National Parks Gun Law Takes Effect Next Year

WASHINGTON (AP) - Not so fast, gun owners. A new law allowing
loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges will not take
effect until next year, the Obama administration said Friday.

President Barack Obama signed the gun law without comment Friday
as part of a measure creating new rules for the credit card
industry.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said that because the
credit card law won't take effect until nine months after it is
signed, the gun measure also will be delayed.

Spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the Interior Department will
follow Congress's directive and put the new firearms law into
effect in late February 2010.

Until then, rules adopted under the Reagan administration will
remain in place. The rules severely restrict guns in the national
parks, generally requiring that guns be locked or stored in a glove
compartment or trunk.

"As Interior prepares to implement the new law, the department
will work to understand and interpret its implications for our
national parks and wildlife refuges, with public safety and the
safety of our employees as our foremost consideration," Barkoff
said. "For the time being, the current Reagan administration
regulations governing possession of firearms in national parks and
wildlife refuges remain in place."

The Interior Department's decision drew immediate criticism from
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the chief sponsor of the gun measure.

Spokesman John Hart said Coburn will offer the gun amendment to
other bills in order to implement the decision as quickly as
possible.

Hart said Coburn was confident the amendment would be approved
again, noting that the measure received support from 27 Democrats
in the Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The measure, adopted by wide margins in the House and Senate,
allows licensed gun owners to bring firearms into national parks
and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by state law.

Hart said Congress clearly intended for the law to take effect
soon, adding that Coburn was disappointed the law apparently will
not be in place this summer, when national parks are most crowded.

Bryan Faehner, associate director of the National Parks
Conservation Association, applauded the Interior Department's
decision.

"We are pleased, because that provides more time that our parks
will remain safe and free from shotguns, rifles and semiautomatic
weapons," Faehner said.

"We hope that the American public and members of Congress will
have more time to understand the far-reaching repercussions of this
outrageous and disturbing law that has nothing to do with credit
cards and will only put park visitors at risk," Faehner said.

Faehner called national parks among the safest places in the
country. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, there were
1.65 violent crimes per 100,000 national park visitors in 2006, far
below the national average for violent crime.

Coburn countered that parks are not crime-free and that the law
would help law-abiding people fight human and animal threats.

The vote allowing guns in parks was a bitter disappointment for
gun-control proponents, who watched as a Democratic-controlled
Congress handed a victory to gun-rights advocates that they did not
achieve under Republican rule. Democratic opponents blamed the
National Rifle Association, which pushed hard for the gun law.

Republicans said gun owners simply want to exercise their Second
Amendment rights. The GOP called the current policy confusing to
those who visit public lands, noting that merely traveling from
state-owned parks to national parks meant some visitors were
violating the law.

Obama did not mention the guns provision during a signing
ceremony for the credit card bill. A White House spokeswoman
referred questions to the Interior Department.


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