The Fine Print

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | May 21, 2009 12:08 am

On Wednesday, Congress sent a bill to President Obama restricting when and how a credit card company can raise interest rates, who can receive a card, and how much time we’ll be given to pay bills.  Sounds reasonable, until your read the fine print:

Included in the bill is an unrelated measure by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would allow people to bring loaded guns into national parks and wildlife refuges.

MORE ABOUT: Congress, credit cards, guns

Comments (13)

  1. chris

    I support the measure.

    You’ve heard about the drug trafficking growing stuff such as marijauna in the national parks with guards that carry AK-47s?

    The measure won’t change them from carrying loaded weapons, but now a law abiding citizen could have their weapon ready for protection legally.

    I suppose the counter arguement is that weapon proliferation will increase the related crimes. The question of course being is if the law really changes that as it only changes the state in which you can bring the weapon into a National Park, not whether.

  2. MarkD

    Completely nonsensical why that would be in there, but I don’t see a problem with federal land respecting state issued firearm permits. Especially considering bears.

  3. Albert Bakker

    If your goal is to either weaken the proposed restrictions or get complete idiots to carry guns into national parks and wildlife refuges, then I suppose you can’t really lose.

    What would become of the world if all politicians would get the same idea?

  4. MadScientist

    I think it’s bizarre that a bill is being pushed to tell companies how to run their credit card business – but certainly not as bizarre as a rider to allow loaded weapons into national parks. What’s the wording on the rider anyway – is that anyone can bring any gun, loaded, into national parks, or is it meant to be some sort of exception clause for people who might be hired by the government to kill off some wildlife?

  5. David Bruggeman

    Fighting poaching on parklands just got much harder.

  6. Revyloution

    MadScientist, the language was added to clarify a conflict between state and federal law.

    In states with concealed handgun permits (48 states currently do), people would be in violation of federal law, while being legal with state law. This obvious conflict needed some clarification, and this legislation is the resolution.

    I personally found myself in violation of this federal law. Hiking in Oregon, I was carrying my pistol when we wandered into Crater Lake National Park. We had left Lamola lake, which is a state park. Fortunately, there were no CIA rendition teams to wisk me away to Gitmo for some enhanced interrogation.

    Regardless of someones position on the 2nd amendment, it was a clear conflict between state and federal law that needed clarification. Unfortunately, our legislative process is a convoluted mess, and this type of unrelated addendum happens all the time.

  7. Jo

    As a non-American, I will never, ever understand the desire of ordinary American citizens to carry concealed handguns around. It’s just BIZARRE.

  8. Peter

    I wonder whether mass action would make a difference here. Preferentially travel as a tourist to state parks in states that have bans on guns that would apply in the park. I wonder how many middle-state legislatures would have to fold on state gun legislation if a large amount of tourist money stayed away? This kind of mass action, however, requires a fairly solid, strongly-felt consensus on guns amongst those who travel as tourists frequently, which I suspect is lacking as of now.

  9. Here in Minnesota (and we are far from perfect, but…) it is unconstitutional to have a law that is enacted from a rider. One law, one bill. No riders.

    We have a “you can carry a gun anywhere” law here that was passed a few years ago as a rider. It was promptly thrown out by the courts because of this constitutional no-rider provision.

    Of course, the bill was reintroduced as a stand alone bill, passed, and so now every school, church, grocery store, dry cleaners, bar, etc. in the state had to put up a sign that says “No firearms allowed in this facility” (unless of course they did not care about the firearms).

  10. Revyloution

    Jo, all it takes is to be the victim of violent crime once. That’s usually a big motivator. There are many other issues that usually devolve into a flame war. Personally, it was reading Thomas Jefferson that convinced me of the benefits of the right to bear arms. The idea that the government should fear its populace is at the heart of the argument.

    Peter, I don’t think your idea would work because of 2 problems. National Parks don’t directly generate much revenue for the states, and 48 states have conceal and carry laws. To get tight gun control laws passed, you need to get the residents scared of armed criminals, then convince them the police can protect them.

    Greg Laden, are the signs effective in Minnesota? Here in Oregon, a personal sign cannot overturn state law. Stores have the right to refuse service, but they cannot search people to discover if they are armed.

  11. The signs are required by law if you want to exclude the gun toters. The law specifies the wording, size of lettering, and positioning of the sign. If the sign does not meet the qualifications and someone walks into the shop with a concealed gun, they’re legal. If the sign does meet the qualifications a person can not carry a concealed weapon into the establishment .

    The moment this law came into existence, all shops in liberal neighborhoods (such as the entire Fifth Congressional District, for instance) happily put up “No guns” signs. It was kinda fun.

    The strange thing is that there are probably very very few Minnesotans walking around with guns. We are, of course, armed to the teeth like everyone else, but the guns are generally kept at home under lock and key. I think.

    I don’t think anybody here can search anybody. In other words, I think the signs may be unenforceable, but perhaps it would matter if the gun goes off by accident or whatever.

  12. chris

    ” Jo Says:
    May 21st, 2009 at 1:21 pm
    As a non-American, I will never, ever understand the desire of ordinary American citizens to carry concealed handguns around. It’s just BIZARRE.”

    I don’t think your average citizen wants to carry a concealed hand gun.

    And to my understanding this measure has nothing to do with concealment.


    Greg, that no rider amendmant is very appealing. It’d be benificial to the people to be properly represented on each individual issue instead of politicians having to choose the greater good or lesser evil.

    As far as the signs go, it makes alot of sense. And while you cannot detain an individual, you could perhaps put in metal detectors if you really wanted to enforce it. However generally speaking law abiding individuals should obey the signs, it is the ones that do not abide the law that we have to worry about, because they have some purpose in breaking it.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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