March 30, 2015

Safeguarding Our Second Amendment Rights

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Some lands and water managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) are open for hunting, and there are a small number of authorized shooting ranges, but much of the millions of acres managed by the Corps are off limits to lawful possession of firearms.  Not only is this a violation of the intent of the Second Amendment, but also it is inconsistent with laws and regulations governing lands managed by other federal agencies.  This problem must be fixed to uphold Americans' Second Amendment rights.

Legislation I introduced to resolve this issue and align the firearms laws governing Corps-managed lands with those governing other federal lands recently advanced in the U.S. Senate.  My legislation, S. 263, which would restore Americans' fundamental right to bear arms on lands managed by the Corps, was included in the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015.  A Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee recently held a hearing to discuss the Sportsmen's Act, which is expected to soon head to the Senate floor.  But, I need your help in keeping this legislation in the Sportsmen's Act. 

According to data compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the Corps is responsible for 12 million acres of land and waters, including 422 lake and river projects with recreation, 92,844 campsites, 7,700 miles of trails, and 3,544 boat launches.  Under current law, a person may carry a weapon in a National Park as long as consistent with the firearms laws of the surrounding states.  However, those very same rights are not extended to Americans who hunt, camp or fish on land controlled by the Corps.  This effectively denies citizens their Second Amendment freedoms when on Corps-managed lands. 

Enabling Americans to carry firearms on land managed by the Corps will allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and provide needed consistency across federal lands that will reduce the complication of tracking where one federal agency's land management jurisdiction ends and another begins.

The Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, affirmed that the Second Amendment is an individual right and the right to an operable firearm for self-defense.  This right should apply on all lands managed by the federal government.  Moreover, a federal district judge in Idaho agrees.  The case, Morris v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was brought by plaintiffs in western Idaho who use Corps managed lands for recreation, including camping.  The plaintiffs challenged the regulation as being an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment.  In October, the court found that the regulation was unconstitutional and banned the Corps policy, unfortunately, only in Idaho.

Burdening law-abiding citizens of this country with additional Second Amendment restrictions is not the answer to safeguarding the public.  Americans' Second Amendment rights must be restored to lands managed by the Corps, and my legislation included in the sportsmen's package achieves this necessary goal.  However, during the EPW Subcommittee hearing, it became clear that the bill faces intense opposition from Senate Democrats who want to strip the Second Amendment protections from the underlying bill.

Please help me in stopping this legislation from being stripped from the Sportsmen's Act.  I encourage all those who are interested in this issue to sign the petitionat https://www.crapo.senate.gov/contact/second_amendment.cfmto end the ban on firearms possession on millions of acres of federal land and pass along information to all you know about actions to protect our Second Amendment rights.  Together, we can push this legislation that would end this unconstitutional ban and safeguard Americans' Second Amendment rights across the finish line. 

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