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Bid to allow guns in national parks

The Interior Department considers a proposal to lift a 25-year ban on concealed weapons in national parks.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / August 19, 2008

Visitors to America's national parks may soon be able to pack more than a picnic lunch on their next visit to Yellowstone, the Everglades, or the Grand Canyon.

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The US Interior Department is considering a proposal to scrap a 25-year ban on carrying concealed weapons in national parks.

If adopted, the measure would mark a significant victory for gun rights advocates and would come at a time when gun control efforts are under increased scrutiny across the country.

In June, the US Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and declared for the first time that Americans have a constitutional right to keep a firearm at home for self-protection.

The high court did not address whether the Second Amendment guarantees the carrying of loaded, concealed weapons in national parks. But, at the urging of 51 US Senators, Interior Department officials are weighing the option of writing it into federal regulations.

National Rifle Association (NRA) chief lobbyist Chris Cox has called the proposal "an important step in the right direction."

Opponents disagree. "This is part of a broad campaign by the NRA to get guns into all our public places," says Daniel Vice, a senior attorney with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The department received an estimated 100,000 comments during a public comment period that ended Aug. 8. Interior officials are now examining the submissions before announcing a final decision.

Ban would hold in some parks

Under the proposed new rule, the ban would be lifted only in national parks and wildlife refuges located in states that permit concealed weapons in their own state parks.

Although 48 states have enacted concealed gun permit procedures, only 24 of them currently allow concealed guns in state parks.

Those states are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.