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Brady Campaign Wins Injunction Against Weapons In National Parks: Judge Says Process 'Astoundingly Flawed'
WASHINGTON - March 20 - The Bush Administration failed to follow Federal environmental laws, a Federal judge indicated yesterday, in its attempt to give the gun lobby a last-minute gift by allowing loaded, hidden firearms into America's national parks and wildlife refuges. As a result, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued an injunction late yesterday, restoring prior rules in those public lands that weapons be unloaded and safely secured.
"We are gratified that the Court struck down the Bush Administration's parting gift to the gun lobby. Concealed weapons have no place in our national parks, which have always been safe places to enjoy our nation's magnificent natural and historical treasures," said Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke. The Brady Campaign is represented by attorneys from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence's Legal Action Project and the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP. Ropes & Gray attorney Bruce S. Manheim, Jr. said, "The court issued a sound and well-reasoned decision. We are pleased that it found the rule resulted from an ‘astoundingly flawed process' and was based on faulty reasoning."
The Brady Campaign filed suit on December 30, 2008, to block the rule. The Bush rule went into effect on January 9, 2009, but the court's ruling immediately halts the Bush rule and reinstates rules dating back to President Reagan that restrict concealed weapons in parks and refuges.
The Judge's order is available on the Brady Campaign's website at www.bradycampaign.org/xshare/pdf/lap/cases/gunsinparks/injunction-victory.pdf.
The court found the Bush Administration's last-minute guns in parks rule was a product of an "astoundingly flawed process," and held that the Brady Campaign is "highly likely to prevail" in showing that the rule was illegal. The court also rejected arguments made by the National Rifle Association, which sought to keep the Bush rule in place. The court called the NRA's argument that the Brady Campaign did not have standing to bring the case "flawed," citing Brady Campaign members' "concern[s] for their personal safety in parks and refuges" as demonstrating that continued implementation of the rule would cause "irreparable harm."
The suit was filed on behalf of the Brady Campaign and its members, including school teachers who planned to cancel school trips to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty if guns were allowed in these national park areas. The suit charged that the Interior Department violated numerous federal laws in its rush to implement the rule before President Bush left office, including failing to conduct any environmental review of the harm that the rule will cause, as is required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
The rule allowed guns in rural and urban national park areas around the country, from Yellowstone and Yosemite to Independence National Historical Park, home of the Liberty Bell. Rules in place since the Reagan Administration have allowed visitors to transport guns in national parks and wildlife refuges if they are unloaded and stored or dismantled. These restrictions made the parks some of the safest places to visit in the country. The Bush last-minute rule change allowed concealed carrying even in national parks and refuges located in states that specifically ban the practice in state parks.
Numerous studies have confirmed that concealed carrying of firearms does not reduce crime and, if anything, leads to increased violent crime. Experience in states that have allowed concealed carrying of firearms has shown that thousands of dangerous people are able to get licenses. In Florida, for example, more than 4,200 licenses were revoked because many of these licensees committed a crime. Since becoming the first state to allow the concealed carrying of firearms in 1987, Florida consistently has had one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation. Florida has been ranked as the state with the highest annual violent crime rate more often than any other state in the last two decades.
The court yesterday issued the injunction in the Brady Campaign's case and a related case brought by the National Parks Conservation Association, the Coalition of National Park Services Retirees, and Association of National Park Rangers filed January 6, 2009. The court ordered the government to immediately stop "implementing or enforcing" the Bush rule, and gives the government until April 20, 2009, to indicate its "intended course of action" concerning the Rule.