Skip to comments.Gun debate plays out at Mount Rainier National Park
Posted on 03/27/2008 1:37:15 PM PDT by kiriath_jearim
A debate on allowing firearms in national parks splits local residents like the icy fissures that crease the flanks of Mount Rainier. People like Jim Williams and Jim McAfee, long-time National Rifle Association members, see it as a Second Amendment issue.
George Coulbourn is an NRA member too but works as a volunteer backcountry ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. He sees no benefit to allowing people to carry loaded weapons in the park. Kris Paynter is the mother of two young girls and the wife of a police detective. She said allowing guns at Mount Rainier would ruin the sense of sanctuary the park now offers.
Park rules, last updated in 1983, require firearms to be temporarily inoperable or stowed so they are not easily accessible. But a call for change came in December, when 47 U.S. senators asked Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to revise existing laws to allow park visitor to carry firearms in the parks when allowed by state law.
Last month, Kempthorne said the department would develop a firearms policy revision by April 30.
The NRA, which pushed for the review, argues park visitors have the right to protect themselves against wild animals and people. The association also argued the existing law is confusing because it differs from regulations allowing loaded weapons on other federal recreation lands. Visitors can carry firearms in national forests, but not on adjacent national park land, NRA officials said.
A MATTER OF DEFENSE, RIGHTS
From my view, a lot of restrictions we have are unnecessary, said Williams, a Puyallup resident, addresses the issue first from the perspective of the Second Amendment. I think people who hike in the park should be able to carry a gun to protect themselves. McAfee, a Tacoma resident and president of the Pierce County Sportsmens Council, agreed: I would be in favor of people being able to carry a firearm if they felt it was necessary to do so, based on Second Amendment rights. Alan Gottlieb of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation said the unsolved 2006 slayings of two Seattle women killed while hiking near Granite Falls is an example of the dangers one can encounter in area forests.
If youre out in the woods, calling 911 doesnt do you any good, Gottlieb said. If some of these people had guns in the national park where they were victimized, I would think some of them wouldnt be victims.
He also pointed to the law enforcement rangers who carry weapons and wearing body armor. A 2004 report by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility stated park rangers and U.S. Park Police are 12 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of an assault than FBI agents.
Why cant everyone else protect themselves, Gottlieb asked.
CRIME AT MOUNT RAINIER
Violent crimes have occurred at Mount Rainier. There was a double rape and armed robbery on Rampart Ridge in 1978. In 1981 there was an armed robbery at the National Park Inn. The 1996 death of Sheila Ann Kearns, a housekeeper at the inn, was ruled a homicide.
But such crimes are rare, said park officials.
The parks law enforcement rangers, who undergo standard law enforecement training in tactics and firearms, handled nine reports of serious crimes -- all thefts or larcenies -- in 2007, during which more than 1.04 million people visited the park. That is a rate of .86 violent crimes for every 100,000 recreational visitors.
We are fairly close to a major metropolitan area so we get people crimes, said Chuck Young, chief ranger at Mount Rainier.
Maybe once every three to five years we get something that causes us to arrest someone for assault. Most often, the people crimes we get are domestic-type disputes in a campground. It usually involves alcohol. Maybe we get three or four of those in a year.
The most common problem at the park, Young said, is traffic violations. In the last five years, parks rangers have issued 1,024 traffic citations, including 568 for speeding.
In the same five years, they wrote 34 citations for possession or improper transportation of a firearm.
If you look at the numbers, in terms of visitation year after year, and compare that to the number of incidents, I would have to say its one of the safest places in the country - your national parks, said Mount Rainier superintendent Dave Uberuaga.
I think it could change, over time, the experience and feel of Mount Rainier if guns were prevalent. It could change the feel, Uberuaga said.
AGAINST A CHANGE
A park volunteer for eight years, Coulbourn views the debate from the perspective of a hunting safety instructor, member of the states master hunter program and a veteran of 60 years of hunting. It is inappropriate for a visitor to a national park carry a weapon to defend himself against the wildlife inhabitants of the park, he said.
If youre not comfortable visiting the park because of animals, you dont belong there, Coulbourn said. I have seen countless bears in the backcountry of Mount Rainier. But every single one of them has ignored me or run away.
He added that the handgun a park visitor would likely carry into the park would not have enough stopping power to bring down a bear or cougar.
Greg Shimek of Lakewood is a gun collector. He has donated money to defend the right of people to carry firearms, but he doesnt think that right includes places like Mount Rainier.
He fears people will turn to their guns when trouble arises. Conflict resolution through violence is not the answer. As a mother of 4 1/2-year-old and 8-month-old girls, Paynter just sees no need for guns in the parks, even though her husband wears a gun as a police detective.
There should be places where we dont have to worry about people running around with guns. It should be a sanctuary, she said. The national parks should have that feel, a place you can go and not worry about the person in front of you on the trail having a gun.
[Mount Rainier National Park law enforcement rangers Matt Knowles, left, and Stefan Lofgren practice custody tactics this week at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien. Rangers, who carry weapons and wear body armor, get 40 hours of refresher firearms training a year.]
Where in the 2nd Amendment did it specify a location?
Here’s a newsflash; criminals don’t care about rules against carrying guns on park lands or anywhere else.
It's part of a "living document", remember? It therefore means whatever a panel of unelected, ABA approved judges say it means. [/sarc]
There’a always a reason why our constitution is full of —— when you’re a leftist. Of course that’s until you want to advocate for the overthrow of the U.S. Government, and then it’s a sacred document handed down by saints.
Second Amendment, why those slave owning bastards!
Good for me, but not for thee! People like her should have this sort of "doublethink" hypocrisy thrown in their face all the time. And as a "daddy" type, I am so through listening to "mommy" types as a source of morality or wisdom.
See if they think they might need a weapon when our tent is surrounded by Javalina or a Mountain Lion.
Or the dozens of illegals that traverse the park area.
We did have one guy about 20 years back that stirred everything up, he was transferred before someone fed him to the bear. Ever since the park service treats the community with kid gloves, honestly.
We still have a bunch of old retired gold miners who hate them and fight any proposal they put forth. We have a tourist boat (holland america) that brings a boat load of tourists here for 2 hr tour all summer long. H.A. employs at least 30 locals of the 100 in this economically depressed river community. All the beggars here complain how H.A. doesn't do enough for community????? So last year Park Service & Holland America were getting a grant to build nice new visitors center. Entire community was against it, said it would change their lifestyle, so it never happened. They'll build it in some other community downriver. I never figured that one out.
I'm sure you have some gun ho park rangers but you also have alot of good ones too that look the otherway everytime.
If the park is so peaceful and tranquil, why the body armor, or for that matter, why the weapons?
From article: Greg Shimek of Lakewood is a gun collector. He has donated money to defend the right of people to carry firearms, but he doesnt think that right includes places like Mount Rainier.
So we gotta gun collector who doesn't like people carrying guns in "places like Mount Rainier." What is wrong with this picture? How about the 2nd Amendment and the right to protect yourself against man and beast(s)?
Right, I forgot that point. Although those Javalina are pretty scary.
I don’t know any park rangers down here. My take on it is that those ranks would be a very ripe pick for those who are nearly insane when it comes to the environment. Along with that world view comes the anti-gun baggage.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge I may be off base with those comments. It’s just that I have watched how rabid most concerns have become that have anything at all to do with the environment.
I like protecting nature to a certain extent. I don’t like people verging on mental illness over it.
“splits local residents like the icy fissures that crease the flanks of Mount Rainier”
Please tell me this reporter volunteers and does not get paid to write.
2 park rangers back, the ranger had to rescue green peace people down river. He hated them as much as any of us do.
“But such crimes are rare, said park officials.”
Tell that to the murder victims. To them, the crime rate is 100% and they are forever dead. Maybe having a gun would not have helped them, but involuntary and unilateral disarmament of people is stupid and criminal.
I would suspect your ‘appointments’ up there wouldn’t be as easily persued as the plum spots down here are. There’s a certain rugged ‘type’ that needs to fill your positions. Perhaps that’s somewhat off base, but I would suspect the real problem candidates would seek lower 48 state appointments.
I’m glad to hear you still have some reasoned folks doing the work up there. And I might be surprised at the ones down here too. What with all the activists these days, I’m just somewhat skeptical.
“...47 U.S. senators asked Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to revise existing laws to allow park visitor to carry firearms in the parks when allowed by state law.”
Why do 47 senators need to ask some federal fascist bureaucrat to change a law?
I guess our elected lawmakers don’t write law anymore. And where does it say in the constitution that unelected bureaucrats can write law? Guess that’s missing in my copy. Well, sieg heil, everyone, the fascist functionaries have taken over.
It should apply doubly to national parks given they are federal not state property.
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