Will a handgun make you feel safer in a national park?
Being alone or even with a small group out in the wild can be frightening. Considering the many violent events that have and can occur in national parks, and also to honor current rights according to visitors' home state, Congress recently lifted a ban on loaded guns in national parks which lasted for two decades. This new law took effect Feb. 22.
Current state laws will determine how the new regulation will be implemented in each park. Some states may allow handguns only in certain areas of the park. Other states that overlap with a national park such as Wyoming and Idaho will have to designate specific areas limited to the state border line that allow handguns. This will be a tricky process to work out, and will require interstate cooperation.
Park rangers are already trained to assume that any visitor can be carrying a weapon. They will have to witness or respond to a report of the use of a handgun (and determine if the handgun is illegal or not) before they can carry out a punishment.
President Obama's decision to sign this into law sparked controversy. Some are paranoid over the fear of increased violence with handguns being allowed in national parks.
Supporters state that parks are already dangerous, and handguns will help protect campers. However, an MSNBC article quotes Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that "national parks are among the safest places in America."
Supporters cite the reported 3,760 major crimes that occurred in national parks, including homicides and rape in 2008, and question that assertion.
In 2007, Jessie Davis vanished from her home and her boyfriend is accused of murdering her. Her body was found along the southeast edge of Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. In 2005, Mark Creasy was strangled to death on Dangerfield Island National Park by a deranged man who ran around naked and is accused of assaulting a woman and killing a bicyclist along a popular trail.
These situations and many more involve violent disputes in secluded areas of the vast landscape within the national park. Perhaps a handgun can be useful for protection. Visitors were allowed to carry handguns in national parks from January to March of 2009, and no problems related to this decision were reported.
Many people think of national parks as an escape from the normal hassles of their current environment. However, just because you become one with nature does not erase the fact that danger still lurks within the wild. Government Executive Magazine lists the 10 most dangerous national parks; all of which are used for illegal purposes and violence due to their secluded environment.
This is not at all a scare tactic, but the circumstances of this new decision should be evaluated. Handguns could be used by the murderers, or the victim may use it for defense. But the major point is that visitors travel across the nation to visit these parks; some of whom are used to carrying their legal handguns in their home state. So, many may relate this issue purely to the Second Amendment.
What do you think about this new law? Let us know in the comments section below.