National parks hosted about 275 million visitors in 2008, the agency said. There were 3,760 reported major crimes, including five homicides and 37 rapes. The agency does not note which crimes involve firearms. Crime is down across the system's parks, according to the statistics.Is there any evidence that visitors are experiencing increased suspicions, wariness, and concern? Did the "social dynamic" really change?
Bill Wade, president of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said that could change Monday.
"Visitors are going to go to national parks with an increased amount of suspicions and weariness and concern," Wade said. Worse, he said, the new law will erase the park system's reputation as a place of solitude and safety.
"People go to national parks to get away from things that they face in their everyday living, where they live and work. Now I think that social dynamic is really going to change," Wade said.
Scot McElveen, president of the Association of National Park Rangers, said that the new law violates the Park Service's original mission to serve as a preserve for the United States' natural resources and wildlife.
"Our tens of thousands of years of collective experience in operating and managing parks leads us to believe that allowing loaded, readily accessible firearms in parks is one that will lead to lessened preservation of park resources," McElveen said.
Critics are also concerned about the possibility of an increase in illegal hunting and poaching.
"There are a group of folks that will never break the law, no matter what, because they believe the law and want to keep their weapons," McElveen said. "But there's also a group in the middle that can be tempted by opportunity when they think that no one's around and no one will find out."
The National Park Service must keep extensive records regarding poaching, along with other crime statistics. What are they seeing in the way of increased crime? And how about these "group in the middle" folks whose moral compass is so skewed that they will be tempted to use that firearm they have along for protection just because they can?