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The Right To Go Hiking With A Gun

May 20, 2009

Republicans and some Democrats from pro-gun areas of the country have inserted a provision into the highly popular credit card industry reform package in Congress that would allow visitors to national parks to carry loaded and concealed weapons. The story is at the New York Times. An excerpt:

Not for the first time, Republicans are hijacking a popular and, in this case, a desperately needed financial reform bill, in order to secure passage of a law that would otherwise not have enough support:

[g]un control and conservation groups have urged the administration to insist on a credit card bill without the gun proposal. They have also joined top House Democrats in lamenting the inability of Senate Democrats to prevent Republicans from adding such politically charged proposals to unrelated legislation. A gun measure has also tied up a bill granting the District of Columbia full voting representation in the House, and Republicans are readying other gun rights initiatives for future consideration.

“I wish there could be more courage and leadership from our friends on the Hill,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, saying he believed that lawmakers were overestimating the gun lobby’s political might.

The practice of adding provisions to unrelated and popular bills is, unfortunately, traditional and common. Adding a gun rights proposal to the DC voting rights bill is particularly cynical, though, given the gun violence there. And adding to the political callousness, we now have the NRA celebrating expansion of carrying rights to places where America’s families like to camp and swim and bring their children for weekend getaways, securing this victory by hijacking a law aimed at making it easier for those same families to get out from under usurious interest rates and unfair credit card practices.

The bill’s supporters claim that this is legislation designed to secure states rights. That the bill would simply allow the carrying of concealed and loaded weapons in those states where the right to carry is already guaranteed by the state. In essence, the supporters are claiming that their interest in this bill is to eliminate a conflict between state and federal law and return the power to make the decision on the issue of guns to the states. This argument fails on its face. The bill at issue is a gun bill, lobbied for–and in all likelihood written by–the NRA and will have only one effect: allowing guns into places where they are not now permitted. This is not about states’ rights. If it were, we would expect the Republicans supporting the expansion of gun rights to our national parks to support state law in all areas where it comes into contact with federal law. They do not. These Republican lawmakers, tellingly, are the primary supporters of federal drug laws that have recently allowed federal government agents to raid state-authorized and legal medical marijuana stores and to arrest the customers despite their having proper medical and state permission to purchase the products sold there. States rights, apparently, are only a concern to NRA supported congressmen and women when a constituent with a .357 magnum in his jacket doesn’t want to leave it behind when he visits Mount Rushmore.

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