- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore is considering whether to allow Virginians who are lawfully entitled to carry concealed weapons and who, in order to get their permits, have already undergone both extensive background checks as well as gun-safety courses to do so in state parks. Currently, it is unlawful even for those who are entitled to carry concealed weapons to carry them into state parks. Gun control special-interest groups and the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation oppose the idea of lifting the ban, and are urging Mr. Kilgore to issue a formal opinion in favor of retaining it. "More guns in state parks will mean more gun deaths and injuries," said Lorraine Price of the Million Mom March, one of the gun-control groups lobbying Mr. Kilgore to retain the ban. Republican lawmakers, including Delegate Richard Black of Loudoun County, have stated they will push for passage of a law to lift the ban in next year's session of the General Assembly. Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in mid-August that the attorney general would "make his decision based on the law and nothing else."
Well, the law says that any Virginia resident who files the appropriate forms, passes a thorough background check and undergoes the specified gun-safety training is entitled to carry a concealed handgun. And while there are some reasonable restrictions firearms may not be taken into courts or government buildings, etc. it doesn't make any sense at all that trained and thoroughly vetted people should not be allowed to carry their firearms into parks, where there is a more than passing chance that they may encounter a would-be rapist or other thug. The backwoods trails and dense cover of parks provide a perfect setting for an attack or abduction. Women are especially vulnerable. There are no 911 call boxes in most parks, and park rangers are often miles away.
Seneca Park in Loudoun County, for example, has miles of trails where one can hike for hours without encountering another soul. Rangers patrol infrequently, and the area is so rural that an attack could easily be carried out without anyone hearing a thing. In such a circumstance, it is very much the case that the only thing standing between another victim lying in a pool of blood or another unsolved "missing persons" report is that potential victim's ability to defend himself. In the case of women being assaulted by typically much more powerful male offenders, the availability of a handgun for self-defense becomes all the more determinative. Who would deny women and other park-goers the ability to defend themselves and on what basis?
The tired old line trotted out by gun-control advocates that "guns kill" and that the mere presence of firearms will result in a Wild West-style shoot-'em-up is silly demagoguery that won't bear intelligent scrutiny. The possession of firearms by law-abiding people has never resulted in gun-violence. It is and always has been the criminal element people who do not apply for permits, or take firearms safety courses, or buy their guns retail for that matter who cause the problems. It is they, not law-abiding citizens who have already passed extensive checks and gun-safety courses who need to be "controlled."
Mr. Kilgore should support the right of ordinary citizens to self-defense, especially in parks where they are unusually vulnerable. The mere fact that people walking alone in the woods might be armed is a deterrent all by itself. (The deterrent effect of concealed-carry laws has been demonstrated time and again by such as criminologist John Lott.) In the final analysis, nothing should trump the right of law-abiding citizens to self-defense via the exercise of their Second Amendment rights. The law should concern itself with criminals not with hamstringing the rights of the law-abiding.

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