Guns-in-Parks Rule on Hold Indefinitely

The Obama administration will accept a federal judge’s ruling that blocked implementation of a rule allowing loaded firearms to be carried in national parks. While the National Park Service (NPS) goes back to the drawing board, the 26-year-old ban on guns in parks will go back into effect.

Allowing guns in parks was one of many deregulatory actions the Bush administration took during its final months in office. Like many of the so-called midnight regulations, the Interior Department, which houses NPS, took shortcuts to speed up the usually lengthy rulemaking process. Knowing its time in office was about to run out, Bush officials chose not to assess the effects lifting the ban might have on park wildlife.

Park advocates objected, saying the rule would have put animals in national parks at greater risk. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies evaluate the effects of new rules on the environment, but NPS performed no such assessment.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sided with park advocates. According to The Washington Post, “[S]he wrote that officials ‘abdicated their Congressionally-mandated obligation’ to evaluate environmental impacts and ‘ignored (without sufficient explanation) substantial information in the administrative record concerning environmental impacts’ of the rule.”

Obama’s Interior Department has not completely given up on the Bush rule; but it will oblige in conducting an environmental review, according to AP. That process, which sometimes takes years, will put this rule change on hold for now.

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