Thanks to a new federal law beginning February 22, people who can legally carry concealed handguns according to state law can also carry within national parks and forests in that state, too. While this may help protect visitors from the parks’ burgeoning crime problem, the story of this law’s journey through Congress provides a lesson in campaign contributions and anti-liberty special interests.
History of increasing crime
In 2006, the Christian Science Monitor noted the increasing “urban crime” in national forest lands, including drug smuggling, robbery, and assault. Parks were becoming more criminal-friendly due to “fewer officers and smaller budgets.”
The Seattle Times noted that “park rangers are the most assaulted federal officers,” and that crime, including murder, was on the rise:
Whether it’s meth labs hidden amid lush forests or car prowls at trailheads, park rangers and forest officers are seeing an increasing amount of criminal behavior.
In 2008, the Associated Press wrote:
America’s wildlife refuges are so short of money that one-third have no staff, boardwalks and buildings are in disrepair, and drug dealers are using them to grow marijuana and make methamphetamine. …
Perhaps due to the increasing danger, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn attached an amendment to the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009, called “Protecting Americans from Violent Crime”:
Congress finds the following. … The Second Amendment to the Constitution provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The Federal laws should make it clear that the second amendment rights of an individual at a unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System should not be infringed.
This amendment would legalize firearms possession, including concealed handgun carry, in national parks and wildlife refuges in accordance with that state’s laws. For example, visitors with a valid Arizona concealed carry permit or an out-of-state license recognized by Arizona could carry concealed handguns while hiking Grand Canyon National Park. Other state firearms laws would remain in force, too.
Special interests and gun control
Previous research uncovered a correlation between pro-gun control voting and campaign contributions by lawyers, and trial lawyers and large law firms standing to benefit from gun control. The same is true of public employee unions — government employees — because restrictive gun laws result in job growth and security in the public sector.
Even though both industries contribute primarily to Democrats, these correlations persist within parties. For example, incumbent Democrat congressmen endorsed in 2008 by the pro-gun control Brady Campaign received larger portions of total campaign contributions from lawyers and public employee unions than did NRA-endorsed Democrats: 67.9% and 158.1% more, respectively. Greater percentages of total funding equals greater influence on grateful representatives, with the 378 re-elected representatives receiving payment for services rendered in previous terms of office.
This special interest spending had an almost humorous effect upon the final House vote on the credit card bill.
One bill’s journey through Congress
On April 30, 2009, the House passed H.R. 627, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009, by a vote of 357-70, primarily along party lines. Among re-elected incumbents, only one Democrat voted No, along with 62 Republicans. As a result, “aye” voters garnered larger portions of their campaign funds from lawyers and public employee unions: 82.3% and 73.5%, respectively.
During Senate deliberation, Senator Tom Coburn proposed Senate Amendment 1067: “To protect innocent Americans from violent crime in national parks and refuges.” On May 12, 2009, it passed 67-29.
Open Secrets provides complete campaign finance data for 96 senators in the current Congress. Those who voted “nay” on the Coburn amendment received greater portions of their campaign funding from lawyers and public employee unions than those voting “yea”: 76.7% and 61.9%, respectively.
On May 19, 2009, the Senate decided that credit card reform was the priority, and passed the amended bill back to the House by a vote of 90-5.
On May 20, 2009, the House held two related votes on the Credit Card Act, one without the Coburn amendment and one with. By doing so, the House reinforced the premise that lawyers and public employee unions support anti-rights politicians.
The initial vote (sans Coburn amendment) passed 361-64. Aye voters received greater portions of their campaign funding from lawyers and public employee unions: 78.5% and 69.2%, respectively. All 139 Brady-endorsed incumbents voted “aye,” while of all 58 incumbents voting “nay” were NRA-endorsed.
When the House voted on credit card reform with the Coburn amendment, it passed 279-147. There was a virtual stampede between votes, as 54 NRA endorsees switched from “nay” to “yea,” while 122 Brady endorsees switched from “yea” to “nay.”
The “yea” voters’ lawyer campaign funding percentages dropped to 35.0% more, and public employee union funding to 123.5% more than that of “nay” voters, much lower ratios than those of the two previous House votes.
Politics came into play during the final two votes: 138 incumbents, including 124 Brady endorsees, originally voted “aye” for H.R. 627 but voted “nay” on the final version including the Coburn amendment. In fairness, 62 incumbents, all NRA endorsees, originally voted “nay,” but once the Senate attached the Coburn amendment, they finally voted “aye.”
Curious inconsistencies in our public servants
After the final House vote, Scot McElveen, president of the Association of National Park Rangers, came out against the new law, justifying himself by turning green:
Park wildlife, including some rare or endangered species, will face increased threats by visitors with firearms who engage in impulse or opportunistic shooting.
It bears noting here that every time a state liberalized its concealed handgun laws to allow more people to carry in public, gloom-and-doom pontifications multiplied like mushrooms in the forest, claiming that blood would run in the streets as people shot each other over parking spaces and fender benders.
FBI crime data shows that in 2008, states with liberalized concealed carry laws (more handguns in public) average 34.2% lower violent crime rates — and 52.6% lower murder rates — than states which severely restricted law-abiding citizens’ right of self-defense. This correlation is consistent and dates back to at least 2001.
Meanwhile, the rangers’ association web site states:
The National Park Service is facing a critical shortage of field personnel — a shortage that is predicted to get worse over the next five years.
While acknowledging their inability to protect you from a growing crime problem, park rangers won’t support your right of self-defense. This attitude underscores the correlation between anti-rights voting in Congress and public employee union campaign contributions: their jobs take priority over your safety.
House gun control proponents were equally dismayed after the final vote:
We have a Democratic president, a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, and we’re passing more gun legislation than when there was a Republican in the White House,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), a gun-control advocate. “It’s disappointing.
Anti-rights politicians accept special interest money and, along with government employees, derogate your right of self-defense. Perhaps the biggest insult is that your tax dollars pay their salaries.
* Crime and campaign finance data compiled into Excel workbooks; available to qualified professionals.