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Friday, January 2, 2009

Groups sue Bush over last-minute rule changes

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence sued the Bush administration yesterday in hopes of stopping a new policy that would allow people to carry concealed, loaded guns in most national parks and wildlife refuges.

"The Bush administration's last-minute gift to the gun lobby, allowing concealed semiautomatic weapons in national parks, jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law," said Paul Helmke, the group's president. "We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry concealed firearms in our parks."

An Interior Department spokeswoman refused to comment on the lawsuit, saying the department does not discuss pending litigation.

It's not the only lawsuit over last-minute regulatory changes that the Bush administration wants to achieve.

Yesterday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced that his state is suing the Bush administration to block changes in regulations that are intended to reduce input from federal scientists.

"Unfortunately, the Bush administration has had an antipathy to using sound science," Brown said. "This is the latest assault as Bush goes out the door. It's intolerable."

The lawsuit was filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The Interior Department issued the revised rules this month. They allow federal agencies to issue permits for mining, logging and similar activities without a review from federal biologists if the agencies' research shows that the project will not affect plants and animals.

The changes also block agencies from using the Endangered Species Act to consider the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions on ecosystems when reviewing projects such as new roads or coal plants on federal land.

Brown is asking the court to block the new rules, which could give the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama time to review them.

The Brady Campaign sued the Interior Department and its secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, as well as the leaders of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service in U.S. District Court. The group wants a federal judge to issue an injunction stopping the elimination of the 25-year-old federal rule that severely restricts loaded guns in national parks.

The Interior Department rule overturns a Reagan-era regulation that has restricted loaded guns in parks and wildlife refuges. That regulation required that firearms be unloaded and placed somewhere not easily accessible, such as in a car trunk. [Mark Godsey]

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