There’s already been a boatload of bloviation expressed on the recent reversal of the ban on loaded firearms in our national parks, some of it sensible but most of it (predictably) bordering on hysterics.
This column from the Huffington Post is a perfect example:
“In fact, the new rule is likely to make national park visitors less safe around wildlife. Packing heat could give some people a false sense of security and make them more likely to approach bison, elk, moose, and grizzly bears, rather than keep a safe distance which is better for both people and animals.”
But the most certain outcome of this congressional action is that it will promote poaching. The National Park Service warned in its fiscal 2006 budget submission each year for the past several years … The data suggests that there is a significant domestic as well as international trade for illegally taken plant and animal parts.” Poaching, the agency said, “is suspected to be a factor in the decline of at least 29 species of wildlife and could cause the extirpation of 19 species from the parks.”
Two points I’d like to make in response. First, poaching. When you make an argument it’s generally a pretty good idea to make sure the data you use in defense of your argument actually support it. Apparently Mr. Markarian skipped that chapter in his high school debate class. There’s absolutely no, none, nada, zip not a shred of evidence or data to support his assertion that allowing visitors firearms “promotes poaching.” He, to be perfectly blunt, reached around his backside and pulled that statement out of his a**. And that National Park Service budget submission he quoted was published in…2006. Yes, three years ago. You know, back when packing in national parks was illegal.
Second, it’s obvious the author has never visited a national park. If he had he would know that it’s complete fantasy to believe that current (unarmed) visitors to our national parks exhibit good judgment and keep a safe, prudent distance from roadside wildlife. Quite the opposite. Thanks to the constant anthropomorphization we’re subjected to we now believe that wild animals have a deep, intrinsic empathy toward humans. They would love us, if only we would put down our guns and let them.
In fact, if one could make a sweeping generalization about the common sense of the average American tourist by observing their behavior around national park wildlife, one would have to reach the inevitable conclusion that we’re already a nation of clueless, pushy, overly-aggressive suburban jackasses. Guns certainly aren’t going to change that. If you point out the obvious fact that wild animals have no interest in connecting with us on a spiritual level but if we intentionally harass them they will most assuredly connect with us on a physical level, then you’re simply an unevolved lout who doesn’t get it. See video below.
But I’m a pragmatist, and I think I’ve reached a compromise that will make everyone happy. Why don’t we make loaded firearms illegal within say, 100 yards of any RV-accessible road but allow loaded firearms in campsites and on all trails? This achieves two goals: it gives backcountry hikers and campers a measure of personal protection from criminal and animal attack. It also gives park wildlife the freedom to (without the threat of being shot) continue stomping, goring, maiming and otherwise communing with the hordes of camera-wielding Animal Planet watchers who choke our national park roads every summer.