Pretty much everyone agrees that people shouldn’t have guns in planes and bars. Guns don’t mix well with alcohol. But what about other places?
For more than 30 years Washington, D.C., has outlawed gun ownership in your own home. Interestingly, DC has also had one of America’s highest homicide rates for 30 years. Hmmm.
I have talked to people here who support the DC gun ban. But when I ask if they would put a sticker on their front door announcing, “This House is Gun-Free: no firearms inside”, they all say no. Why let criminals know you’re defenseless, they say. Exactly. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of the DC gun ban, and will likely strike it down.
What about guns in national parks? Fifth-one senators recently wrote the U.S. Interior Secretary, asking him to lift the restrictions on law-abiding people carrying a gun into a national park. Immediately a chorus of opposition arose, singing the same stanza: “Why would anyone need a gun in a national park?”
Well, I can think of two good reasons.
First, consistency. I went hiking in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest three years ago while visiting Sitka. While checking in at the local ranger station, the ranger asked if I had protection “in case you encounter a bear?”
“We recommend that hikers carry some kind of protection, whether it’s bear spray or a gun.”
“Yes,” she said. She went on to say that they advise hikers how to deter chance meetings with bears (Make noise when hiking, especially when rounding corners, wear bells, or blow occasionally on a whistle), but if you’re attacked, you have to be able to defend yourself. The alternative is … well, not to defend yourself.
I opted for the spray. But while firearms are allowed in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, they are banned in Alaska’s Denali National Park. Does that make any sense? A bear is a bear and both places have them.
Two years ago while hiking with the family in the northern uplands of Yellowstone National Park, we thought we saw an Elk in the distance. When the “elk” was about 250 feet away, it became clear that it was a Grizzly and was headed in our direction. Nothing happened, but if it charged and all deterrence failed, what is a husband and father to do? According to park rules, anything except using lethal force against it. What dad wouldn’t use lethal force to protect his children?
The second reason that guns should be permitted in national parks is reasonableness. Washington state law regulates responsible gun ownership, including a provision to allow law-abiding citizens who pass a background check to carry a concealed firearm. But upon entering a national park in this state, you have to remove, unload and store it. Why? If I can be trusted to carry a firearm in a busy city or a small town, what suddenly changes when I approach the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park?
The national park proposal simply extends state law to the national parks inside that state. The only reason not to do that is blind opposition to guns, period. The reason for the 80-year-old regulation in the first place wasn’t safety, it was poaching. Not many people poach big game with pistols.