Guns Now Allowed in National Parks. Why exactly?

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This is just weird — a law has just come into effect this morning that allows guns in national parks and wildlife refuges throughout the United States.

The New York Times reported on this story when the original item — an amendment to legislation overhauling credit card rules — passed back in May. And there's been plenty of coverage in the past week, as the parks' 94-year history of being gun free was coming to an end. But no one seems to be answering the big question here: why do we need guns in parks?

 from the NYT piece, a Texas gun owner visiting Rocky Mountain National Park had the following to say:

“Gun rights are gun rights, but do you need them in a location like

this?” said Russell Lahrmann, a dentist from Industry, Tex., near

Houston

“It’d be like carrying around a bowling ball — you could do it, but why would you?” he added. “I don’t feel unsafe here.”

You could take the opposite tack and ask "Why NOT have guns in federal parks in a nation where 'the right to bear arms' is enshrined in the Constitution?" But the problem is there are too many good answers to that question.

For instance, having guns inside park boundaries makes it much easier for people to illegally kill animals like elk and wolves. All hunting is still banned within park boundaries, but allowing people to carry loaded weapons in plain sight makes enforcing the ban a lot tougher.

And what happens the first time some tourist packing heat ignores all of the warning signs in Yellowstone telling them not to approach the bison? Someone with a weapon may feel emboldened to get close to wild animals. Suddenly a confrontation occurs, and someone gets hurt (may not be the bison).

There are lots of weird caveats that will probably still make gun-toting complicated. What's worrying about this bill is its status as a non sequitur: guns and national parks have just always been mutually exclusive. Why change that? There doesn't seem to be much benefit, but there's a significant potential for things to go wrong.

Image: Treehugger/Flickr