WASHINGTON — The U.S. House today approved Sen. Tom Coburn's legislation to allow loaded firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges, though opponents complained that it didn't belong on a bill aimed at tightening credit card regulations. The so-called Coburn amendment was approved by a vote of 279 to 147 and means it will go to the White House as part of the credit card legislation. Congressional leaders wanted to get the credit card bill to President Barack Obama's desk this week and didn't want to take the time to hold a joint House-Senate conference committee to strip out Coburn's amendment. But they allowed a separate vote on it today. The amendment would overturn a decades-old ban on carrying loaded firearms into national parks. Currently, firearms must be stored and unloaded before people can take them into the parks. Coburn's amendment would allow loaded firearms in parks in states that permit the carrying of concealed weapons. Coburn, R-Muskogee, said today that he attached the amendment to the credit card bill last week because Senate Democratic leaders had blocked him from offering it on other legislation. "It's not about guns,'' Coburn said. "It's about states' rights — being able to determine what's best for them. And it's about the Second Amendment. It's not about bureaucrats telling Americans when their rights are going to be taken away." The Senate passed the amendment by a vote of 67-29, with the help of 27 Democrats. Several House Democrats argued against Coburn's amendment, saying it would make parks more dangerous for people and animals. "This is a dumb amendment and Congress should be embarrassed that we have to vote on it,'' said Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif. Farr questioned whether gun rights advocates also think it's acceptable to carry guns into the Arlington National Cemetery, the White House and the Capitol. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said the low incidences of crime in national parks contradicts those who have argued that people need loaded firearms to be safe. But Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said the ban on loaded firearms was "outdated and inconsistent'' since they are allowed in national forests and on other federal lands. In the vote today, 105 Democrats joined 174 Republicans to approve the Coburn amendment. Only two Republicans voted against it, while 145 Democrats opposed it.
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