National Parks Are Safer with Right to Carry Law

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.