Park officials say little will change under new CCW in national parks rules; Gun ban extremists see "increased risk"

A new law allowing licensed concealed carry in national parks takes effect on February 22, and park officials "do not expect a major impact with the easing of firearm restrictions."

But that isn't stopping anti-gun extremists from crying foul:

From the Akron Beacon-Journal:

Officials in the Cuyahoga Valley park do not expect a major impact with the easing of firearm restrictions, but others are convinced the move will make federal parks more dangerous.

Critics are worried the change will result in more guns — and thus create more risk to visitors and staff — in parks the National Park Service manages and refuges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service runs.

Assault rifles at the Grand Canyon, shotguns in the Yellowstone backcountry and handguns at Wolf Trap concerts in Washington, D.C., are all possible scenarios permitted under what has been called "a dangerous new gun law," the Arizona-based Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said.

The new rule is "sad to me" and greatly increases the risk to park visitors, said Toby Hoover of the Toledo-based Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

"The big problem is that park visitors will now be forced to rely on the judgment of those carrying weapons in our parks for our safety...and that's not an ideal recipe," she said.

But as Paul Stoehr, acting park superintendent of Cleveland's Cuyahoga Valley park, points out, park-goers have always been forced to rely on the judgement of others. That's because, as he observes, visitors to the Cuyahoga Valley could be carrying concealed weapons in the federal park now, and officials really have no way of knowing.

Additionally, Cuyahoga Valley's Chief Ranger, Christopher Ryan, is quoted as saying it is already legal in Ohio to have weapons publicly visible in the park.

Those simple facts don't seem to connect others, however.

Again, from the story:

Bill Wade, chair of the retirees' executive council and a former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, called the new rules ''a sad chapter'' in the history of America's national parks.

His group said it fears more guns in parks will increase the likelihood of wildlife and historic park resources being shot, the risk to park rangers and the potential risk of alcohol-fueled disagreements among campers.

The new law will likely have "a chilling effect on how visitors behave in national parks," he said in a statement. "A feeling of safety and security will be replaced by wariness and suspicion. This diminishes some of the 'specialness and reverence' our citizens have long accorded their national parks."

Ohioans for Concealed Carry's Dan White told the newspaper that the new law should make park visitors safer.

"Safety is the issue," he is quoted as saying. "Carrying a concealed weapon won't be a problem. The problem has never been law-abiding citizens... We're convinced there will be less risk. Muggers approaching a victim in the park will be forced to stop and ask: 'Is this person armed?'"

EDITORS NOTE: Readers should be aware that the Beacon-Journal story contains false information.

Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine has notified the author, Beacon-Journal staff writer Bob Downing about the mistakes:

Dear Mr. Downing,

You list incorrect information regarding states where an Ohio CHL is valid. It looks like you took the reciprocity agreements from Attorney General Richard Cordray's site, but incorrectly added Louisiana and Texas. Ohio licenses are NOT valid in those states.

Additionally, many states simply honor others states licenses (just like a drivers license) without a special agreement. (Indiana and Kansas for example)

Ohio licenses are valid in 26 states in addition to Ohio.

I would note that all the "sad" and "chilling effect" comments rely on the same arguments that have been proven false every time a concealed carry law is passed or substantially improved. They have not happened...

Law abiding citizens are not going to start killing people inside a park at any different rate than they have been killing people outside a park. The law has no effect on criminal behavior, because criminals don't follow the law.

In all likelihood, there will be no noticeable changes in the parks short term. There will be a small number of people like myself who will now visit with my family because I can now legally do so with a firearm for self-defense. At some point, just like everywhere else people carry guns for self-defense, a criminal will target an armed victim. Most of the time there will be no story, because the criminal will retreat and no shots will be fired. In time, there will be stories about someone who is forced defended themselves from attack. Some examples are here:

My comments notwithstanding, overall you wrote a good story. Thank you for covering the topic. Feel free to contact us if we can be of any assistance in future stories.

Jim Irvine

Additional News Coverage:
Concealed weapons in National Parks

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