This afternoon, the House is expected to pass the credit-card bill — much to the delight of the National Rifle Association.
Included in the bill’s current version, which will go straight to the president after House passage, is the Coburn amendment, which allows the carrying of firearms in national parks to whatever extent is legal in the state where the park resides.The bill would also standardize the gun policy of the various federal agencies that manage federal lands. For example, the Parks Service forbids firearms on its lands, whereas the Bureau of Land Management permits them. Thirty-one states already allow the carrying of firearms in their state parks.
“We have been working on this measure for close to a decade,” said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. “We think it’s a reasonable measure that helps law-abiding people”
Although many Democrats support the provision (it received 67 votes in the Senate), liberals have objected, charging that it will create more violence in the wilderness. On the House floor this afternoon, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D, N.Y.) denounced its inclusion in the credit-card bill. “It has absolutely no purpose in this bill, and should be removed in a separate vote,” she said.
All the same, Maloney added that the provision will not prevent her from voting in favor of the the underlying bill. It probably will not prevent President Obama from signing it, either.
Arulanandam rejected her argument that the bill will cause more violence. “Citizens who behave in a lawful manner elsewhere in their states are not going to become violent all of the sudden just because they happen to be in a national park,” he said.
Arulanandam cited National Parks Service statistics showing that visitors to national parks are victimized every year — murders, rapes, and robberies — and that the parks often conceal secret methamphetamine labs and marijuana fields. Given the relative scarcity of law enforcement within large parks, law-abiding visitors might find a firearm necessary in the event that someone tries to victimize them.
The Bush administration attempted to deal with this question through new regulation that was challenged and blocked in federal court earlier this year by environmental and anti-gun groups. The passage of a new law through Congress would put an end to the controversy.