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New law allows concealed, loaded guns in national parks

May 20, 2009 |  2:16 pm

In case you didn't have a chance to read the fine print to the bill just passed by Congress that put some controls on credit card companies, there is this: A rider allowing visitors to national parks to carry concealed, loaded guns and rifles.

It's a last-minute Bush administration policy, written by lobbyists for the National Rifle Assn., that was  pushed through the Interior Department as President George W. Bush was leaving office.

The rule, now a federal law, allows the carrying of concealed, loaded weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges in states where people are legally allowed to carry concealed arms. Proponents argued that the policy would give weapons owners more clear rules, and essentially allows guns in all but three of the nation's 391 parks.

The gun rule was criticized by a broad coalition of groups, including law enforcement, park rangers and former Park Service directors. Opponents cited statistics showing that parks are among the safest places in the country and said the presence of guns would create a law enforcement nightmare and might lead to poaching.

Bill Wade, Executive Council chair of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said today:   "Legislators who voted for this amendment now have to live with the fact that they have, in fact, increased the risk to visitors and employees, as well as the risk to wildlife and some cultural resources. Moreover, they've just contributed to diminishing the specialness of this country's National Park System. We hope the American people register their disappointment in the actions of these legislators.”

 The previous rule, in place since the Reagan administration, allowed registered gun owners to bring non-concealed, unloaded weapons into parks.

-- Julie Cart