paradisewildflowers.jpg
nps.gov
You know what would go perfect with this scene? A handgun.
Imagine hiking along remote stretches of the 93-mile Wonderland Trail winding around the

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Soon You Can Hike the Mt. Rainier Wonderland Trail Armed

paradisewildflowers.jpg
nps.gov
You know what would go perfect with this scene? A handgun.
Imagine hiking along remote stretches of the 93-mile Wonderland Trail winding around the base of Mt. Rainier. Ah, bliss. Far away from the crowds at the lodge, it's just nature, you, your tent, trail mix, and your trusty assault rifle.

Thanks to a law that goes into effect on Feb. 22, you will soon be able to pack heat in the national parks, formerly Second Amendment (and accompanying noise and safety hazards)-free zones.

With less than two weeks until the law takes effect, a group of former park rangers is trying to stir up enough public outrage to get Congress to overturn the new rule or convince states to enact their own restrictions keeping deadly weapons out of Mt. Rainier, the North Cascades, the Olympics and the 55 other national parks throughout the United States.

"I just can't help but believe that most people in this country didn't expect that [openly carrying loaded guns] in national parks was going to be a reality in their lifetime," says Bill Wade, Chair of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. Wade started his career as a ranger on Mt. Rainier and now lives in Arizona.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) attached an amendment allowing guns in the nation's parks to a credit-card regulations bill. That legislation, restricting credit-card interest rates and fees , was signed by Barack Obama last May.

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It's not so good for bears, but you can bring one into the parks just in case.
What do guns in national parks have to do with credit-card regulation? Absolutely nothing, but that's the way things work in Congress. I'll vote for your credit-card reform if you'll vote to allow my 9 mm into Paradise.

In a statement made at the time he introduced the amendment, Coburn argued that 16 murders in national parks over the course of one year showed that people needed to be able to defend themselves in the parks.

Coburn's amendment says a state's gun laws now apply to the national parks in that state. So any gun you're allowed to carry in Washington is allowed in our three parks. As we learned from Don Ward last week, that firearms are kosher in Starbucks too, so you can pick up a latte on your way to summit Rainier.

The national park retirees, as well as the Association of National Park Rangers and the Fraternal Order of Police U.S. Park Rangers Lodge authored a letter begging Congress to oppose Coburn's amendment, saying allowing guns in parks will increase poaching problems, scare wildlife when they are fired, and "compromise the safe atmosphere that is valued by Americans and expected by international tourists traveling to the United States."

And besides, says Wade, "all of the research is clear that guns are the least effective protection against things like bears and other wild animals." (He's backed up by the hunting magazine Sports Afield, which says that pepper spray is far more effective for stopping a charging bear.)

But Wade's arguments fell on deaf ears, and 67 senators voted to pass Coburn's amendment through with the credit-card bill. (Both Washington senators gave it a thumbs-down.)

Luckily for backcountry enthusiasts, the first rule of backpacking is keeping your pack as light as possible, and guns are quite heavy. Still, starting next Monday, you might want to be careful when setting up your tent late at night, lest the people in the neighboring site mistake you for a bear and start firing.

 
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