WASHINGTON — Murder, manslaughter and rape cases rose sharply the year after guns were allowed in national parks, though most violent crimes fell last year to about the same level as in 2009, according to statistics released Monday by the National Park Service.
The park service numbers show 15 murder and manslaughter cases in 2010, up from four in 2009, the year Sen. Tom Coburn pushed through an amendment to allow loaded firearms in national parks located in states that had concealed carry laws.
Rapes also rose, from 34 in 2009 to 45 in 2010, as did kidnappings and aggravated assaults. Robberies dropped from 64 to 58.
The issue of park crimes arose last week when Coburn, R-Muskogee, sought unsuccessfully to amend a water projects bill with a proposal to allow firearms on land controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
During that debate, Coburn said crime had fallen on National Park Service land because of his legislation to allow firearms in the parks.
The National Park Service had only partial statistics available last week, and those also reflected a slight increase in some violent crimes.
The service released more detailed numbers on Monday, showing that some of the most serious offenses on park land rose after Coburn's legislation lifted a long-running prohibition against loaded firearms.
John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn, said Monday that the senator didn't have the National Park Service statistics from 2012 when he spoke last week.
And he said the senator misspoke when he claimed crime rates had dropped 85 percent since the new policy took effect allowing loaded firearms.
Hart said that an evaluation of the statistics released Monday shows the worst offenses tracked by the Park Service have dropped an average of 11 percent in the three years since the new firearms policy took effect, compared with the average of the three years before the new policy.
Only murder and manslaughter have a higher average, and there are few of those, Hart said.
“On balance, the facts support our conclusion that crime rates would go down under our policy, not the conclusion of the amendment's critics who said that allowing guns in national parks would lead to more crime,” Hart said.
The statistics show that some crimes had dropped significantly even before the new firearms policy took effect.
In 2007, for instance, there were 49 rapes.
Those dropped to 37 in 2008 and 34 in 2009 — the year the policy took effect — before rising to 45 in 2010.
Aggravated assault, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson were also high in 2007 compared to most of the following years.