‘Running up and down with guns’

On Feb. 23 the Los Angeles Times reported: “In a victory for gun-rights advocates, the federal government is preparing to relax a decades-old ban on bringing loaded firearms into national parks.

“Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said Friday that his department would suggest new regulations by the end of April that could bring federal rules into line with state laws concerning guns in parks and public lands. … Fifty … senators … from both parties have backed a drive to repeal the ban. …”

Note the change would see federal authorities — weirdly, given their almost universal insistence on federal pre-eminence — allowing different rules in different states, deferring to states that disarm interstate travelers. This is akin to the federal government saying blacks and whites must be treated equally in the parks — except in certain benighted Southern backwaters, where Uncle Sam will defer to local rednecks who prefer separate “white” and “colored” bathrooms, etc.

The proposed change would do no good in California, for instance, where state law (in violation of both the Second and 14th Amendments) prohibits loaded guns in parks unless they’re locked inside a car trunk or similarly inaccessible.

“It’s a place of refuge, not a place for hunting, and it’s patrolled by state park rangers who are there to protect visitors,” California State Parks spokesman Roy Stearns explains to the Los Angeles Times.

I don’t know about California — where we’ve had some lady joggers dragged off by lions in recent years — but rangers elsewhere don’t seem to be doing all that well.

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2006 — the most recent year for which we have records — one man was stabbed to death by a drunk and, in a separate incident, a woman was shot dead. Also that year, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a woman parked at an overlook and wearing headphones while studying for final exams “was killed by a handgun by a suspect on a killing spree,” the Park Service says.

At the Amistad National Recreation Area that same year, a woman was found floating in a reservoir in about five feet of water. “She appeared to have blunt force trauma to the head and was possibly stabbed,” the agency said.

Two more 2006 murders were reported in Washington, D.C., area “park units” — both gunshots to the head.

And the “relatively small” count of 11 violent deaths in the national parks in 2006 doesn’t include rapes, other non-fatal assaults, or places from which law-abiding citizens are now de facto excluded, such as the Saguaro National Monument west of Tucson, where locals say the stream of illegals being hauled north by their “coyotes” can make the place resemble an old-fashioned stock car track.

“If you’re hiking in the back country and there is a problem with a criminal or an aggressive animal, there’s no 911 box where you can call police and have a 60-second response time,” explains Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

Half the U.S. Senate seems to agree. “While park rangers now use bulletproof vests and automatic weapons to enforce the law, regular Americans in states where conceal-and-carry law exists are denied the opportunity for self-defense,” explains Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

So, if 50 U.S. senators are of a mind to start restoring some of our purloined constitutional rights, what’s the hang-up?

Aha. Also back in February, The Associated Press found Senate Republicans protesting that “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is trying to protect the two leading Democrats for president by shielding them from a difficult vote on an issue that many rural voters consider crucial” — the proposal, lodged in the current public lands bill, to restore the right of law-abiding citizens to carry their loaded firearms in the national parks.

But why should the vote be “difficult”? As I’ve pointed out before, every candidate for national office who I’ve interviewed since 1994, regardless of party, has insisted, “I support the Second Amendment.”

Why shouldn’t Sen. Reid just let Sens. Clinton and Obama — and big-government nanny-stater John McCain, for that matter — prove they mean what they say, by allowing them to vote to restore this vital right on government lands?

Because when Washington politicians say “I support the Second Amendment,” what they mean, of course, is, “I support the Second Amendment … which I interpret to mean that only our federal police have the right to bear arms, a monopoly they’re free to enforce by, oh, gassing and burning scores of women and children in some rural Texas church as an object lesson to any other pesky Christians who might try to gather together enough legal firearms to form some kind of, you know, non-government ‘militia.’ “

Bill Wade, executive council chairman of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, told The Los Angeles Times last month that people could be discouraged from visiting certain parks, such as Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where he served as superintendent, if they knew the Second Amendment was in force, there.

“How many of you would want to go out there if you knew that people were running up and down the Appalachian Trail with guns?”

Gee, I don’t know, Bill. Do you avoid police stations because the law-abiding Americans there are armed? Military bases? Why would you come to America in the first place, if you didn’t like the idea of mere peasants “running up and down with guns”?

It was James Madison, in The Federalist No. 46, who dismissed concerns that the new central government he and his buddies proposed could ever impose tyranny on these shores, since any encroachments on our liberties by the new government “would be opposed (by) a militia amounting to near half a million citizens with arms in their hands.”

“Before a standing army can rule,” added famous Federalist Noah Webster — who would later define “bearing arms” in his dictionary to include carrying a pistol in your pocket — “the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe.” But, “The supreme power in American cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword,” Webster continued, back in 1787, “because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.”

“The whole body of the people are armed,” Mr. Wade. With “arms in their hands.”

In order to get their Constitution ratified — without which we’d have no federal gun police, and no income-tax loot to fund them — that’s the way they promised us it would be.

Vin Suprynowicz is the Review-Journal’s assistant editorial page editor.

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