WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn reignited the gun debate Wednesday as he tried to use a water project bill to ensure people could carry guns on land controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Coburn's amendment, similar to one he authored in 2009 for national parks, won a majority but fell four votes shy of the 60-vote threshold set for passage.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, argued that people visiting corps lakes in Oklahoma shouldn't worry about being victimized by criminals or wild animals. At a campsite in Oklahoma, he said, “you're vulnerable to the prey of people who are going to violate the law” against carrying guns.
Also, he said, a state's laws on carrying weapons should apply to corps property within the state so a person legally carrying a gun didn't become a criminal just by crossing onto corps land.
Coburn's amendment in 2009 was attached to a bill regarding credit cards and overturned a decades-old ban on carrying loaded firearms into national parks; that amendment applied only to land in states with concealed carry laws.
Coburn said Wednesday that violent crimes — including rape, murder, armed robbery and assault — were down at national parks since the amendment passed.
Statistics provided by the National Park Service don't support that contention. Robbery by firearm has been up slightly every year since 2009, though there are very few: 11 in 2009, 12 each in 2010 and 2011, and 14 in 2012. Incidents of aggravated assault with a firearm also rose in 2010 and 2011 before dropping last year, but, again, there were few: only 7 last year.