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Park rangers, retirees, others oppose bid to ease ban on guns in US national parks

Park rangers, retirees, others oppose bid to ease ban on guns in US national parks

Park rangers, retirees and conservation groups are protesting a plan by the Interior Department to reconsider regulations that bar loaded guns from U.S. national parks.
The groups say current regulations that require visitors to national parks to render their weapons inaccessible were working and have made national parks among the safest places in America.
"Loaded guns are not needed and are not appropriate in our national parks," said Doug Morris, a retired park superintendent and member of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.
The plan to reconsider the gun regulations "could break what is not broken and change the nature of our national parks," Morris said Monday.
Morris spoke at a news conference called in response to an announcement Friday that the Interior Department will review gun laws on lands administered by the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The department will draw up new rules by April 30 for public comment, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said in a letter to 50 senators who requested the review.
The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates praised the announcement as the first step to relax a decades-old ban on bringing loaded firearms into national parks.
"Law-abiding citizens should not be prohibited from protecting themselves and their families while enjoying America's national parks and wildlife refuges," said Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist.
A Kempthorne spokesman emphasized that the review was in its early stages, but said it made sense to update regulations that were last changed in the early 1980s.
"It's appropriate to look at updating these regulations, to bring them into conformity with state laws" on gun use, said Chris Paolino, an Interior Department spokesman.
Conservation groups and park rangers disagreed, saying the plan amounted to surrender to the NRA.
The gun ban "has not been a major issue at national parks in recent years," said Bryan Faehner of the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group.
The restrictions, which require that guns be unloaded and placed somewhere that is not easily accessible, such as in a car trunk, "were reasonable then and are reasonable now," Faehner said. "This is not about guns. It's not about parks. It's a hardball political issue injected by the NRA in an election year," he said.
Kempthorne's announcement follows letters complaining about the gun restriction from half the Senate _ 41 Republicans and nine Democrats.
Sen. Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican who organized the letters, said he was pleased that Kempthorne, a former Idaho governor and senator, was "taking steps to uphold the rights of citizens under the Second Amendment and eliminate inconsistent regulations."
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the subject of much controversy in the United States. It says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" in the United States.
Arguments rage even among constitutional scholars whether that guarantees an unequivocal right to be armed or was meant to keep the proposed national government from infringing on the right of states to recruit and maintain militias.
Crapo and other lawmakers had complained to Kempthorne that the existing guidelines were "confusing, burdensome and unnecessary."


Updated : 2021-04-12 20:51 GMT+08:00