Monday was the dawning of a new era for people on both sides of the gun rights issue as a new federal law too effect, allowing loaded firearms to be legally carried into national parks by private citizens.
It also appeared to be the point in history where—hopefully—the anti-gun hysteria generated over this common-sense change in the law peaked. From now on, instead of Chicken Little conjecture, the country will be able to track the behavior of law-abiding gun owners inside national parks and determine whether the predictions of blood on the trails had any merit. Historically, the same gloom-and-doom forecasts have come and gone with the passage of every state right-to-carry law. None of those predictions ever materialized, either.
Paul Helmke, the ever-alarmist president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, was quoted the other day by several news agencies frothing hyperbole and trying to create panic when he observed, “Families should not have to stare down loaded AK-47s on nature hikes.” It is that kind of ridiculous rhetoric that has cost Helmke, and the gun prohibition lobby, their credibility.
The public, and more importantly, many former skeptics in law enforcement, have realized that everything bad they were advised to expect by the anti-gun crowd turned out to be about as reliable as the predictions of catastrophic global warming. We have lost count of the number of sheriffs and police who have acknowledged how wrong they were about concealed carry laws after two or three years of actual practice.
If law abiding armed citizens carry on in the national parks as they have everywhere else, in about 12 to 18 months, there should be enough unbiased evidence available to show that the critics of this new law were wrong. Whether they will acknowledge their error is another matter.
The mainstream press is not without sin in this regard. The Los Angeles Times went out of its way to report that there were 1,844 “weapons-related offenses” reported in national parks last year. There were no further details about these offenses.
Were they primarily problems with park visitors who had firearms improperly stored in their vehicles, but had not actually done anything with those guns other than have them in the car? This new law will eliminate that problem, which is one of the reasons for the change.
How many involved the actual illegal use of firearms, say for target shooting or poaching? The law change had nothing to do with those types of offenses that happened last year. Indeed, the illegal shooting and poaching happened when there was a complete prohibition on loaded firearms. This new law does not allow either of those activities, even though the fear-mongers would have the public believe that the change is going to turn Yellowstone, Yosemite and Mount Rainier into Wild West no-man’s lands.
Hysteria merchants like Helmke have had their day, and time has proven them wrong. Here’s one prediction that will hold water: A year from now, gun prohibitionists who opposed this law will be spinning statistics fast and furiously in an attempt to prove they were right.
Alan Gottlieb and Dave Workman are co-authors of Assault on Weapons: The Campaign to Eliminate Your Guns, published by Merril Press. Gottlieb is founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation. Workman is senior editor of Gun Week.