That headline about Smokey could appear in newspapers across the country soon. For the first time in 25 years, a new Bush Administration rule will allow people to carry loaded, concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges. Will the majority of people who visit these parks feel safer because of this new ruling? What do you think?
Which do you think is going to happen first, or more often: A law-abiding citizen with a permit to carry a concealed weapon will use his gun to protect himself or his property? Or, there will be a tragic accident involving a drunk and a gun, an animal and a gun, or a little kid and a gun?
Why do gun owners think it's so important to have a gun with them in a national park? Is this part of their "slippery slope" theory. You know, that if guns are prohibited in the parks, next they'll be saying you can't have a bazooka in your garage.
Here's the ruling: beginning in January, people who are licensed to carry concealed weapons will be allowed to carry those weapons in national parks So, people will be allowed to carry firearms, concealed and loaded, in 388 out of the 391 national parks. Wisconsin and Illinois don't issue concealed carry permits, so the parks in those states are exempt. But I'm sure the National Rifle Association is taking aim at those three parks, too.
You're probably wondering what liberal, left-wing, Constitution-hating regime banned these weapons from parks 25 years ago. Well, the bill that did so was signed by Ronald Reagan. It required firearms to be unloaded and placed somewhere that wasn't too accessible, such as a car trunk, while people visited federal parks. I guess the NRA feels that the Founding Fathers were against keeping things in locked trunks.
This paragraph is specifically for members of the NRA and other gun owners. I'm not saying that you don't have the legal right to carry a gun into a national park. So you don't have to send me that nasty email. (But you can if you want to). I'm just appealing to common sense when I ask the question, "Why do you feel a need to bring a gun into a national park?"
The way the NRA explains it, "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."
But what is it that they feel a need to protect themselves from? Until now, people weren't walking around with guns, so it can't be other campers. Shooting those bears who are sniffing around your garbage isn't allowed. Those Boy Scouts who might be singing too loudly aren't really a threat. So what are you so afraid of that you feel the need to have your gun with you?
Part of the above NRA quote refers to "enjoying" the parks. You mean, until now, there were people who visited the parks, and then afterwards said to their friends or spouses, "I loved the hiking, and the beauty of the park was breathtaking. But I really would have enjoyed the experience more if I had had my concealed weapon with me?"
I believe the NRA folks when they say they will feel safer because of this ruling. But what about the rest of us? Are you going to feel safer, knowing that those guys in the next tent who just drank a case of beer might be carrying concealed weapons? Are you going to be afraid to ask the woman by the campfire who's playing her radio too loud to turn it down now that you know that the thing in her pocket might not be a flashlight? And will that nervous guy with a gun who sees something moving in the middle of the night shoot it before realizing it's you running to the bathroom?
Gun guys, take a break. We all know the law says you can have your gun with you, but it doesn't say you must have it with you. Can't you leave it at home for one little weekend? Just have fun at the park, and if you think you're going to miss your gun too much, you can always bring a picture of it. Just don't reach for that picture too quickly. One of your buddies might think your reaching for something else.