As summer nears, the number of fair-weather visitors to national parks, forests and recreation areas is increasing. So, it's a good time to assess what has happened in the 380 or so national parks where guns have been allowed since the federal ban on firearms in national parks was lifted in February 2010.
What has happened? Nothing.
Contrary to the gun-control lobby's hair-on-fire hysteria, there have been no gun-related incidents involving legally licensed gun-owners in national parks in the two summers since the ban was lifted. In fact, according to the Department of the Interior, crime -- all crime -- continues to decline on federal lands.
To determine how hikers and backpackers would react to seeing armed men on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park, reporter Scott Sexton of the Winston-Salem Journal strapped a .357 to his side and visited various back-country campsites.
The results: "The legal presence of guns in a park largely went unnoticed and neither added to nor detracted from anyone's experience, as far as this experimenter could tell," Sexton wrote in an April 30 column. "As an issue, the carrying of firearms in a park -- handled legally and properly -- is a nonstarter."
Despite this, the ban is still in effect on some federal lands, including more than 11.7 million acres, with 400 lakes, 90,000 campsites and 4,000 miles of trails, managed nationwide by the Army Corps of Engineers.
This oversight is addressed in the 2013 Energy and Water Development Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which includes an amendment to allow a law-abiding citizen to legally possess firearms on Army Corps of Engineers Water Resource Development lands. It is expected to pass.
Meanwhile, the campaign for equal-access to public lands for gun-owners continues in states, counties, cities and towns across the country. On May 7, a long-standing ban on openly carrying guns in Virginia state parks officially ended, while Second Amendment advocates are successfully rallying to see unconstitutional restrictions lifted in local parks in New York, Oregon, and Georgia.