WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal court today permanently vacated a last-minute Bush Administration rule allowing the carrying of loaded, concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges. Responding to lawsuits filed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and parks groups, the court had previously issued a temporary injunction staying enforcement of the Bush rule, finding that the rule was “astoundingly flawed” and issued in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
The ruling today, by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, means that concealed firearms will be barred in the national parks and wildlife refuges until new legislation recently passed by Congress takes effect in February 2010.
“Congress should consider the Court’s reasoning here,” said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign. “Just as the Bush Administration erred in enacting this rule last year without due consideration of its consequences in order to placate the gun lobby, Congress also erred in adopting this bad idea in May, with no hearings abd little debate. Congress needs to reconsider and reverse that decision.”
The Bush rule would have allowed guns in national park areas around the country, from Yellowstone and Yosemite to Independence National Historical Park, home of the Liberty Bell. Rules in place since the Reagan Administration have allowed visitors to transport guns in national parks and wildlife refuges if they are unloaded and stored or dismantled. These restrictions made the parks some of the safest places to visit in the country. The Bush last-minute rule change allowed concealed carrying even in national parks and refuges located in states that specifically ban the practice in state parks.
The Brady Campaign filed suit on December 30, 2008, to block the rule. The Bush rule went into effect on January 9, 2009, but Judge Kollar-Kotelly granted an injunction on March 19th, finding that the Bush Administration’s last-minute guns in parks rule was a product of an “astoundingly flawed process,” and that the Brady Campaign was “highly likely to prevail” in showing that the rule was illegal. The suit charged that the Interior Department violated numerous federal laws in its rush to implement the rule before President Bush left office, including failing to conduct any environmental review of the harm that the rule will cause, as is required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The Brady Campaign was represented in its lawsuit by attorneys from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project and the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP.
Read the Opposing Views debate, Should Loaded and Concealed Firearms be Allowed in National Parks?