Deadly - Guns in National Parks

In its infinite cowardice, Congress is extending the same national park protections to guns as it does wildlife.

Proving that some corners of Obamaworld are just as insane as the
Bush administration, Congress handed Obama a credit card reform bill
last week where the biggest "Yahoo!"
came not from debt-ridden consumers but the National Rifle Association.
After months of trying, gun advocates finally managed to slap an
amendment on the bill that allows people to carry loaded firearms into
national parks and wildlife refuges.

Obama and the majority Democrats did little to stop it as the
amendment passed the Senate 67-29 and the House, 279-147. Even with a
popular president and renewed power, the Democrats remain as
shell-shocked as ever as NRA lobbyist Chris Cox proclaimed, "This
common-sense measure, offered by Senator Tom Coburn, gives law-abiding
gun owners the option of protecting themselves."

If it is common sense that gun owners must pack heat in our most
peaceful places, it is bound to guarantee a new level of craziness for
the people who come to parks armed only with binoculars, cameras,
backpacks, and sticks to roast marshmallows. It shows you a clear
firewall between courage and cowardice that the Democrats will not

You would think Congress has much more important things to do than
to effectively elevate guns to the protected status of bears. The
Government Accountability Office reported this spring that the Interior
Department has a deferred maintenance backlog of between $13.2 billion
and $19.4 billion. Within that is about a $9 billion maintenance
backlog for the national parks. A GAO report last year found that staff
levels at the nation's wildlife refuges declined by 8.4 percent from
2004 to 2007.

In a logical world, instead of listening to the NRA, Congress would
have heeded the concerns of the US Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order
of Police, and the Association of National Park Rangers. Those groups
vociferously opposed loaded guns in the parks. They have enough on
their hands.

Randall Kendrick, a founder and former Park Rangers Lodge executive
director, said, "We've seen it with banks and the bailouts. Money talks
and the average voter who is not aligned with a single-issue group is
left out in the cold." Kendrick said by phone that Obama disappointed
him as well as Congress because "he's a person who is very articulate
who is never at a loss for words. When he says this is a losing issue,
it means that visitors and park rangers count less than riling up the

Kendrick, 65, retired in 1995 after 32 years of being a ranger. He
is concerned that rangers will be more vulnerable to angry, armed
visitors who know that backup for a ranger could be hours away instead
of minutes for an urban cop. In addition, he says that poachers of rare
resources may feel emboldened by the new law.

"We've got so many things out here that can bring thousands of
dollars on the black market," Kendrick said, "turtles, black bear gall
bladder, bear claws, orchids, cacti, ginseng, American Indian
artifacts, chipped off petroglyphs. Rangers are already having a tough
enough time with not enough staffing to protect them. Now you make it
easier for people to come in with a shotgun. It means if we see a
weapon on the seat, we may not be able to stop them and ask the
question, 'Is that gun in there to protect a family or shoot a bear?'
Instead of the gun being an offense, we have to wait until the damage
is done."

Now that Congress and Obama have shown that guns in our parks are
more important than the men and women we employ to protect us in them,
there is no telling what next critical aspect of the environment they
will cave in on. When they elevate guns to the status of eagles, bears,
and our vistas, there is no guarantee for preservation of the real

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