The U.S. Department of the Interior is weighing a proposal to permit visitors to some national parks, wildlife refuges and monuments to carry loaded, concealed weapons.
Currently, visitors to national parks and wildlife refuges are required to keep weapons “inoperable or packed, cased or stored in a manner that will prevent their ready use.”
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed the change in the regulation after receiving letters from 51 U.S. Senators, including 42 Republicans, the New York Times reported.
The current rule, the lawmakers argue, infringes on gun owners’ rights.
Under the proposed new rule, gun owners would be permitted to carry concealed weapons in the federal sites in states where they may carry those weapons in state parks and state wildlife refuges. Two dozen states have such laws.
In the case of a large national park bordered by more than one state — Yellowstone, for example, is bordered by Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — it isn’t yet clear which state’s laws would apply, according to the Times.
The National Rifle Association supports the rule change.
“You read stories about people attacked by animals or who stumble upon meth labs or women who are raped in a national park,” the N.R.A.’s chief lobbyists Chris Cox said.
“We don’t believe law-abiding citizens should be kept from protecting themselves.”
But opponents counter that there is little crime in national parks and the new rule could actually threaten visitors’ safety.
“A gun will give people a false sense of security that they can approach a bear or bison,” Doug Morris, a member of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, told the Times.
The Department of the Interior will decide whether to adopt the rule change after hearing public comments through June.
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