Monday, May 5, 2008 | 2:05 a.m.
National parks are among the safest places in the country, which is why there is no good reason to allow their visitors to carry loaded, concealed weapons.
But that isn’t stopping half of the U.S. Senate and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne from pushing for a rule change that would allow many visitors to be armed as they hike or cruise through national parks.
This year Kempthorne received letters from 50 senators — 41 of them Republicans — requesting a loosening of gun restrictions in the national parks. The letters’ wording was drafted by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who told the Associated Press there was no particular reason or incident that led to the sudden push.
“It’s more a matter of, why not?” Crapo said. “We’ve got a guy who’s a Westerner as interior secretary. He certainly understands these issues.”
Kempthorne served as governor of Idaho and as a U.S. senator from that state.
There may be no particular reason to support the change, other than catering to voters who oppose any and all gun control measures, but there are plenty of reasons to oppose the change, say people with years of experience managing national parks.
The Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police are among the groups opposing any change.
The current rule allows licensed gun owners to bring their guns into the parks, but the guns have to be packed away so they are not immediately accessible.
This rule was adopted 25 years ago to cut down on target shooting, killing of animals for sport, stray bullets that hit campers, impulsive gunplay and poaching in national parks — all of which had become serious problems. There is agreement among the various national parks advocacy groups that the rule has worked extraordinarily well.
Without any better reason than “Why not?” to work with, Kempthorne is wrong to be proposing any change.