RICHMOND, Va. – One of U.S. Sen. George Allen's final initiatives before leaving office in January is an attempt to lift the ban on carrying concealed guns into national parks.
Allen, who lost to Democrat Jim Webb in this month's election, told the Virginia Gun Owners Coalition in a Nov. 4 letter that he had urged the secretary of the Interior to repeal the gun prohibition.
"Since no action has been taken, I will introduce legislation in the Senate in the week of November 13 to repeal the gun ban," Allen wrote. He introduced the bill Nov. 16.
With Democrats about to take over Congress in January, it is unlikely that such a controversial measure would pass in the current lame-duck session. The bill would not carry over to the next Congress.
Webb promised in an Oct. 30 campaign letter to introduce similar legislation, citing his enjoyment of target-shooting and the fact that he has had a concealed-carry permit for years. A Webb spokesman said Wednesday that the senator-elect has not studied Allen's bill.
Allen's office also declined to comment on the measure.
The National Park Service has no position on the bill, a spokesman said. However, he said serious crimes in the parks are rare and there is no data showing a need for visitors to carry concealed firearms.
Allowing people "with minimal or no training to carry firearms in national park areas will not lower the already negligible crime rate but will most likely increase the possibilities of basic altercations turning into something much more serious," Park Service spokesman David Barna told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Mike McHugh of Front Royal, president of the Virginia Gun Owners Coalition, said Allen's bill makes sense.
"It's odd that you can carry in the General Assembly in Virginia, but if you're out in remote areas, like the Appalachian Trail, where two women had their throats slit ... you can't defend yourself," said McHugh, referring to the slayings of two hikers in 1996.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the bill is not needed.
"The whole idea that more guns make us safer is completely backwards," he said.