Prior to the start of this year, firearms in parks and wildlife refuges managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) were prohibited by federal regulation (there are some exceptions for marksmanship and hunting). Firearm restrictions of this nature were first instituted to prevent poaching and other illegal activities back in the 1930's. The regulations were then significantly revised in '81 and '83. These regulations had become significantly outdated and limited rights of law-abiding citizens.
Since then, forty-eight states have passed "concealed carry" laws, allowing individuals to carry concealed handguns for purposes of self-defense. In 2008, President Bush and the Department of the Interior - with strong, bi-partisan support in Congress -- moved to alter regulations so that individuals would be permitted to possess loaded and concealed firearms, as long as doing so was legal under that respective state's gun laws where the public lands are located. The change to public lands gun regulation was issued December 10, 2008, and took effect January 9, 2009.
On Thursday, March 19, 2009, a federal district court in Washington, D.C., issued a preliminary injunction against the implementation of the new rule by the Department of the Interior. Interior has until April 20th to evaluate the rule and suggest its course of action, but until then individuals are not permitted to carry loaded concealed weapons that were allowed under the regulation change. The court's ruling is also expected to be appealed.
As a supporter of the Second Amendment and an advocate for our National Parks, I supported President Bush's action to allow permitted individuals to carry concealed firearms into national parks as long as doing so was in compliance with state laws. I am troubled by the court's action to block this policy and hope this matter can be resolved soon in a manner that respects the rights of law-abiding citizens.