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“Through its explicit authority to maintain the safety of its parks and the power to prescribe rules ‘necessary and incidental’ to such authority, DCR has implicit authority to prohibit the open carrying of firearms,” he wrote in a 2009 letter to Joseph H. Maroon, then the director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Mr. Kaine also wrote that the ban was an important part of maintaining safety, citing a survey of 3,000 parks visitors, nearly 80 percent of whom opposed allowing firearms. More than half said they would reduce their visits to parks if people could carry guns.

“I’d much prefer there were no guns carried in state parks, but that seems to be the way it’s going,” said Andrew Goddard, executive director of the Virginia Center for Public Safety. “It’s going to take something serious to happen for people to wake up. Unfortunately, it will be too late for somebody when that happens.”

The Virginia repeal is a hard-fought victory for national gun rights advocates. A law on concealed carry saying that national parks will be governed by the same rules as the states in which they are located took effect in February 2010. That means about 370 of the country’s 392 National Park Service properties permit visitors to carry firearms.

Since Mr. McDonnell ordered the department to stop enforcing the gun-ban regulations, Virginia officials have not had any incidents directly related to the law no longer being enforced, according to regulatory documents.

“Additionally, some visitors may feel safer as a result of their ability to open carry firearms on the Department’s properties,” the documents state.

An initial lack of incidents wouldn’t be surprising, but the repeal could have insidious effects in the long run, said Mr. Goddard, whose son, Colin, was injured during the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

“Like any time they slacken these laws off, it doesn’t immediately turn into a problem,” he said. “It just adds to the problem that where there are more guns, there are more deaths.”