Congress restored a policy first enacted by the Bush administration which allowed loaded, concealed, firearms in National Parks for citizens who possess a valid concealed carry firearms permit from their state. Fox News is reporting on the story here. Last year 51 senators, from both parties, asked the Department of Interior to change the rules related to firearm possession inside national parks. The senators asked the Department to change the rule so that the rules in National Parks would mirror those of the state where the park is located. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) sponsored the bill, which was added as an amendment to the Credit Card Reform bill that is working its way through Congress.

Tom Coburn
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

The rule was changed under the Bush administration to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms in national parks in accordance with State Laws. I know that guns are an emotional subject, but this rule change was a nice dose of common sense. Like all good things it has faced opposition, and in March 2009 a Federal Judge invalidated the rule change and prevented the implementation of the rule from going forward.

Senator Coburn, quoted by the Washington Post here states:

If an American citizen has a right to carry a firearm in their state, it makes no sense to treat them like a criminal if they pass through a national park while in possession of a firearm.

Bravo Senator Coburn. I voted for Dr. Coburn when I lived in Oklahoma and I’m proud to hear some common sense being proposed by Congress. This amendment simply allows the same rules that apply in a state to apply in the National Parks. The typical argument against allowing guns in parks usually follow the lines of “If we let guns in parks then some nut job is going to shoot Smokey the Bear and kill all the animals. How can the animals feel safe if we let guns in the parks?”

There are so many things wrong with this argument. First and foremost, if you’re not allowed to carry a gun in your state then you can’t carry a gun in the park. Plain and simple. To obtain a concealed carry permit you have to attend a training and then submit to a state run background check before the permit is issued. It is not a simple thing to obtain the permit. I worry a lot less about those who follow the rules and submit to the checks to obtain the permits than I do about the criminals who carry the guns without the permit. Additionally, we still allow cars in national parks and I can guarantee that more animals, and I’d dare guess people, are killed every year in National Parks by automobile accidents than are killed by guns.

If you don’t like that logic then let me throw another piece of logic at you. In Utah, home to a number of National Parks and Monuments, there are towns that are surrounded by National Parks. To get to or from the town you have to travel through the park. For these citizens to travel from their homes they must either leave their guns at home, or must stop at the border of the park to unload and disassemble their firearms to travel through the park. They must do this even if they have a valid concealed carry permit. This makes no sense. Does the federal government believe that these law abiding citizens will simply go nuts once they cross the boundaries of the park and shoot everything in sight? The rule change and subsequent legislation by Senator Coburn in response to the Federal Court lawsuit in March are simply trying to clarify the rules and provide some uniformity within the states where these parks are located.

As a gun owner myself I am glad to know that the government is trying to make the rules easier to understand and not more complex. I don’t want to have to be worried about crossing some arbitrary line and being a law abiding citizen on one side of the line and a criminal on the other. If I can be trusted by the state to safely carry a gun then why don’t the same rules apply federally? I would love to hear your comments on this issue.

This video pretty much sums up my feelings about the irrational fear of guns.