Visitors to some national parks would be able to start packing heat under a proposal being considered by the Interior Department that would ease restrictions on loaded firearms in the parks, reports the Washington Post. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne will review long-standing regulations that require firearms in most national parks to be unloaded and inoperable — through the use of trigger locks, for example, or storage in a car trunk or a special case. The department intends to propose new rules by April 30.
The review pits the National Rifle Association and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers against park rangers and advocates who decry the move as election-year posturing that could make the parks more dangerous. Two recent letters from 51 senators — 44 Republicans and seven Democrats — ask the National Park Service to align its gun rules with state laws. If a state permits citizens to carry concealed weapons, the national parks in that state should, too, they argued. The National Rifle Association praised Kempthorne’s move, noting that 48 states now have processes that allow people to legally carry firearms for self-defense, compared with six states in 1982. Disagreeing, Bryan Faehner, a former park ranger now with the National Parks Conservation Association, said, “There is no need to walk around a national park with a loaded weapon. It’s a political maneuver by the NRA. They are using this as a political tool to build up support heading into the elections.”