Politics & Government

Park visitors will be able to carry loaded guns

WASHINGTON — Visitors to the nation's parks and refuges will be allowed to carry loaded weapons with them under a plan given final approval by the Bush administration Friday.

As expected, the Interior Department decided to scrap its longtime ban on loaded weapons. Under the new regulation, an individual can carry a loaded weapon in national parks and wildlife refuges if he or she is authorized to do so on similar state lands in the state where the national park or refuge is.

"America was founded on the idea that the federal and state governments work together to serve the public and preserve our natural resources," said Lyle Laverty, the assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks. "The department's final regulation respects this tradition by allowing individuals to carry concealed firearms in federal park units and refuges to the extent that they could lawfully do so under state law."

The decision is a victory for the National Rifle Association, but critics said the move would put the public at risk.

"We will do everything possible to overturn it and return to a commonsense approach to guns in national parks that has been working for decades," said Bill Wade, the president of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.