February 22, 2010 – Today is the day a new federal law takes effect repealing the gun ban in national parks first put into place during the Reagan administration.
This means that Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, 13 other National Parks and Historic Sites, and 9 National Wildlife Refuges in Georgia will no longer deny the basic human right of self defense – but only while visitors are outside. The National Park Service has been aggressively training its rangers on the law banning firearms at federal facilities and will be applying that law to keep firearms out of visitor centers and rangers’ offices, although they will not take action against firearms in lodges and some other buildings. In Savannah, Fort Pulaski officials say there are strict guidelines for those who carry firearms. “If they don’t obey those rules, they will be punished.”
People carrying firearms in Georgia should be aware of an additional restriction under state law as well. Georgia’s public gathering law bans firearms in, among other things, “publicly owned or operated buildings,” which means just about any building owned by the National Park Service is going to be off limits by state law, although that is up for some debate following the passage of HB 89. The Georgia Court of Appeals has stated in a case just last year that HB 89 decriminalized the carry of firearms in buildings “in parks.”
Gun control advocates are outraged that peaceable citizens will no longer be denied their right to bear arms while outdoors in national parks. Paul Helmke, the President of the Brady Campaign, made an ad hominem attack against those who bear arms on Friday, stating, “It really is sad that we’ve become such a paranoid society that people want to take guns pretty much everywhere – including national parks.” He predicts that people will now shoot other campers over noise disputes in national parks. No reporter bothered to ask him whether such shootouts are already a daily occurrence in campsites on United States National Forest Service land, which has never had a restriction on carrying guns. No reporter bothered asking whether Mr. Helmke knew of any such incidents during the months that firearms were legal in National Parks in 2009, before a federal judge in DC ruled that self defense is harmful to the environment.
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