Tulsa World: Guns-in-parks measure OK’d

May 21, 2009
In The News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House easily gave final congressional approval Wednesday to provisions by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn to allow loaded guns in national parks, as well as to a crackdown on credit-card practices that critics deemed abusive and deceptive.

President Barack Obama, who has championed the credit-card legislation, is expected to sign the bill in quick order.

Attached to the credit-card measure last week by the Senate, the language by Coburn, R-Okla., was approved by a House vote of 279-147.

That followed a separate vote of 361-64 on the credit-card provisions.

Oklahoma’s five-member House delegation voted for the Coburn guns-in-parks language, but split on the credit-card provisions, with Republicans John Sullivan and Frank Lucas voting no and Republicans Tom Cole and Mary Fallin and Democrat Dan Boren voting yes.

"The bill will reduce the availability, increase the cost, and reduce the amount of credit issued across the country,” Lucas said. "All of this leads to a diminished access to credit for every American, making the current credit crisis worse.”

Coburn did not respond to a request for a comment on his amendment.

Earlier, he said the issue was not about guns but about states’ rights and Second Amendment rights. Bureaucrats should not be able to decide when Americans cannot have those rights, Coburn said.

Under his language, visitors to national parks can carry loaded guns in states that do not bar such activity. Currently, they can take guns into parks as long as they are not operable and not easily accessible.

Coburn’s language does not provide for legal discharge of a gun in a park.

Still, opponents described it as dangerous and warned it could lead to more violence in parks.

They dismiss Coburn’s constitutional claims, adding that the current regulations that date to the Reagan administration have not drawn such a challenge.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the major House sponsor of the credit-card legislation, expressed regret that the two issues were joined.

"We should not have to do credit-card reform with the barrel of a gun,” Maloney said.

Scot McElveen, president of the Association of National Park Rangers, said the Coburn language is a fundamental reversal from why previous Congresses created the national park system.

"Park wildlife, including some rare or endangered species, will face increased threats by visitors with firearms who engage in impulse or opportunistic shooting,” McElveen said.

John Waterman, president of the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police, said Congress chose to disregard the safety of park rangers, whom he described as the most-assaulted federal officers, and forgo the environmental process set up to assure the protection of national parks.

When asked about the bill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama believes the legislation is important to protect consumers "that are represented in this town that don’t have a lobbyist.”

"These are important reforms to protect consumers and to bring some common-sense rationality into our financial system, and the president looks forward to signing it as quickly as possible,” Gibbs said.

According to a summary offered by supporters, key provisions of the bill would protect consumers from arbitrary interest rates, fee increases and prohibit universal default on existing balances, bar interest charges on paid-off balances from previous billing cycles, require payments be applied first to credit-card balances with the highest interest rates, protect students and other young consumers from aggressive credit-card solicitations and require greater disclosure of rates, terms and billing details.

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