National parks, credit card bill: Guns belong in neither

Enough is enough. Last week, an amendment to allow loaded guns in national parks was added to legislation reforming credit cards. This “gotcha amendment” is on a bill that has nothing to do with national parks, but could fundamentally change these national icons and wildlife sanctuaries forever.

As the majority of Americans are seeking relief from abusive credit card practices, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) couldn’t help himself from attaching a totally unrelated rider to that bill that would allow individuals to carry rifles, shotguns and semi-automatic weapons in national parks if the firearm is in compliance with state law. And we wonder why the American public scorns Washington.

America’s national parks are some of the most peaceful places in our country. Shielded by the most protective land management standards in the country, our national parks have preserved special places and evocative experiences for American families for almost a century, from the quiet solemnity of battlefields and cultural sites to the howl of wolves in Yellowstone. They offer solitude and an opportunity for reflection. The National Park Service does a masterful job of making sure that the nearly 275 million people who visit the national park system annually have a safe, enjoyable, educational, and often unforgettable experience in the parks. And now we have a proposal to allow individuals to openly carry loaded guns at campfire talks and ranger-led walks?

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The amendment also forbids reasonable restrictions on loaded weapons during special events, celebrations, or visits from dignitaries requiring extra security. Thanks to the Coburn amendment, it will be vastly more difficult, if not impossible, to protect the president or other world leaders during visits to national parks. It is clear that the Coburn amendment is at odds with the fundamental values that have preserved our parks for over 100 years.

The Coburn rider would overturn the existing, reasonable Reagan-era regulation that allows guns to be transported through national parks as long as they are unloaded and safely stowed away. In a 2008 letter to the Interior Department, all seven of the living former directors of the National Park Service opposed changing the Reagan-era regulation. For the sake and safety of wildlife, park visitors and hard-working, understaffed park rangers, let us come to our senses and dispose of this foolish idea. And let’s get on with the people’s business of passing credit card reform legislation and making “America’s Best Idea” of the national park system the best that it can be.


From Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman, House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Washington

Beyond fuel efficiency

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By announcing new gas-mileage standards for vehicles, the president took a good first step toward improving our energy efficiency. But:

• It is only a first step. Cars consume a major part of our energy resources, but cars are only part of the transportation and energy picture. Efficiency in every aspect of energy development and use provides opportunities.

• We need to reward those that make us more energy-efficient, more self-reliant, more caring for the needs of others, and quit rewarding those that provide a get-rich-quick scheme and high salaries and bonuses for creating nothing of value.

• While we might make some limited progress for ourselves with our energy policy, we need to promote a more cooperative world energy policy. In the past the U.S. has obstructed world initiatives. Now we need not only to cooperate, but to lead.

From Philip Lavietes, Arlington, Va.