New Law Will Allow Guns in State Parks

Gun toting, law abiding citizens were recently handed a victory on behalf of the Obama Administration. On May 22, President Barack Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD), which in part, will allow loaded weapons to be allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

When Congress passed the credit card reform bill (Number H.R.627) in May, an amendment was attached to the bill allowing those with a valid permit to carry a weapon while visiting a national park or wildlife refuge. The new federal law, entitled “Protecting Americans From Violent Crimes”, will allow guns in parks, provided that state law supports it and that the citizen is legally allowed to carry the firearm. Existing state laws will determine how the regulations work in each park. In North Carolina, concealed weapons are allowed with a permit.

The law will go into effect in February of 2010.

“We’ll follow the legislation that Congress gives us,” said Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spokesman Bob Miller. “We’re still trying to look at the language in the bills, so we’re in a studying phase.”

Debby Singleton, WCU Professor in Parks and Recreation Management, expresses that “The Department of Interior’s report on the bill states that the national parks must abide by the state laws regarding the right to carry concealed weapons. Many parks will not allow these concealed weapons in public buildings on park property. The state of NC requires a permit to carry concealed weapon and that permit must be with you when you are carrying it.”

In Tennessee, there has been an enrollment increase in gun permit classes as well as the cost of ammunition. While the legislation was backed by the National Rifle Association, students at WCU just don’t see what the big deal is.

Dustin Bolton, Western Carolina student and member of NRA, states that “We are allowed to carry weapons with permits in a national park, allowing us to protect ourselves if need be.” “Protecting Americans form Violent Crimes” was opposed by the National Parks Conservation Association and some citizens are concerned. Professor Singleton feels that her “Main concern about carrying weapons in a national park is the safety of other individuals and the wildlife that inhabit the area. Do people really need to carry a gun in a national park to insure their safety? National parks are places we visit to enjoy the serenity and beauty of the outdoors, they are special places. We should leave our guns, and our iPods at home. But I also feel that most people who own guns and a permit to carry a concealed weapon would probably not carry their gun to visit the GSMNP for a Sunday picnic or a day hike. Why would you want to fool with the hassle of taking something you don’t need?” The Association of National Park Rangers also opposes this legislation.

Dr. Ben Tholke, a professor at WCU who spent seven years as a Park Ranger on Mount Rainier, states that he “Does not feel that this legislation was necessary. There are alternatives to carrying guns. If you are afraid of being attacked by animals, then carry a whistle or bear spray. Often times black bears are frightened by people and do false charges to scare them away. If this were to happen and the animal was shot, the situation would be worse. I encourage students to write their congressmen and senators to voice their opinion on the issue.”

Gun restrictions at national parks were originally designed to stop wildlife poachers. Until a 1983 law allowing the possession of unloaded and stored weapons in national parks, visitors were required to surrender guns before entering.

One of the 67 Senators who voted for the credit card bill and gun amendment included North Carolina Senator Richard Burr.

“I was proud to support this provision to protect the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans,” Burr said. “Just because someone walks into a national park does not mean they should automatically be stripped of their rights.”

CARD not only allows concealed firearms in national parks, but protects consumers from being blinded by their credit card balances.

CARD requires that a credit card issuer send prior notice of interest rate increases and freeze interest rate terms and fees on canceled cards. It also requires that statements be mailed 21 days prior to the due date. CARD protects young consumers by requiring that issuers have a cosigner or proof that they have completed financial literacy training.