By all accounts, 63-year-old Robert Boardman of Port Angeles was a stand-up guy; a fellow who enjoyed hiking in the Olympics and who probably never imagined that he would be killed by – of all things – a mountain goat.
But his death earlier this month on Klahhane Ridge several days ago should remind everyone that the campaign to allow the carrying of defensive firearms in national parks – a campaign championed by the National Rifle Association, Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Virginia Citizens Defense League and other gun rights organizations – had to do with much more than just plugging bad guys committing wilderness crimes.
This is a cold, hard fact about the West that a lot of people who have moved here from elsewhere, or who grew up in the urban Puget Sound environment simply fail to grasp: There are things that can kill you out there other than falls and your own stupidity, which this column mentioned the other day here. Wild animals are called “wild” for a reason, and it’s not just bears and mountain lions that can harm you. In self-defense, whistles and even bear spray may not do the trick, and one’s only option may be lethal force.
The mountain goat that killed a 63-year-old
Port Angeles man Saturday was no stranger to Olympic National Park rangers.
Barb Maynes, park spokeswoman, said the ram was known for its aggressive behavior, including reports of it following people along the trails around Klahhane Ridge.—Peninsula Daily News
In Boardman’s case, it appears that the culprit was a particularly aggressive goat about which others have complained. Some may ask why park authorities didn’t act sooner. Well, why didn’t authorities in Arkansas keep Lakewood cop-killer Maurice Clemmons behind bars? It’s pretty much the same problem: Human lethargy that led to human tragedy. Some may think that Mr. Boardman’s death hardly compares to the slayings of four police officers by a convicted felon nutball, but all five of those folks are equally dead when they should all be alive. It’s not “the system” that failed, but the people within that system who failed. Reports that park rangers are now keeping an eye on other goats is hardly reassuring, and of no consolation.
Recall when the NRA and others were pushing for guns in parks, and the opposition that sprang up, along with the hysteria that was generated. The National Park Service retirees’ organization aggressively opposed legalizing defensive firearms carry in the parks. The Brady Campaign went overboard, trying to frighten park visitors into believing they would come face-to-face with some guy carrying an AK-47 on the trail. This column discussed guns in parks here, and here, taking KING 5 News to task for visually suggesting that the new law allows for target shooting inside national parks, which it absolutely does not.
This new law does not allow (target shooting or hunting), even though the fear-mongers would have the public believe that the change is going to turn Yellowstone, Yosemite and Mount Rainier into Wild West no-man’s lands.—Alan Gottlieb & Dave Workman, Feb. 23, 2010
The goats were released in the Olympic Mountains before the place ever became a national park, way back in the 1920s. It was not until the 1930s that then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation establishing Olympic National Park. Those goats were released to provide hunting opportunity for sportsmen, and back when I wrote for the now-defunct Fishing & Hunting News, I advocated opening up the park to a special permit goat hunt to keep the goat population in check. That was to counter a Park Service proposal to kill them all. One does not solve a problem through biological genocide.
There are good reasons to carry guns in national parks. One can hardly say with certainty if the presence of an armed park visitor might have made a difference. It is foolish to speculate.
What is not speculation, however, is the fact that we have legislation in place making parks firearm carry legal, and it was the potential for just this kind of incident that guided much of the support for that law. True, most people were influenced by the growing crime potential in national parks, and the knowledge that the Constitution and the right of self-defense are not left outside of the park boundaries.
We do not live in a Walt Disney world where animals are called Bambi and Thumper and talk to one another. This is the real world, where some very bad things can happen to very good people, and wild animals do their “talking” the only way they know how: with brute force that is sometimes fatal.
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