Commentary: The sight of guns in our national parks

The National Park Service is still trying to figure out the details of the new law that allows visitors to the nation's national parks to carry firearms. Here's hoping the law doesn't make a blip of difference in Alaska.

A majority of Alaskans stoutly defend the right to bear arms: In 1994, 73 percent approved a state constitutional amendment protecting the individual right to bear arms. Our congressional delegation unanimously supported the parks provision, which passed last year.

An organization of retired National Park Service professionals took a dim view of the new law, suggesting that a visitor to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia is now free to carry a gun, or that anyone riding a Denali shuttle bus could find herself sitting next to a well-armed fellow visitor. The implication was that this is scary.

At Wolf Trap, maybe. On a Denali shuttle, less so.

It could be disconcerting to see firearms where there were none before, whether in a theater or on a bus. But Alaskans have a long tradition of taking firearms into the wilderness for protection even when they're not hunting. It's not unusual to see people out in the woods carrying sidearms, shotguns or rifles. Even those who don't carry guns generally take the sight in stride.

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