Guns in Parks

The NYT reports that the new US administration will let stand a recent decision against Guns in Parks

Last month, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Federal District Court here struck down the policy allowing guns in parks. She called the rule, issued in the last days of the Bush administration, severely flawed and said officials had failed to evaluate its possible environmental impact, as required. She set a deadline of Monday for the Interior Department to indicate its likely response.

The NRA apparently used a “cut down on crime” argument to support the call for arms in parks. However, there is no evidence of a serious crime problem in parks, unless you factor in drug cartels.

National park rangers in camouflage gear and bulletproof vests, toting M-16 assault rifles, comb the Sequoia hillsides in search of marijuana. Cannabis growers, fearful of rivals and protective of their valuable crops, are often heavily armed, according to park officials.

I am not sure allowing concealed guns to park visitors is the right approach given this scenario, as it could make the job of being a park ranger even more dangerous and prone to firefights.

The data I found on State Park and National Parks Violence shows less than 5,000 serious offenses with over 270 million visitors in 2006. The numbers seem somewhat stable over a four-year period. Ranger Assaults only has two years of data listed, unfortunately, so it is hard to know whether incidents like the recent one in Tucson are a common threat.

The United States Park Rangers made it clear in a statement that they oppose the Guns in Parks law, not least of all because guns are already allowed in parks as long as they are kept stored and unloaded instead of set for ready use.

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