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"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
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Rangers Do Not Want Guns In Our National Parks

©Bert Gildart: On December 10, the Bush (The Lamest Duck, Time Magazine) administration announced that the 25-year-old Reagan-era regulation that severely restricted loaded guns in national parks will soon be rescinded. The new ruling will take effect in January and will allow visitors who have the proper permits for carrying a concealed weapon to carry a loaded gun into a park or wildlife refuge. As a former seasonal ranger in the national park, authorized at one time to carry a firearm, the issue is one I have tried to follow. Because I’ve been out of the loop, however, for a number of years, I called a good friend who continues to serve as a seasonal ranger. I wanted to know how he felt, and how others he works with in the summer might feel.


OTHER MATTERS:At one time during the Bush administration, it was proposed that Channel Islands National Park be made into a resort for soldiers returning from Iraq. I'm all for vetrans, but this was a horrible idea. See my two previous posts on all this park has done for wildlife. For awhile I was feeling sorry for Bush, but agree with Joe Kline in his editorial, the Lamest Duck.

Certainly Rick has the background. For over 30 years now Millsap has served in national parks as a law enforcement ranger in places such as Glacier, San Juan Islands, Kenai Fjord and in Alaska’s Wrangle St. Elias, the world’s largest national park managed area. He’s been trained how to use firearms on rogue bears and how to protect himself and park visitors from criminals.


“The new ruling is going to make it more difficult,” said Rick, “for rangers to perform their work. Until now, guns have always been prohibited in such places as divorce courts, banks, and schools – and for the past 25 years – in our national parks. Previously, weapons had to be unloaded and stored in a way that they weren’t readily accessible.”

Rick said that a major problem he could see concerned wildlife. “Say someone comes into a park with a .32 caliber pistol, sees a bear in the campground, decides it’s a problem, and shoots it. Now you and I both know a small caliber pistol will do little more than irritate a grizzly. As you know, we use large caliber pistols and prefer to use an .870 shotgun in bear management.”

Rick is not alone in his beliefs, and all it takes is a quick Internet search to learn how other park service officials view Bush’s most recent ineptitude.

“It’s a terrible idea,” said Doug Morris, who has 40 years’ experience with the National Park Service, from law-enforcement ranger all the way up to park superintendent. He’s also a member of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, a widely respected group whose 640 members have a combined 19,000 years working in the nation’s parks.


Not surprisingly, the 11,000 member Association of National Park Rangers feels the same, and their attitude is one I’ve been following since I first learned about this most recent attempt by Bush to undermine environmental matters. This past summer I alluded to it while visiting Knife-River National Monument.

The National Rifle Association has hailed the rule change, which will take effect next month before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. NRA officials say the new rule is more consistent with federal law and it eliminates confusion. But that’s not the feeling, either, of seven former National Park Service directors who went on record opposing any changes in the Reagan-era regulation last April. In part they wrote to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne saying: “The current regulations have served the Park Service and the public well for the past 25 years.”

In all likelihood, the Obama administration will attempt to overturn the new ruling, but Federal officials say that could take months or even years.


Apparently there are some shenanigans going on between controversial Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and George Bush, which now prevent Big Bend National Park from acquiring willed land. Not surpringly, it has to do with 2nd ammendment rights, George Bush and the NRA.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe this new ruling is part of a major political maneuver on the part of the NRA. Already we’ve seen masses of people buying guns because the NRA has convinced them Obama is going to take their guns away. Obama says nothing could be further from the truth. But now (if Obama reverses Bush’s rule), the NRA can come back and say, “See what he’s trying to do! Told you.” It was, of course Ronald Regan who helped enact the no guns in national park ruling, believing it was in the best interest of park visitors.

“It’s all very confusing,” says Millsap, “and I’m not optimistic. I’m afraid that in the long run, park wildlife and the park’s visitors are going to be the loser.”

Put in other words, there are many good reasons Rangers Do Not Want Guns In Our National Parks!



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5 Responses to “Rangers Do Not Want Guns In Our National Parks”

  1. About that attitude (on guns in parks) « Whispers: Thinking Straight Says:

    [...] example is from Bert Gildart in Rangers Do Not Want Guns In Our National Parks. If you read this, you will see a point of view supported by the straw man argument “Say someone [...]

  2. Bert Says:

    Apparently I’m really out of the loop, as I was not clear on the meaning of the “Straw man argument.” The definition, however, is easy to find on the Internet (just type in “Straw man”), prompting me to go back and review once again my posting. Now, I’m inclined to believe that if anyone has misrepresented a thesis — and made aspects of it into a “fallacious” argument — it is the poster of this comment. My position is straightforward: Visitors should not be allowed to bring loaded guns into national parks and I have allowed experts to cite the reasons. Hey, what’s fallacious about that?
    Regardless, I appreciate most all of the comments I get, and just so long as they’re not too far off the wall I will always allow people with reasonable ideas to share them here.
    Thank you, Sir, for your thoughts—and a link to your expansion of those thoughts. They made me think and bet they made others do the same.

  3. Forrest Says:

    Hi Bert,

    I understand the frustration and feelings you and Park Rangers have. I was a police officer for 27 years. I think there are many similarities between the two jobs. But I’m not taking your side on this issue.

    Normally, I don’t bother to get into gun debates, but I really am getting tired of the disrespect toward President Bush. I feel you have an absolute right to disagree, but will always believe that in any debate, while it is permissible to attack the idea, it is never acceptable to attack another’s character. “Bush’s most recent ineptitude,” Bush “the Lamest Duck,” is an attack on his character.

    My thoughts on gun regulations, based on my enforcement experience, is that it makes little difference whether the Park service has rules about guns or not. Those who want to carry guns (loaded or otherwise) into the parks have been doing so all along. Those who haven’t are not going to start when the rule changes. There will be exceptions of course, but in general I don’t think it will change the overall balance.

    How have Rangers enforced the rule as it has been? Cars and RVs are not searched at the entrance. Not even the question is asked. Do you really think that posting a sign that reads “loaded firearms prohibited” is an effective deterent? Mostly I think it only causes people to be more surreptitious. Maybe that is a good thing, but no Ranger should think for a moment that just because the guns are not visible that they are not there.

    Let me give an analogous example. This last summer we drove through a portion of Yellowstone on our way to Bozeman. There were signs everywhere to not park, to not even stop along the roadside. Yet, not only did drivers stop and park, they often did so in the middle of the roadway. There are signs telling the public to not approach the wildlife, yet I saw one person after another get as close as the wildlife would permit. And where was the enforcement? This isn’t a criticism, I really do understand the difficulty, but if the Rangers can’t even control traffic what expectation should there be that they can enforce gun regulations?

    The reality is the prohibition does not protect Rangers or the parks. It only makes it feel like protection. I call it a feel good law. Feeling protected and being protected are two very different things. I am opposed to any law that exists just for appearance because such a law is largely unenforceable and as a result can only be enforced selectively. Selective enforcement breeds contempt for all law and depreciates the laws that really matter.

    That is likely part of the reasoning behind the Bush Administration’s decision, and the NRA’s support. As you noted yourself, “NRA officials say the new rule is more consistent with federal law and it eliminates confusion.”

    Why should park regulations be inconsistent with laws existing just outside the park entrance? Is it because parks are more special than the rest of the country? I’m sure you see it that way, but I don’t. Parks are important and deserving, but not at the expense of Constitutional Rights or consistency and equal protection of law. To me these are not lame or inept ideas.

  4. Bert Gildart Says:

    Thanks Forrest! Comments such as yours are greatly appreciated and hopefully will generate more thought about this thorny issue regarding guns in our national parks. My reference about George Bush (linked to Kline’s Time Magazine editorial) were made out of frustration, as there is so much this president has done that has fostered disrespect and hatred both at home and abroad. I say that as someone who found much to admire in both John McCain and Barack Obama. That said, in the spirit of quality polemics, next time I allude to Bush I’ll make sure I provide a more featured rationale for referencing his name.

  5. Kimmy Says:

    Here’s no two cents… leave the law alone. I don’t understand why someone would want to bring a gun into a national park to begin with. Our parks are the only natural thing we have left out there. Once guns are allowed in, I believe the wildlife will be threatened than they are now.
    I pray Obama does reverse the ruling. As a frequent park visitor, I would feel safer knowing the guy camping next to me isn’t carrying a firearm.