U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), offered an amendment today to protect the second amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. The amendment ensures that law-abiding visitors to National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public lands can possess firearms in accordance with federal, state, and local law. The amendment passed by a vote of 67 to 29.
"This amendment has two important purposes. First, this amendment is about protecting every American's Second Amendment rights. Second, this amendment is about protecting the right of every state to pass laws that apply to their entire state, including public lands. If an American citizen has a right to carry a firearm in their state, it makes no sense to treat them like a criminal if they pass through a national park while in possession of a firearm," Dr. Coburn said.
"Visitors to national parks also should have the right to defend themselves in accordance with the laws of their states," Dr. Coburn added. "National parks, while still generally safe for visitors, have seen an increase in crime recently."
According to the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2006 there were 16 homicides (including one manslaughter charge), 41 rape cases (including two attempted rapes), 92 robberies, 16 kidnappings, and 333 aggravated assaults. These offenses only include homicides and other crimes handled by national park and refuge law enforcement, but don't account for the homicides and crimes other law enforcement agencies processed.
In a Seattle Times article titled, "Crime Slowly Creeps Into Parks, Forests," Captain John Klaasen of the U.S. Forest Service states, "If you see [a crime] happening in the city, it happens in the forest." Whether it is meth labs hidden amid lush forests or car prowls at trailheads, park rangers and forest officers are seeing an increasing amount of criminal behavior.
With one law enforcement officer for about every 110,000 visitors and 118,000 acres of national park land, park police may not always be close by and individuals may be left to defend themselves.