. As with any prophylactic, it's a preventive measure, there is no actual need for it... until a need actually arises.

To be civilized is to restrain the ability to commit mayhem.
To be incapable of committing mayhem is not the mark of the civilized -- merely the domesticated. Count my vote for change in our parks and on our streets!