WASHINGTON — Opponents say U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s efforts to change decades-old rules for national parks could lead to loaded guns, even assault weapons, in some of the nation’s most sacred sites.
"This is a bad idea,” said Scot McElveen, president of the Association of National Park Rangers. McElveen even took issue with the Oklahoma Republican’s claims that his Senate-passed amendment would not apply to monuments. "That’s not how I read it,” he said, citing Coburn’s own language that indicates his amendment, if it became law, would apply to all units of the National Park System. McElveen said that would include Southwest sites that are "very sacred” to some American Indians. "To have folks with firearms there would be very disturbing to them.” Another example of a park service site where loaded gun would be inappropriate is the San Antonio missions in Texas, McElveen said. Coburn’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Last week, the Senate caught critics of Coburn’s efforts off guard when it attached his gun amendment to a credit card bill by a vote 67 to 29. Insisting his legislation was not a "gotcha amendment,” Coburn claimed his proposal was to ensure constitutional rights were not being trampled by unelected bureaucrats. "It is to say, does the Second Amendment mean something?” Coburn said. His language would allow visitors to carry loaded guns into national parks located in states that do not bar such activity.
Why the change?Under regulations that date back to the Reagan administration, weapons carried into parks have to be inoperable and not readily accessible. Coburn said that left law-abiding citizens who live in states without such restrictions vulnerable to violating a federal regulation.