Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 20, 2009; Page A09
A federal judge yesterday blocked a
last-minute rule enacted by President George W. Bush allowing visitors
to national parks to carry concealed weapons.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary
injunction in a lawsuit brought by gun-control advocates and
environmental groups. The Justice Department had sought to block the
injunction against the controversial rule.
The three groups that brought the suit -- the Brady Campaign to
Prevent Gun Violence, the National Parks Conservation Association and
the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees -- argued that the Bush
action violated several laws.
In her ruling, Kollar-Kotelly agreed that the government's process
had been "astoundingly flawed."
She noted that the government justified its decision to forgo an
environmental analysis on the grounds that the rule does not "authorize"
environmental impacts. Calling this a "tautology," she 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.
Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the department
could not comment because of "ongoing litigation."
The regulation, which took effect Jan. 9, allowed visitors to carry
loaded, concealed guns into national parks and wildlife refuges if state
laws there allowed it in public places. In most cases, a state permit
would be required to carry a concealed weapon into a national park.
In the past, guns had been allowed in such areas only if they were
unloaded, stored or dismantled; gun rights advocates said they saw no
reason to be denied the right to carry concealed weapons in parks when
they could in other public places.
Bryan Faehner, associate director for park uses at the National Parks
Conservation Association, said his group is "extremely pleased" with
both the court decision and the fact that Interior is now conducting an
internal review of the rule's environmental impact. "This decision by
the courts reaffirms our concerns, and the concerns of park rangers
across the country, that this new regulation . . . has serious impacts
on the parks and increases the risk of opportunistic poaching of
wildlife in the parks, and increases the risk to park visitors," Faehner