The Bush administration has struck down a federal ban on loaded guns in most national parks and forests, a move the San Francisco Chronicle says was widely seen as a parting shot on behalf of the National Rifle Association. The administration overturned a 25-year-old federal regulation severely restricting concealed firearms in U.S. parks and wildlife refuges. The new rule, which would take effect in January, would allow anyone who already has a concealed weapons permit in his or her state to also tote a gun in federal parks within state boundaries.
Conservation groups, park officials, and many politicians blasted the decision as a politically motivated slap against public opinion in favor of the gun lobby. “This is something the park service does not want that is being driven by the political appointees in the Department of the Interior,” said Bryan Faehner of the National Parks Conservation Association. “This is pretty outrageous. We’re concerned that there is going to be an increase in gun-related accidents in parks and opportunistic poaching.” The NRA lobbied hard for the change to the gun regulations, which it said were inconsistent and unclear. The change came despite more than 140,000 comments to the Department of the Interior, most opposing the presence of concealed firearms in national parks.