Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guns in National Parks

We're getting down to the end of the comment period on a revision of fed statutes to allow concealed carry in national parks. Here's the big wrap-up article from MSNBC:
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.

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!


Michael Bane
Outdoor Channel
You can add your own comment until August 8 here.


Carteach said...

I already commented at the government regulations site...

Reading yours, I find I missed a point.

Are park rangers armed?


(Ones I see often are)

Anonymous said...

Here's my comments:

"The chances of my house being struck by lightning are "pretty small" but I carry insurance, because pretty safe isn't 100%. It is would be no consolation to my family that parks are "pretty safe" after my beaten and battered body was found by park rangers several days after criminals stole my possessions and murdered me.

There are numerous laws against criminal activity in national parks but they don't stop criminals from carrying out their nefarious actions. It is only because the parks are so vast and the opportunities relative rare that crimes happen, but when they do, citizens should be able to protect themselves in the absence of immediate assistance from law enforcement.

National parks and forests are isolated places and they are ideal for criminals, free from constraints and watchful eyes of more populated areas, to prey on the innocent. Even the Park Service says they do not have staff to effectively patrol the more popular areas, much less the many other scattered park areas.

Isolated in back country areas, crimes of opportunity, things like snatch and grab, can turn into rape and murder because the criminal has little fear of being discovered or interrupted.

A recent case, local to north Georgia, was in the news where a predator stalked a young women, tortured and killed her, because she was in an isolated forest area with no rangers or even other civilians to come to her assistance.

Backwood areas are also an ideal place for criminals to conduct other illegal pursuits such as growing marijuana, staging for smuggling of contraband, smuggling of aliens and processing drugs. When an innocent person stumbles across these operations they are at the mercy of the criminal element, who disregards all laws anyway.

Lastly, occasionally attacks from predatory animals are a concern especially in some of the wilderness areas. The Park Service cannot provide on-the-spot protection to every hiker and camper, it would only make sense to allow park users to carry their own protection.

Citizens such as myself carry firearms in and about some of the most populous communities in our country without incident and it makes no sense to give up our protection when entering a national park.


Petey said...

Extremely well put, MB. Clearly thought out points along with back-up information to support the points.

This is the kind of comments that should really make an impression. Lots of facts and solid information.

What does the other side have to offer? Feelings. "It makes me feel scared." "I feel they can't be trusted."

I hope the comment I left prior to the original deadline came off as well as your.

Thanks, MB.

Petey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Petey said...

MB- I didn't think of it initially, but your mention of the Appalachian Trail reminded me of a post I made in March about Meredith Emerson, a 24 year old woman attacked, kidnapped, raped, murdered, and decapitated by a predator on the Appalachian Trail.

My post is at

The original article I read is at:

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