Brady Campaign sues over guns in parks

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence filed a lawsuit Tuesday to prevent people from carrying concealed weapons into national parks and monuments.

The Bush administration failed to comply with federal environmental protections before moving ahead with new rules, the campaign said in court papers.

The Interior Department, which oversees the National Park Service, earlier this month announced a rule change that would allow holders of concealed-weapons permits to carry guns in national parks under certain circumstances.

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., who has been tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as interior secretary, was one of a bipartisan group of 50 senators who asked that the ban on loaded weapons in national parks be lifted.

The rule change, which would go into effect Jan. 9, “jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law,” Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke said. “We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry concealed firearms in our parks.”

Members of the antigun campaign “will no longer visit national park areas and refuges out of fear for their personal safety from those who will now be permitted to carry loaded and concealed weapons in such areas,” the campaign said in its complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Salazar’s office declined to comment Tuesday, and a spokesman for the Interior Department transition team said Salazar couldn’t be reached.

Proponents of allowing legally concealed weapons said public safety would be enhanced by allowing legal holders of concealed weapons into the parks. People who are permitted to carry concealed weapons have undergone criminal background checks and training, said Linn Armstrong, a Second-Amendment activist and handgun-safety instructor in Grand Junction.

“Criminal elements don’t seem to want to go through that same process, for some reason,” Armstrong said.

The Interior Department moved to adopt a rule allowing concealed weapons in parks and monuments after the U.S. Supreme Court this year affirmed an individual’s right to bear arms.

The Brady Campaign’s lawsuit said the new rule falls short of federal requirements because the Interior Department failed to pursue an environmental assessment of the potential effects of allowing loaded, concealed weapons in the parks. It maintained members of the campaign and other Americans will suffer immediate and irreparable harm because of the increased risk of gun violence.

Attacking the rule on an environmental front was something that opponents had discussed, said Bill Wade of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

“We think that’s probably where ... they erred in the greatest way,” especially on the issue of potential harm to endangered species, Wade said.

The coalition was unaware of the lawsuit until it was filed Tuesday, he said.

Humans need protection from some of the animals that roam in the nation’s parks and monuments, Armstrong said.

“Four-legged predators,” from grizzly bears to mountain lions and even dogs, pose risks from which humans should be allowed to defend themselves, Armstrong said.

“Objective and rational people see the merits of people being able to protect themselves,”
he said.

Under the rule, individuals with permits to carry concealed weapons could carry them in the national park venues within the states in which the permits are issued.


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