Gun violence unlikely to change federal laws
Sunday's killing of park Ranger Margaret Anderson isn't likely to prompt Congress to make changes to federal gun laws, including the provision that allows loaded guns in national parks.
Seattle vigilWashington Ceasefire will host a downtown vigil Sunday for victims of gun violence, with Rep. Jim McDermott among those appearing. 10:30-11:30 a.m., Westlake Plaza.
At an early learning center in Eatonville on Sunday, mourners will light candles to honor Margaret Anderson, the 34-year-old ranger and mother of two toddlers who was shot and killed on New Year's Day in Mount Rainier National Park.
That evening in Tucson, Ariz., Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attend a vigil to recognize the one-year anniversary of the shooting that critically wounded her and killed six others.
In ceremonies from New York to Seattle, candlelight vigils are planned in more than 30 cities to remember thousands of Americans who are murdered each year, most of them with guns. For gun-control advocates, it will be a day to "light a candle against the darkness of gun violence" and to demand that Congress tighten gun laws.
Congress did nothing of the sort after the Giffords shooting last year, and the odds are that nothing will happen this year.
Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks of Bremerton, a gun-control proponent whose voting record gets failing grades from the National Rifle Association (NRA), said it's just the political reality on Capitol Hill. He wants Congress to overturn a law that took effect in 2010 allowing loaded guns in national parks, but he's not optimistic.
"The problem is the NRA's got a majority in the House and Senate — that's the reality of it," said Dicks, an 18-term congressman.
John Velleco, director of federal affairs for the Virginia-based Gun Owners of America, said Congress instead should loosen existing gun-control laws to make it easier for citizens to defend themselves with firearms.
"I think the vigils completely miss the point because they're assuming that more gun-control laws will lead to fewer crimes, but we find that the opposite is true," he said. "The more gun-control laws you have, the easier it is for criminals to commit crimes."
While homicide statistics vary each year, the FBI said 12,996 Americans were murdered in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Of those, more than two-thirds — or 8,775 — were killed by guns, according to the FBI.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is organizing many of the weekend vigils. In Washington, D.C., a "Too Many Victims National Candlelight Vigil" will include Jim Brady, the former Ronald Reagan press secretary who was wounded in an assassination attempt against the president in 1981. Brady will light a candle with his wife, Sarah Brady.
Other cities where vigils are planned include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Boston and Vancouver, Wash.
Mount Rainier killing
In Pierce County, the vigil to honor Anderson will take place at 5 p.m. at Eatonville Early Learning Center, where her two daughters — ages 1 and 3 — attend day care. Her husband, Eric, is also a ranger at Mount Rainier.
Anderson died last Sunday when authorities say she was shot by 24-year-old Benjamin Colton Barnes as she tried to stop him at a roadblock. Police said he had been involved in an earlier shooting in Skyway that left four people wounded.
Barnes disappeared into the snow-covered woods after Anderson's shooting, but he was found dead Monday, his lightly clothed body partly submerged in Paradise Creek.
Until February 2010, loaded guns were not allowed in national parks. Under intense pressure from gun-rights groups, Congress voted to allow loaded guns as long as they were permitted by state law.
Park rangers objected furiously, saying their safety would be jeopardized.
John Waterman, who served as president of the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, warned in 2010 that the change was "an invitation to disaster," putting both rangers and the public at increased risk.
But Waterman, a park ranger in Pennsylvania, said this week he doubted the law would have made a difference in preventing Anderson's death.
"The law itself is totally unrelated to the slaughter of Ranger Margaret Anderson by a disturbed man," he said. "Whether you said guns are allowed or not, it wouldn't have mattered. ... I don't think he would have read the sign and said, 'Oh, I'm not supposed to have a gun.' "
Velleco said the Mount Rainier shooting "just proves the point that we need to allow the law-abiding citizen to have the ability to defend themselves," particularly in remote areas where help can be hundreds of miles away.
"The criminals are intruding on these lands, so it would be ridiculous to restrict people's rights to defend themselves with firearms in the places where they might need them and be helpless otherwise," he said.
Anderson was the ninth National Park Service ranger slain in the line of duty, according to the agency's records. The last came in 2002, when Kris Eggle, who worked at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, was killed by a Mexican drug dealer.
Dicks called the Mount Rainier shooting "a terrible tragedy and a great loss to the Park Service."
"The last thing you think in a park is that you're going to get shot," he said, adding that changing the law in 2010 was "just unnecessary."
"I'm not sure that would have prevented this incident, but it makes me worried about the future and other possible tragedies," Dicks said. "I hope this will at least garner some attention and remind people that there are victims and tragedies like this where somebody loses their mother, and a man loses his wife, and parents lose their daughter — and it's because of violence and guns."
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