Since January 2009, thanks to a regulatory change by the outgoing Bush administration, it is legal to carry concealed and loaded weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges, as long as it’s permitted in the state. Since 1960 such gun bearing had been largely banned in those federal enclaves, except for some zones set aside for hunting.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence is seeking to overturn the new rule. In January the gun control organization filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of the Interior and other agencies, claiming, among other things, that concealed handguns are really scary.
The campaign claims the new gun policy violates the core purposes of the National Park Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System. Park users, Brady activists insist, will be at greater risk of violent crime, and animals will be at greater risk of being poached. The group’s members, in fact, will refuse to set foot in any of the affected parks “out of fear for their personal safety from those who will now be permitted to carry loaded and concealed weapons in such areas.”
Yet in a December 2007 letter to the Department of the Interior, 51 senators expressed support for the new weapon rule. The last decade and a half of generally increasing gun ownership, generally increasing numbers of people with concealed carry permits, generally decreasing gun deaths, and generally decreasing crimes per capita associated with weapon possession has not shaken the Brady Campaign’s contention that the new rule presents a severe risk to American park goers. For the moment at least, the group’s members have not yet vowed to avoid setting foot in another category of concealed-weapon territory: 40 of the 50 states.