Friday, May 22, 2009

If credit cards were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns -- or something like that

The "Room for Debate" section in today's New York Times batted around the new law allowing people to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. A broad array of opinions were displayed on the question "Guns in Parks -- Safe, Scary or a Sideshow?"

Personally, I think it's a scary, unsafe sideshow. But nobody asked me. The NYT did ask Wyoming writer, hunter and dog lover Ted Kerasote. He's against loaded firearms in parks -- and he's a gun guy. He wrote this in "Pack pepper spray, not a pistol:"

... Living within Grand Teton National Park, I see this all the time: a deer gunned down by the side of the road, its antlers chopped off; a moose waylaid just inside the park boundary; a coyote shot as it watches a car go by. These killings are perennial, often remove spectacular, genetically fit individuals, and create one more enforcement burden for park rangers.

Allowing visitors to carry loaded firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges, as legislation just passed by Congress does, will only make such poaching worse while making a ranger’s job more risky. And I don’t say this as some bleeding-heart liberal with an anti-gun agenda. There’s a rack of rifles and shotguns in my shed and, during Wyoming’s hunting season, I shoot an elk, an antelope and a variety of game birds — food for me and mine during the ensuing year. I’d be the last person in the world to outlaw guns.

... pepper spray is a far better deterrent than a .44 magnum, especially in the hands of the inexperienced. I’ve now used it to turn a charging moose, dissuade a cantankerous bison and send a bear scurrying. The animals had a coughing fit, and I a scare, a far better outcome than guns often produce.

That wasn't the only Wyoming reference in the article. That's appropriate, since we have tons of guns and lots of national park land. The NYT article opens with a photo of a grazing bison with a picnicking family in the background. The bison does not appear to be armed, but you never can tell. The picnickers may be packing heat, but seem most interested in gnawing sandwiches.

As a counterpoint to Ted's article, David B. Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo., begins his article this way:

“What works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne,” the presidential candidate Barack Obama often said when discussing gun policy. President Obama has put his principle into practice, signing a bill which, besides changing the laws about credit cards, repeals an inappropriate federal regulation.

I'm not sure what gun laws are in Chicago. Much more restrictive, I expect, than they were in Dillinger's day. Cheyenne law stipulates that everyone, from a day-old infant to a 100-year-old granny, must carry a loaded firearm at all times. This was the Wild West, after all, and some of that tradition remains in our free-form gun laws and our petrified legislature. When Dick Cheney was a greenhorn state legislator, he inadvertently shot himself in the foot while proposing legislation to tar-and-feather all Wyoming Democrats -- if any could be found. On Inauguration Day 2009, did you see Cheney being carted out of D.C. in a wheelchair? Don't blame his short-circuiting electronic heart. It was his old foot wound acting up. That and his rheumatiz.

David B. Kopel also had this to say:

The old regulation had prohibited defensive gun possession or carrying in national parks. Thanks to the new law, the federal rules about guns in national parks and wildlife refuges will be the same as the laws of the host states. So in Manhattan, where handgun carry permits are reserved for diamond merchants, the political-social-celebrity elite and a few other favored groups, there will not be a mass of people carrying guns at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, on 20th Street. (This result might have appalled Teddy Roosevelt, a N.R.A. member who as president carried his own revolver for protection.)

Teddy Roosevelt, of course, hunted in Wyoming after he shot all the game in the Dakotas. It's a well-known fact that he shot the last jackelope in Converse County. There's a statue to that jackelope in downtown Douglas, but not a single statue of the old Rough Rider. Teddy would be appalled.

As a counterpoint to that p.o.v., Kristen Brengel, director of legislative and government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, offers this:

In about nine months, guns will be allowed to be carried loaded throughout national parks if the state they are in permits guns in that state. After the amendment takes effect, visitors to national parks such as Yellowstone in Wyoming will begin to see guns visibly displayed in vehicles or being carried. Visitors to monuments and battlefields including Gettysburg National Military Park and Mount Rushmore will also now also be able to carry guns if the site is within a state that permits them.

Hikers in the back country will have a different experience. I will probably be discouraged from many hikes if other visitors are walking around openly carrying guns. Frankly, it is threatening to see a person hiking with a gun when it isn’t hunting season.

Because Wyoming already mandates gun-toting, I'm on trails all the time with a well-armed and well-regulated citizenry and I don't mind. I have a gun, my wife has a gun, my kids have guns, my dog has a gun, my tomato plants have guns -- we're all happy gun owners. Nothing untoward is going to happen to us while we enjoy nature's bounty. We will face down any threat, be it animal, mineral or human.

Meanwhile, I ask again: what does all this have to do with lowering credit card interest rates?

Read the entire NYT story at

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