Starting Monday, a new federal law will allow guns to be carried into national parks and wildlife refuges across the country, including the Gateway Arch grounds and Missouri's Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
And while critics say the presence of guns in parks will disrupt some of the country's most serene settings, it doesn't mean visitors can expect to share a tram ride up the Arch with someone who's got a pistol tucked in a boot.
Gun owners must still follow all applicable municipal, state and federal laws while visiting parks and refuges. And guns will still be prohibited in federal facilities that are regularly staffed by National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees.
At the Arch, for example, guns will continue to be banned in the visitors center, the Old Courthouse, offices, the parking garage and maintenance buildings.
The Arch grounds, however, will now be open to gun owners obeying the law, said Pete Swisher, chief ranger.
"I think the easiest way to describe that area is the area outside of the Arch," Swisher said. "Once someone with a gun tries to go inside the building, security is going to stop them."
U.S. Department of Interior officials say it will be up to gun owners to know the law before entering a park or wildlife refuge.
Some states allow only concealed weapons to be carried while others also permit open carry. And most have reciprocity agreements that allow guns licensed in other states to be carried in another.
Park officials concede the overlapping web of state gun laws may be difficult for visitors to untangle.
Often the gun crowd accuses gun control folks of things they themselves are guilty of. I often point these things out. One of the most common is they often accuse me of being repetitive and refusing to change my opinions, as if that doesn't apply to them also.
Well, I wondered if this National Parks business is an example of incrementalism. The very thing they often accuse gun control folks of attempting must be what's behind this mess in the national parks. "In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visitors will be allowed to openly carry weapons in North Carolina. But if they cross over into Tennessee, they'll need a carry permit."
How long will it be before other laws are proposed to equalize these state differences in favor of the gun owners?
What's your opinion? Is this tricky method of gradually implementing laws which eventually lead to something greater, practiced by both sides? Do you think it's a fair criticism that the pro-gun folks complain about us doing this while they're guilty of it too?
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