The NRA’s long campaign to ease the ban appeared to be close to succeeding a month ago, but lost momentum when the Interior Department extended the period for public comments on the plan until Aug. 8.You all know where I come down on this, but I thought you might like to see the gist of my comment:
As the only person to every write a book on staying safe in the back country, TRAIL SAFE, published by Wilderness Press and endorsed by the Appalachian Trail Committee, I acknowledge that the Park Service's statement of low crime in national parks is true...parks are pretty safe places.You can add your own comment until August 8 here.
However, we carry guns because "pretty safe" is not the same thing as "absolutely safe." As I've stated numerous times in print and on television, most of our lives are "pretty safe." If we stay away from illegal drugs, street hookers and the proverbial bad part of town, our chance of being involved in a violent encounter are on part with our being struck by lightning...that is, we arrange our lives to enhance our safety.
The reason I believe guns are absolutely necessary for back country travel is that the very attractiveness of the outback to us — it's away from civilization — makes it an idea hunting ground for human predators. Being away from civilization also means that those human predators are free of the few fears and constraints that civilization places on them...there's no 911, cruising police cars or potential witnesses, which is why some of the most horrific crimes have been perpetuated in the back country.
In the back country, crimes of opportunity can quickly escalate...assaults or a simple robbery can suddenly morph into rape, and rape into murder, because the human predator is missing the usual social restraints on his crimes.
Secondly, all back country, and by extension national parks, are not created equal. Where I live in the Front Range of Colorado, all the back country areas, including the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, are easily accessible from the major urban area of Denver, Colorado Springs and Ft. Collins. The closer and more accessible national parks are to major urban areas, the more the problems of those urban areas will "leak" into the back country. Because of the location of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the back country areas around Boulder are extremely dangerous areas for rape...prey attracts predators. Some of legendary Appalachian Trail pass close to large — and dangerous — urban areas.
Thirdly, the use of back country by criminals for criminal pursuits is a proven, documented fact. Meth labs, marijuana fields, staging areas for smuggling drugs or illegal immigrants, etc. all routinely happen as far away from prying eyes as possible, and that includes national forests and parks. I have personally been informally "warned away" from hiking areas on public lands by local law enforcement because of the danger of running across marijuana growers moving to and from their hidden fields. Much of the public land, including parks, on the border with Mexico is insanely dangerous because of the trafficing of illegal aliens. Criminal poachers add an additional element of danger...I have crossed paths with poachers in several national parks...they were armed (and breaking numerous laws), I wasn't.
Finally, although not as serious, the threat of dangerous animals is quite real and actually increasing as major animal predadors become more accustomed to humans in their range. Both bears and lions represent a real threat in the Front Range, as documented in numerous articles and even books (e.g., THE BEAST IN THE GARDEN on lions in the Boulder Front Range area). I have been stalked by a large lion in Rocky Mountain National Park during the first fall snows...the tracks clearly told the story. Apparently, because I was with several people, the lion didn't think dinner was worth the trouble, but had I been alone the ending might have been quite different.
By the Park Service's own admission, it lacks the manpower to adequately staff even the major national parks, much less the far flung (and more attractive) smaller parks.
Concealed carry has proven a safe method of reducing violent crime in all but a handful of states. Civilian CCW permit holders — including me — carry their weapons in some of the largest and most populated cities in America without consequence. It is past time for the National Park Service to allow park visitors their Constitutional right!