2005 comes to a close and the National Parks are no safer.
The year 2005 has come to a close, and the 2006 election season has begun. Gun owners can be thankful for a moderately successful year in review as the firearms manufacturers were protected from frivolous lawsuits by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms act passage and signing into law. Many friends of the Second Amendment joined forces in a bipartisan effort to correct the injustice done to law abiding firearms manufacturers and the country will no doubt benefit from this.
Still, many gun owners are asking the legitimate questions 'After 6 years with strong supporters of the Second Amendment in control of Congress, why does so much work remain to be done, and what infringements have been undone?
The effort to get this ball rolling was started in January, 2005 as the United States Department of the Interior & National Park Service were petitioned for redress to amend CFR 36, Regulation 2.4 to allow off duty law enforcement officers and law abiding citizens to protect themselves once again in National Parks. This petition amends the National Parks Regulation prohibiting weapons to once again allow citizens and off duty law enforcement officers provisions to carry defensive weapons on National Park Service managed properties.
Unfortunately, the Department of the Interior has consistently stonewalled the petitioners, and members of Congress. On 12/28/05, the Department of the Interior contacted Bighammer.net to say that they wanted to shelve this petition to enhance park visitor public safety until after the November 2006 elections.
The current regulation defies common sense.
The Department of the Interior and National Park Service are ignoring the ongoing public safety concerns, requests of both the petitioners, and Congress to address this issue, and the Constitutional deficiency this prohibition creates.
The National Park Service has falsely maintained that this regulation is for the purpose of 'public safety' and 'resource protection'. This is a ruse, as the news accounts of violence occurring in National Parks shows. Even when the regulation failed to achieve these lofty goals, the National Park Service scoffed at the notion of changing it. Over the past year petitioners and Bighammer.net have brought to light that the rule in its current form is not only a complete failure, but an unconscionable infringement on the rights to bear arms and defend yourself.
The current regulation implements a total ban on weapons for citizens and off duty law enforcement officers alike, unless you apply for and are granted an "emergency permit to transport pack animals". Contrary to National Park Service assertions, these permits are only available in certain parks, and they are completely at the capricious discretion of the Park Superintendent. In the May 25th, 2000 decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Frandsen & Morris vs. United States, the court pointed out that absent specific safeguards the NPS permitting scheme under CFR 36 2.51 was unconstitutional. Far worse deficiencies exist in CFR 36, 2.4. There is no avenue of appeal, no time limit to issue the permit, the permit is completely discretionary and it is ONLY valid for the protection of pack animals NOT HUMAN LIFE!
Further, in the 1993 Supreme Court case Stinson vs. United States, the court said: "...provided an agency's interpretation of it's own regulations does not violate the Constitution or a federal statute, it must be given controlling weight unless it is plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation."
In August 2004, the United States Department of Justice issued a comprehensive review of the 2nd Amendment:
(1) The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
(2) The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the rights of individuals, including those who are not members of a militia or engaged in military service or training, to keep and bear arms.
Regulation 2.4 in its current form completely abrogates several of the fundamental rights of the Citizens guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Not only the Right to bear arms, but to due process of law. The Parks do not post this prohibition openly, and it can make a criminal out of a law abiding citizen merely transiting a parkway.
Further delay is inexcusable.
The Department of the Interior has indicated that it would like to delay the VCDL petitions publication and comment period until after the 2006 Congressional elections because it is ... "not without controversy". Bighammer.net has contacted many of the petitioners and they unanimously disagree. Overwhelmingly, the petitioners respond that the only 'controversy' is the National Park Service continuing to ignore the problems of violence in the parks, continuing to jeopardize the safety of Park visitors and thwart the will of the Petitioners and Congress. The petitioners want action, not excuses.
Bighammer.net points out that the VCDL petition has been in the "review by Solicitor's Office" for a period of time longer than it took Congress to debate and approve the Constitution's Bill of Rights! It would be far more controversial for the amended regulation 2.4 from VCDL's petition to not be published for comment in the next Federal Register. The petition is not frivolous, addresses deficiencies in the regulation including substantive due process, the complete abrogation of the common law right to self defense and the right to bear arms. In the 4th US Circuit decision of Lofton vs. United States the court noted that this regulation could be challenged on due process, although Lofton had not done so. The chance is great that this regulation could be facially challenged and ruled unconstitutional as an infringement of the Right to bear arms, and due process of law. The Petitioners AND the Department of the Interior are best served by implementing VCDL's amended regulation which addresses these concerns.
The Petitioners ask that Congress step in and compel the Department of the Interior: No more stalling, no more delaying tactics, publish the amended regulation 2.4 from VCDL's petition for rule making in the next Federal Register. If the Department of the Interior does not want to address this critical public safety issue, then Congress must exercise its oversight responsibility to get to the bottom of this problem and correct it.