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An armed society is a polite society ~ Robert Heinlein
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 • Posted February 17, 2010

Until Don Zaidle, my editor at Texas Fish & Game magazine, sent me the email last week, I’d never heard of the CNPSR. And now that I’ve read the email, and know what it is, I wish I still hadn’t heard of it. You will wish the same thing in about two minutes.

The members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees recently sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, whining about Section 512 of Public Law 111-24, which will go into effect 22 February 2010. This provision, authored by Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), effectively extends what Second Amendment rights remain in America to our national parks.

Previously, it has pretty much been illegal to carry a gun in a national park. Of course, if you’ve been to a national park in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, or any of the other states that contain large, furry predators such as bears, you carried a gun anyway, unless you’re even dumber than the geezers at CNPSR. Nobody with the IQ of a pinecone traipses around in bear country unarmed. A law that imperils citizens should be ignored.

But the rocket scientists at CNPSR seem to think we’ve all been leaving our guns at home when we came to their parks. As long as no one reads this column to them, they’ll probably still think that. Which is fine, as long as they leave Tom alone.

Tom Coburn, M.D., is one of the good guys. He’s been working to preserve our 2A rights for years, first in the house and now in the senate. This national parks thing is just the latest in a long series of battles he’s fought to help keep us all from becoming subjects, instead of citizens.

What Section 512 of Public Law 111-24 actually says is that, after 22 Feb., the laws concerning the possession of firearms in a national park will be consistent with the laws of the state the park is in. Yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition. So sue me.

CNPSR’s letter to Salazar and Jarvis makes it clear the geezers are unhappy about this (the law, not my preposition), and even includes wording that indicates they don’t think current park employees should obey the law, at least in regard to the legal carrying of weapons. It says, "The regulations currently in effect for national parks prohibit the possession, carrying, and use of weapons. Section 512 of Public Law . . . removes the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to enforce any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm." Later it says, "However, the NPS regulations affected by Section 512 do more than prohibit the possession of firearms. Construing section 512 together with (some park law number) makes clear that using and carrying firearms in parks remain prohibited, even though possession is allowed where authorized by state law."

In other words, they’re saying, "Well, the law says people can have guns in parks, but it doesn’t say they can carry them or use them." As if they’re winking and saying, "We know you won’t allow this law to be obeyed, and here’s a way to ignore it."

But that won’t work, because the geezers are wrong. Whatever the laws of the state say is what goes, in parks and out, according to 512. They just don’t want to accept it, and they don’t want Salazar and Jarvis to accept it, either.

The main complaint is that they think people are suddenly going to start shooting. Not that they might start shooting, but that they will. And not just at other people. In fact, the tone of their comments leads me to believe they are not so concerned about people shooting at other people. Their real worry is that people will start shooting at wildlife, trees, flowers, and natural landmarks, such as petroglyphs, balanced rocks, federally owned dirt, and whatever else can be shot at.

The geezers are trying to field a fear campaign, is what this amounts to. (another preposition at the end, there) The facts prove the geezers are wrong. When people carry guns, society is far more polite than when they don’t. I just can’t figure out why the geezers think folks will be more trigger-happy just because they’ve entered a park.

None of this applies in Alaska, of course. Armed people are everywhere in Alaska, even in Denali National Park. One of the teenaged boys I went to Alaska with a few years ago carried a .44 magnum revolver the size of a Christmas ham on his leg in Denali, and the park rangers never said a word. Of course, who would?

The fact is that 512 will make national parks safer after 22 Feb. than before, because criminals won’t know who is armed and who isn’t. Granted, a pink Volvo with California or Illinois plates will still be an easy mark, but the rest of us should be OK.

If the geezers want to make our national parks safer, they should advocate banning lawyers . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never shot a petroglyph. Or federal dirt. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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