One gun ruling that needs to be overturned

In its waning hours, the Bush administration's Interior Department pushed through a measure to allow visitors to national parks and refuges to carry concealed weapons. This is a terrible policy.

Parks and refuges are among the safest places in the country. Crime — especially violent crime — is exceedingly rare in these settings, as are serious attacks by wildlife. Under these circumstances, why in the world would a visitor need or want to carry a handgun?

The Supreme Court last year recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms, but it left plenty of room for sensible gun regulations. Such regulations and, yes, restrictions are warranted here.

The Bush rule went into effect Jan. 9, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees have asked a D.C. federal judge to put the rule on hold. They ultimately hope to have the measure invalidated, arguing that the Bush administration failed to follow proper legal procedure in evaluating and adopting the rule.

Specifically, they claim that federal law required — and that the administration refused to perform — an environmental assessment, which incorporates such factors as public safety and the "human environment."

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is likely to hear the matter early next month. She should grant the temporary injunction. Such a pause would allow the Interior Department to conclude its 90-day internal review, wisely ordered by Secretary Ken Salazar, to determine whether proper procedures were followed in crafting and adopting the rule.

If the judge ultimately concludes that procedures were breached, the rule would be thrown out; the Reagan-era rules restricting concealed weapons in the national parks and refuges would once again be in effect.

Even if the rules are deemed legally proper, Salazar should launch a formal re-evaluation of the concealed-weapons policy. No administration is empowered to overturn properly implemented measures from a previous administration without conducting in-depth analysis and gathering public comment. But such a process and expense would be warranted.

President Obama has rightly called concealed weapons a menace to public safety. They should not be introduced into some of the most peaceful and pristine public lands in the country.

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