The "Taylor-Goodrich" letters say one thing, but National Park Service does another(opens in a new window). Here, NPS asserts the authority to arrest for someone who possesses a loaded firearm on their own property within or adjacent to National Parks.
"The NPS firearms regulation is designed to ensure public safety and provide maximum protection of natural wildlife resources by limiting the opportunity for unauthorized use of weapons, while still providing reasonable regulatory relief for persons living within, traveling through, or conducting activities on lands adjacent to park areas. [Further, to help keep our parks safe, the NPS law enforcement program seeks to take reasonable measures to protect park visitors.] - The last sentence is missing from the most recent incarnations of Taylor-Goodrich letters."
You can see from the Moffat County Sheriff's web page that the assertion of "reasonable regulatory relief" is false.
Data from 'cached' ourcivilrights.org: NOTE: Bighammer.net provides the following data for research purposes only and in no way endorses, or authenticates this data.
THE LEGAL CASE
The ban on firearms in National Parks is in direct violation of our civil rights. Contained within the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States is the following statement:
"The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not be Infringed"
Yet regulation 36CFR2.4 contains the following statements:
"prohibited: Possessing a weapon ... Carrying a weapon ... Using a weapon"
"Carrying or possessing a loaded weapon in a motor vehicle, vessel or other mode of transportation is prohibited..."
All laws and regulations are required to conform to the Constitution. In this case, the Bill of Rights instructs the government not to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms, yet the regulations contain an outright prohibition on the possession, carriage, or usage of weapons.
A test exists for whether limitations on Constitutionally protected civil rights can be limited. The test is known as "strict scrutiny", an official legal term meaning that the burden is placed on the regulating entity to prove whether there is a "compelling public interest". While it would seem that this definition might be wide open, it is a far stricter test than it appears at first blush. Normally, a citizen opposing a law or regulation has the burden of proving that there is no public interest being served, but under strict scrutiny it is the government which has the burden of proof.
If the government can show that there is a "compelling public interest", it must then develop rules or laws that place the least possible restriction on the rights of citizens. In legal parlance, the rule or law must be narrowly tailored and it must be shown to actually further the public interest.
The National Park Service is aware of the concept of "compelling public interest" and the requirement to find the least restrictive way of meeting the need. Executive Order 12630 deals with citizens' property rights and, specifically, civil rights contained within the 5th Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) to the Constitution of the United States. The government may not take private property without due process and just compensation. This Executive Order recognizes the requirement to minimize the intrusion on civil rights when a legitimate purpose exists.
If we were to substitute "Second Amendment Civil Rights" for "5th Amendment" or "Property Rights", and "infringement of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms" for "taking" in the Executive Order it would be a very interesting document.
Here are some excerpts from Executive Order 12630 and our comments:
"Governmental officials should be sensitive to, anticipate, and account for, the obligations imposed by the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment in planning and carrying out governmental actions so that they do not result in the imposition of unanticipated or undue additional burdens on the public"
This paragraph acknowledges that the Constitution places the obligation on the government to plan and carry out their actions so as to avoid unanticipated consequences or undue burdens on the public.
"Further, governmental action may amount to a taking even though the action results in less than a complete deprivation of all use or value, or of all separate and distinct interests in the same private property and even if the action constituting a taking is temporary in nature."
Here we see that, in accordance with the Supreme Court, that a civil right may be considered infringed even if the action is less than a complete deprivation or is only temporary.
"Government officials whose actions are taken specifically for purposes of protecting public health and safety are ordinarily given broader latitude by courts before their actions are considered to be takings. However, the mere assertion of a public health and safety purpose is insufficient to avoid a taking. Actions to which this Order applies asserted to be for the protection of public health and safety, therefore, should be undertaken only in response to real and substantial threats to public health and safety, be designed to advance significantly the health and safety purpose, and be no greater than is necessary to achieve the health and safety purpose."
This is germane to our subject matter. Regulation 36CFR2.4 either exists for the health and safety of the public or it is for the protection of park resources. Certainly public health and safety is a higher order of justification than resource protection. After all, citizens are declared to have a natural right to Life and Liberty. So, the highest possible justification for CFR36CFR2.4 is public health and safety, and we've seen that the Executive branch of the government (the branch under which the DOI and NPS exist) believes that the "mere assertion of a public health and safety purpose is insufficient".
Furthermore, any actions taken must be in response to actual threats to public health and safety, must be expected to advance the purpose of public health and safety, and be no more intrusive than necessary. We see here that the Executive branch recognizes that Constitional civil rights may only be infringed if there is a significant and real need, and such infringement must be held to the absolute minimum necessary.
"When an Executive department or agency requires a private party to obtain a permit in order to undertake a specific use of, or action with respect to, private property, any conditions imposed on the granting of a permit shall:
(1) Serve the same purpose that would have been served by a prohibition of the use or action; and
(2) Substantially advance that purpose.
Here the Executive Order recognizes that a permit is an infringement and requires the same standards be met. A NPS discretionary permit for a firearm is as much an infringement as an outright ban.
"Before undertaking any proposed action regulating private property use for the protection of public health or safety, the Executive department or agency involved shall, in internal deliberative documents and any submissions to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget that are required:
(1) Identify clearly, with as much specificity as possible, the public health or safety risk created by the private property use that is the subject of the proposed action;
(2) Establish that such proposed action substantially advances the purpose of protecting public health and safety against the specifically identified risk;
(3) Establish to the extent possible that the restrictions imposed on the private property are not disproportionate to the extent to which the use contributes to the overall risk;"
The NPS is required to generate "internal deliberative documents" and establish prior to establishing an infringement on property rights that a threat exists, that the proposed action mitigates the risk, and that the infringements imposed are not disproportionate.
In summary, then, we see that the National Park Service does indeed infringe on the Constitutional civil rights of citizens with the gun ban of 36CFR2.4. In order to lawfully infringe on a civil right, the government must, prior to imposing any restrictions, determine that there is a real and legitimate public need, and must prove that any contemplated restrictions on civil rights are no more than necessary to achieve that compelling need. The mere assertion of a public health or safety purpose is insufficient justification.
The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service are part of the Executive branch of government, and the George W. Bush administration has stated their position that the Second Amendment enumerates an individual right. The Executive Branch has issued specific instructions to the NPS on how to proceed when a citizen's Fifth Amendment civil rights are at risk, and we believe the same standards should be applied to Second Amendment rights. The ban should be abolished.
DO WE REALLY NEED GUNS IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS?
The simple answer: YES!
YES morally, YES legally, and YES for practical reasons.
Links are disabled- Bighammer.net
Unfortunately, our National Parks are full of violent criminals who murder, rape, assault, car jack, and kidnap. Some of our most majestic parks are full of dangerous animals such as grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lions, and moose.
The National Park Service wants you to think that you are safe and secure within the parks, but the truth is quite different.
From the most recent data available, National Parks are the site of over 4,400 serious crimes each year, including 10 murders, 132 rapes (rape info), 70 robberies, 3 kidnappings, 212 aggravated assaults, 488 burglaries, 3,277 larcenies and thefts, 130 motor vehicle thefts, and 104 arsons. In addition, there are 38,516 less serious crimes in national parks.
Compounding the problem is the very low rate that the NPS solve crimes, both in absolute terms and in comparison to the national average.
For example, the NPS resolved only 28.5% of murders while the national average is 70.9%. For rape, the NPS 34.2% of reported cases while the national average was 45%. They resolved 39.1% of aggravated assaults while the national average is 57.7%. The NPS not only fail to remove criminals from society, the criminals are safer in the National Parks than they are outside of the parks! Surely criminals learn that they can commit their crimes in National Parks with less chance of being caught by the police, thus encouraging the criminals to continue victimizing Park visitors.
These might be mere numbers, but remember that each crime represents at least one direct victim, and likely many family members and friends who are indirect victims. Every violent crime changes (or ends!) a person's life forever.
We can expect to prevent 5 murders each year, 26 rapes, 96 aggravated assaults, 36 robberies, and 107 burglaries by allowing lawful defensive firearms within National Parks. Every crime we can prevent is a 100% success rate for the individuals who are spared victimization.
No doubt the Rangers and Park Police desire to provide a safe experience within their Parks, but the fact is that they don't believe that they have the resources to do so. The NPS commissioned a detailed study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police on the state of law enforcement within National Parks. The IACP report has some very troubling conclusions.
Only 31% of Rangers (those on the beat, not the Superintendents in the office) believe that their capacity to safeguard park visitors is "Satisfactory". Fully 69% believe their capacity is less than "Satisfactory"!
In terms of safety of natural resources, only 20% of Rangers believe their capacity is "Satisfactory". Clearly the gun ban doesn't give them much comfort.
Additionally, only 63% of Rangers rate their capacity to safeguard their own safety as "Satisfactory". Fully a third of Rangers believe themselves to be in danger! If they don't think that they can keep themselves safe, how can they keep us safe?
Why do Rangers believe their ability to protect visitors and resources is less than satisfactory? The major reasons cited are staffing levels, communications, training, and other technology and equipment.
Only 23% of Rangers rate their communications equipment as "Satisfactory", and only 33% of Rangers rate the "amount and quality of law enforcement equipment, technology, and information provided" as "Satisfactory".
The IACP explains the communications issue well:
"Communications is a lifeline for law enforcement officers."
"Access to quality communications is a major safety issue."
"Communications equipment tends to be older, some bordering on obsolete... Knowing that a change is on the horizon, managers have been hesitant to invest in upgrades and fixes to present communication equipment."
"Radio coverage is problematic in a number of parks. Receiving radio signals in mountainous and wooded terrain can be difficult. Dead spots are not uncommon."
"Communications practices of the NPS meet only the most minimum professional standards. Shortfalls are easy to catalog. Rangers are often out of contact because of dead-spot situations."
"The Park Service should establish, by policy, that every protection ranger has immediate communications access. In some parks, radio communications will always suffer dead spots."
The staffing issue was also well explained in the IACP report:
"More law enforcement rangers are needed for system wide back-up; improved visitor and officer safety; stop downsizing ... stop adding acreage while law enforcement staffing is decreasing..."
"keep pace with NPS expansion"
"More training for law enforcement rangers"
Specific training needs, as reported by the IACP, includes the following:
"Tactical firearms training to include realistic, stress/combat courses; simulations; additional technical training in firearms; firarms instructor training; M-16 training..."
"Defensive tactics updates that are more meaningful"
"Tactical operations, especially dealing with park-situated schools where potential for problems exist; officer survival skills, building searches; tactical and crowd control training; more realistic special operations course"
Does this sound like they believe you to be safe from criminal or terrorist threat? Would they want combat, M-16, or special ops training if they didn't fear a need?
Park Rangers practice S.W.A.T. tactics. Do they do this because they believe visitors to be completely safe from violent attack? Will a S.W.A.T. team be arriving before or after a situation begins?
Comprehensive data on animal attacks is not available (if you have a source please pass it on) but there is some information in the NPS Morning Reports (available here ) and scattered in various park and independant websites. See our Animal Attacks page for more information and links.
What we can tell you is that lethal animal attacks do occur in our National Parks, as well as maimings and maulings. Grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lions, and moose are the main culprits. Visitors might do everything possible to avoid encountering these animals but still be attacked by them. (Bison can be quite dangerous, but generally a tourist must intentionally provok these animals before they will attack. For stupidity we have no sympathy.)
But we do have great sympathy for those who are attacked without provocation. In many cases a firearm can save the life of the victim. In some cases a less-than-lethal option may be effective; visitors should become familiar with all defensive tools available and select those best suited to their needs.
We endorse the right of a person to have a firearm available to defend his life or the lives of his family from vicious and deadly animal attack. Experts agree that the only sure defense against a bear attack is a firearm. Once a bear decides to kill you, there is no other option but to render the animal unconcious or dead.
Mountain lions have attacked and killed children, and recently an adult Park Ranger had to use his pistol to defend his life from a mountain lion. Imagine being a parent and seeing your child being attacked, dragged off and killed by a mountain lion while you are prohibited from having the right tool to save your child.
To those who wish to protect the animals, we have to ask if they believe an animal's life is worth more than a human life. That is the position being taken by the NPS when they prohibit a citizen from carrying a protective firearm when visiting the wild areas of National Parks.
It is immoral to advocate "acceptable losses" of human life in trade for the illusion of a bit of protection for wild animals. (See also our page on poaching).
The legal case is quite strong and has a page of it's own (found here). As we all know, the Constitution of the United States in concert with the Declaration of Independence declare and protect the inalienable right of each and every citizen to self defense. The Bill of Rights, contained within the Constitution of the United States, also protects the individual right of each and every citizen to possess firearms. Constitutional civil rights may not be infringed by law or regulation without the government first passing some very high hurdles. Needless to say, Federal Regulation 36CFR2.4 fails the test. See this page for details.
INFO ON RAPE DATA
The data for rape has been estimated from the official numbers contained in the report "Policing the National Parks: 21st Century Requirements", written by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. While we can be sure that all murders are reported, we can be equally sure that all rapes are not reported. The generally accepted figure is that only 28% of rapes or attempted rapes are ever reported to police authorities.
The official number of reported rapes/attempted rapes within National Parks during 2001 (the latest data available) was 37. If we assume that this represents 28% of all rapes/attempted rapes in National Parks, then the actual number of rapes and attempted rapes was 132.
The Park Police only clear about 34% of the reported cases of rape/attempted rape, so if we factor in the expected number of unreported cases, they really only cleared 10% of rape cases.
The rate of underreporting of other serious crimes was not available and so we made no estimates on the actual number of other serious crimes, such as aggravated assault, robbery, or kidnapping. Certainly some of these crimes go unreported, but we have no way to estimate the additional number of victims that exist for these crimes.
POACHING & RESOURCE DESTRUCTION
Poaching and resource destruction are serious crimes. We do not advocate the poaching of wildlife on National Park properties, nor do we advocate the destruction of resources, whether by firearm or any other means. Those who would illegally hunt, who would destroy natural resources, or who would damage physical property should be punished for their crimes to the fullest extent of the law. We are not seeking any change to the laws that already prohibit such activities and we support rigorous enforcement of those laws.
One means used by the National Park Service to identify those who are committing such crimes is the possession of a firearm. Under the current regulations, Rangers can assume that the bearer of a firearm has criminal intent, whether it be poaching, resource destruction, drug related, assault, or other.
While this is a handy situation for the NPS, it is unfortunate for the citizens of a supposedly free country. There are only a few cases where possession of an object is rightfully considered prima facie evidence of criminal activity. Lock picking tools and illegal narcotics come to mind. What has happened is that the National Park Service has decided to ban an otherwise legal possession so that they can more easily identify criminals.
To be fair, the NPS has a valid goal of preventing poaching and resource destruction. Or, as stated by the NPS, "limiting the opportunity for unauthorized use of firearms". Regulation 36CFR2.4 may have been a reasonable idea before the advent of state issued concealed firearms licenses for the purpose of self defense. But today the idea is out of date and reflects a lack of understanding of the citizens who lawfully possess defensive firearms.
It is important to note that those who are licensed by their State to carry a concealed firearm have passed an extensive criminal background check. These people are a much more law abiding group than the general population and rarely commit crimes of any description after obtaining their concealed weapon license. Furthermore, this group values their right to bear firearms in defense of the lives of themselves and their families. These people will not want to jeopardize their concealed weapons licenses by poaching or damaging resources with their defensive firearms. In fact, it is safe to say that the law abiding nature of these people makes them more likely to notify authorities when they observe illegal poaching or resource destruction within parks than the average park visitor. Simply put, those citizens who are licensed to carry concealed firearms do not pose a threat to wildlife or other park resources.
The ban on guns thus becomes a situation of prior restraint. That's where the government intends to prevent a crime by imposing restrictions on the civil liberties of citizens who have not posed any threat of committing the crime. Imagine having to provide proof that you have no history of drunk driving before you can buy a sixpack of beer. That's prior restraint. Imagine having to prove that you have no history of libel or slander before being allowed to write a newspaper article or excercise your right to free speech on a public sidewalk. That would also be prior restraint.
The National Park Service is infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens to exercise their civil right of self defense as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The National Park Service is also infringing on the civil rights of citizens by depriving them of their liberty without due process of law. The National Park Service has the duty to vigorously enforce laws and regulations prohibiting criminal activities such as poaching and resource destruction, and we support those efforts as long as they do not infringe on the civil rights of law abiding citizens.
REAL LIFE POACHING CASES
Here are some excerpts from the National Park Service Morning Report regarding real poaching cases within National Parks. Notice that the criminals conspired ahead of time to commit the crime of poaching, and that they ignored the existing gun ban. These are important points, folks. Criminals knowingly intend to commit their crimes and they do so regardless of laws or regulations to the contrary. The current gun ban disarms the law abiding, yet the criminals still bring their guns and commit crimes.
On January 1, Leipers Fork ranger Bruce Gagnon stopped a Mercury Tracer station wagon for a minor traffic violation. As he approached the vehicle, Gagnon noticed fresh blood on the rear bumper. When he contacted the occupants, Richard Eck and John Zierer both of Killen, Alabama, Gagnon discovered a doe with a bullet hole to the head in the rear of the vehicle. The investigation revealed that Zierer had phoned Eck the night before, and that they'd made plans to drive up the parkway to poach a deer. Zierer spotted a deer about 40 yards off the road near milepost 426 and shot it with a .22 rifle. As he exited the vehicle, he threw the .22 on the front seat with a round chambered, causing the rifle to discharge. The round nearly hit Eck, who was seated in the driver's seat, and passed completely through the driver's door side post. Both men were arrested and taken to Nashville for an initial appearance. They were then released on $5,000 bonds. [Submitted by Jackie Henman, Assistant Chief Ranger]
Day/Date: Tuesday, June 18, 200202-244 - Cuyahoga Valley NP (OH) - Poaching Arrest
On April 24th, ranger Mike Wilson was monitoring a flock of wild turkeys near the park boundary in an effort to detect poachers. Wilson soon heard hunters attempting to call the flock out of the park with artificial turkey calls. The birds declined to respond, however, so the hunters moved into the park, set up a blind, and continued calling. Wilson approached without being detected and apprehended Wayne Carter as he attempted to shoot a large tom turkey. Carter had two turkey calls, a portable camouflage blind, camouflage clothing and a loaded 12 gauge shotgun in his possession. With the assistance of rangers Lois Neff and Dave Vasarheyli, two other men - Rodney Treash and Robert Carter - were arrested on a nearby parcel of private property where several illegal mechanical corn feeders were found. In June, Carter waived his appearance and was fined and paid $450. Treash was fined and paid $50 for providing false information and is currently under investigation by the state for the illegal baiting operation. [Mike Wilson, ADR, CUVA, 6/9]
PUBLIC RISKS IF GUNS ARE ALLOWED
So, what is the risk that crime will increase when guns are permitted in National Parks? After all, our goal is to improve the safety of visitors, not improve the ability of criminals commit crimes.
The only answer supported by fact is that the presence of concealed defensive firearms will substantially decrease violent crime. We also assert that there will be no increase in poaching or resource destruction. This is probably preaching to the choir, but here goes...
How can we possibly claim that more guns will result in less violent crime? Scientific research. We can actually predict the new, lower levels of violent crime as a result of restoring the right to self defense within National Parks, based on the comparative experiences of states which either do or do not allow citizens to carry concealed defensive firearms.
The bottom line is that we can prevent 5 murders each year, 26 rapes, 96 aggravated assaults, 36 robberies, and 107 burglaries. That's a lot of suffering that we can prevent.
Probably the most important aspect that one must recognize is that we are seeking to allow those individuals already licensed to carry concealed defensive weapons to be allowed their Constitutionally protected civil rights on public lands. These individuals have submitted to stringent background checks performed by their state law enforcement bureaus. The background checks typically involve an FBI criminal background investigation as well as a check of state records for criminal, drug abuse, or mental disability histories. There are also training requirements for the safe handling and lawful use of firearms, and many states tie licensure to having no DUIs. Federal law prohibits anyone with a misdemeanor history of domestic violence or with a current restraining order from possessing a firearm. We are not advocating that criminals be allowed to carry firearms within National Parks (although criminals ignore the regulation anyway in order to perpetrate their violence).
Citizens who hold a license to carry a concealed weapon are a law abiding group by definition and remain far more law abiding than the general population. It is virtually unheard of for a citizen with a concealed weapon license to commit any crime, much less a gun crime, as this group values their license and avoid doing anything to jeopardize it.
We can look at the actual experience of states that permit licensed carry of concealed weapons and know that we are not opening Pandora's Box. It is against the nature of this group of citizens to commit crimes against people or natural resources. In fact, the very reason these citizens jump through the legal hoops to obtain their license is to prevent and stop violent crimes.
Furthermore, the presence of defensive firearms protect the general population as well as protecting the individual who is carrying the weapon. Criminals are deterred by the presence of firearms, as shown conclusively in many scientific studies.
The only people who will be allowed to carry concealed defensive weapons are those who have squeaky clean records. It will remain illegal for criminals to possess firearms and it will remain illegal for them to commit crimes with a firearm.
Criminals are already bringing weapons into our National Parks, and they are committing violent crimes against their victims, despite existing laws and regulations prohibiting violent crime or bringing weapons into the parks. Criminals disobey the existing rules, as evidenced by the existence of violent crime within the parks. We are not asking for a change which would somehow enable the criminals to commit crimes which they cannot or do not already perpetrate.
Finally, there are documented cases of armed individuals coming to the aid of law enforcement officers who are being attacked. The presence of licensed concealed weapons will be an enhancement to National Park employee safety.