The NRA has gotten pretty much everything it's wanted in the past decade, and has to figure out how to maintain the membership rolls--and keep those all important dues flowing in. Too many successes, and it ceases to really need to exist, but it's got staff to maintain and offices to keep and Congresspeople to intimidate. So it has to manufacturer a new issue, by recycling an old one.
And with the Bush administration in cahoots, doing its utmost to lay landmines for the incoming Democratic crew, they dredged up an old Reagan administration rule to make the new bogeyman for gun owners. Yup, Ronald Reagan put us on the slippery slope to the UN confiscating everyone's guns in order to impose one world order by ruling that people couldn't take their loaded, concealed weapons on their national park vacations. They could only have their unloaded, safely stowed weapons with them. And how could people protect themselves and their guns from the marauding hordes of international troops coming to take their guns away while they are on vacation in a national park if there gun was unloaded and in the trunk?
This is really just about the least real gun issue imaginable. Really. Ronald Reagan put the regulations in place. Can they really be that much of a threat to America's gunowners? That must have been what the court was thinking when it granted an injunction to stop the rule from going into effect. That and the fact that the rule had been pushed through with none of the required impact studies.
So we're back in the middle of a wholly manufactured, and ridiculous, gun fight. The NRA's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre spent all of the campaign season insisting that Obama was going to take guns away, and the organization has been stoking those fears since the election. That's resulted in a surge of millions of paranoid, and gullible, people buying guns. But hey, think of all the new revenue in membership dues for the NRA to spend more money on more Congresspeople for more unnecessary legislation!
Who more likely to jump when the NRA snaps its fingers than Western law-makers? Entirely predictably, legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and House to undo by law Ronald Reagan's gun restriction.
On January 9, a Bush administration rule to allow loaded and concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges went into effect, but the Brady Campaign and National Parks and Conservation Association sued to overturn it, successfully. On March 19, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington, D.C. granted the plaintiffs an injunction to prevent the Department of the Interior from implementing the rule. One day later, the National Rifle Association (NRA) appealed, but the judge has not ruled on the appeal.
Now, on April 2, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced a bill (S.816) to codify the Bush administration rule to, according to a NRA alert, "restore the Second Amendment rights of visitors in national parks and wildlife refuges."
Crapo’s bill is identical to H.R. 1684 introduced on March 24 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA).
At least in the Senate, the national park gun rule is breaking down party lines. Crapo has four co-sponsors for his bill, including Montana’s Democratic senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln, along with Utah Republican Bob Bennett. Hasting has 14 co-sponsors for his bill, all Republican.
(Can I just take a moment to say that no one forfeits any of their Constitutional rights by complying with the rules, that national parks aren't some kind of Constitution-free zones where your rights are stripped away on entrance. It also sure would have been nice to have had these Senators looking out for our Fourth Amendment rights when the previous administration was so busy collecting all kind of electronic communications of law-abiding Americans without probable cause and without warrants.)
This where the issue leaves the ridiculous and enters into the disturbing. The NRA and the far right radio and cable hosts have been whipping their followers into a frenzy of fear about their guns being taken away and their rights stripped. (Again, where were these people when the Fourth Amendment was being eviscerated?) That fear has had tragic consequences. Obviously the young man in Pittsburgh who killed three cops had issues beyond paranoia, but prominent in all of the stories covering the shooting was the assertion from his friends that "23 year-old Richard Poplawski feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.... One friend, Edward Perkovic, said Poplawski feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon."
Now maybe this isn't the best atmosphere to be putting more loaded guns into, particularly considering the opposition of the people it would affect the most--park rangers. Understaffed and overworked, park rangers have been real targets of attacks in recent years. Consider this, from 2003:
"Law enforcement officers in the National Park Service are 12 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of an assault than FBI agents – a rate triple that of the next worst federal agency," stated Randall Kendrick, Executive Director for the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. "The Park Service has failed to provide law enforcement personnel to prevent further violence; despite its own projections that an additional 700 rangers are required, the number of rangers is down 9 percent."
In an atmosphere in which fringe elements of the right are painting law enforcement, and particularly federal law enforcement, as the enemy, this new effort seems at the least a tad misguided. I don't know if Senators Tester and Baucus took the opportunity to talk with their constituents in Montana who also happen to be park rangers to find out what they thought about this issue, but I hope they will.
Cross-posted from New West.