A Stupid Bill That Will Hurt Sportsmen. And of course the NRA is Pushing it

Laws governing public lands have not changed much in a generation with one big exception – guns. Recent and pending legislation could open much of our federal lands to open carrying of loaded firearms, as well as expanded hunting, trapping and target shooting.

Surprisingly, this transformation has been abetted by the Obama administration which signaled in its earliest actions that it would bend over backwards to avoid provoking the NRA. In 2009, the National Park Service drop-kicked a plan to ban lead-based ammo in the 60-some park units which allow hunting to protect wildlife from ingestion of spent lead shot and bullets. Ironically, this plan was developed under Bush.

Administration involvement in further fostering firearm use on federal lands includes:

• In 2009, President Obama signed legislation repealing any federal restrictions on the carrying of firearms in national parks and refuges –rules promulgated under President Reagan–culminating a two-year campaign by the NRA. Legislation is moving to remove federal firearm restrictions on all other recreational lands;

• Legislation just passed committee in the House (the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act – H.R. 2834 would declare all federal lands open to hunting, trapping and “recreational shooting” unless specifically closed by law. While the bill exempts national “parks” and “monuments,” more than a dozen other park units, such as Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the Blue Ridge Parkway and even Gettysburg National Military Park, would become open to hunting, trapping and shooting. In addition, the bill would strike down existing hunting restrictions at Cape Cod, Point Reyes and Fire Island National Seashores, among other places. The bill’s supporters may not even know these effects because, distressingly, the Park Service has been mum on this bill; and

• BLM was working on a no-brainer plan to designate no shooting areas near residences and recreation areas. The agency had identified nearly 50 locations where residents, hikers and equestrians are in danger from open range shooting. After the NRA objected, last month Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered BLM to cease any work on shooting restrictions, no matter how prudent or limited.

Someone is surely going to get killed. Moreover, the impacts for both public safety and wildlife from this broad relaxation of firearm restrictions have not been studied – and, frankly, federal agencies are too afraid of political blowback to even look.

Cozying up to whatever the NRA wants may be good politics but it is lousy leadership. If you want some pushback, lend a hand.


Jeff Ruch
Executive Director