Acadia group files brief in suit

Posted Feb. 06, 2009, at 7:10 p.m.

WASHINGTON, Maine — Two Maine groups have filed a brief in a lawsuit that is seeking to reverse a Bush administration rule that allows concealed weapons in Acadia and other national parks.

The document, informally called a friend-of-the-court brief, was filed Friday in federal court in Washington on behalf of Friends of Acadia and Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, according to the groups’ attorney, William Harwood of Portland.

Until this month, rules governing weapons in national parks required firearms to be kept unloaded and not within easy access of national park visitors, such as in a gun case in the trunk of a car. The new rule, adopted by the outgoing Bush administration in December, is intended to make such federal restrictions resemble corresponding state laws.

Harwood said late Friday afternoon that the brief draws attention to problems that could arise from trying to implement the new rules in Acadia National Park, most of which is located on Mount Desert Island. The new rule requires each national park to have a concealed-weapon policy that matches the general corresponding state laws in the state where that national park in located, he said.

In Maine, however, state laws about concealed weapons vary, depending upon the specific location or type of place addressed in the law. Concealed weapons are allowed in many places in Maine, Harwood said, but are not allowed in Baxter State Park. They are allowed in some state parks during hunting season, he said, but are never allowed in courthouses, taverns or public schools.

“It doesn’t say” which of Maine’s concealed-weapon laws the rules in Acadia should mimic, Harwood said. “This rule doesn’t make any sense.”

The Maine groups argue that the new rule threatens public safety, among other claims. Because of the difficulty of having federal law enforcement officers keep track of concealed-weapon reciprocity agreements between various states, the brief indicates, the new rule also will be difficult to enforce.

The National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Employees, the two plaintiffs in the case, filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies and officials last month.

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