WASHINGTON - A judge on Thursday blocked a federal rule allowing people to carry concealed, loaded guns in U.S. national parks and wildlife refuges.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly halts a change in regulations issued in the waning days of the Bush administration and orders further review. She set an April 20 deadline for the Interior Department to review the rule and indicate its course of action in response to the injunction.
The rule, which took effect Jan. 11, and allowed visitors to carry a loaded gun into a park or wildlife refuge as long as the person had a permit for a concealed weapon and the state where the park or refuge was located allowed concealed firearms. Previously, guns in parks had been severely restricted.
The Obama administration had said it was reviewing the Bush rule but had defended it in court.
A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declined to comment Thursday, citing the ongoing court case.
Restrictions adopted during Reagan years
The Bush administration issued the gun rule in December in response to letters from half the Senate asking officials to lift the restrictions on guns in parks, which were adopted by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s.
The rule went further than a draft proposal issued a year ago and would have allowed concealed weapons even in parks located in states that prohibit the carrying of guns in state parks. Some states allow concealed weapons but also ban guns from parks.
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Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of two groups that sued to block the rule, called the judge's ruling a victory for the people.
"We're happy that this headlong rush to push more guns into more places has been slowed," he said.
Bryan Faehner, associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association, which also brought suit, said he was extremely pleased.
"We're especially glad to hear that the court is agreeing with the park rangers and the public who are concerned that there will be negative impacts from the (now-overturned) regulation and increased likelihood for opportunistic poaching of wildlife and increased risk of violence to the public."
NRA backed the Bush rule change
The National Rifle Association had pushed for the Bush rule change, saying law-abiding citizens had the right to protect themselves and their families while enjoying America's national parks and wildlife refuges. The previous regulations were inconsistent and unclear, the NRA said.
A group representing park rangers, retirees and conservation organizations protested the Bush rule change, complaining that it could lead to confusion and increased danger for visitors, rangers and other law enforcement agencies.