Not even close.
Climbers up high in the mountains are unlikely to have to worry about the change in national park rules that goes into effect today. But climbers and hikers down low, in public campgrounds where the RV hordes and the wanna-be survivalists drink their beer, things have changed; and now those people will be allowed to legally carry weapons.
The nearly 100 year-old rule will be relaxed today on more than 84 million acres of land which include national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas and trails. This change, an evolution of changes sought by the Bush administration and Second Amendment advocates, was passed in May as an amendment to an Obama administration credit card reform bill.
Visitors will now be able to bring concealed and loaded weapons into national parks, as long as they abide by state rules regarding firearms. They still won't be permitted to bring weapons into federal buildings such as visitor centers or the White House; and they won't be allowed to bring them into concession buildings or on concession busses.
Obviously, some people carry weapons because they wish to defend themselves against violent crime. However, in the national parks such crime is extremely uncommon. An article on AOL news brings this into perspective:
Violent crimes -- homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- have been declining for more than a decade in the national parks, according to FBI statistics. The rate for those crimes in 2008, the latest figures available, was 0.13 per 100,000 recreational park visitors. The nationwide crime rate: 454.5 per 100,000.Arguably, permitted firearms have always been allowed on National Forest and BLM land and climbers have had few problems. Whether we will start to have safety issues in the national parks is subject to debate. However, more "tourists" visit the national parks than the National Forest and BLM locales. And it is possible that gun-toting city people in particular, who wish to express their Second Amendment rights may not be quite as responsible as those who visit the wilderness regularly.
What many news stories on this topic seem to have missed is the impact on animals in national parks. In September an armed angler shot a 175 lb female black bear near Lake Mary in the Eastern Sierra. The animal apparently got into the man's snack food. Scared and ignorant of how little danger he was actually in, the man subsequently shot and killed the bear.
The situation in the Lakes Basin was outside of any national park. And, by all accounts, the man was legally allowed to carry the weapon that he had with him. However, the angler was completely ignorant about bears, about food storage and about the reality of his situation. I have no doubt that the man thought that a bear getting into his marshmallows was a life-threatening situation and I have no doubt that his life was NOT in danger.
The result was a dead bear.
It is possible that with the advent of these new rules in the national parks that there will be a lot more dead animals. Many people who don't spend a significant time in the outdoors are likely to bring and show off their weapons simply to exercise their second amendment rights. Theoretically, it will be illegal to discharge said weapons, but that won't stop a few ignorants from shooting when they get scared by animals doing what they do in the woods...
--Jason D. Martin