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Ken Burns: Allowing guns in national parks is 'foolish'

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The decision by Congress to allow visitors to carry guns into national parks is “foolish,” PBS documentary producer Burns told an audience at the National Press Club on Monday.

Burns waded into the politically sensitive issue while PBS is currently broadcasting his six-part, twelve-hour series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” The New Hampshire film maker’s earlier works include widely-watched productions on the Civil War, baseball, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

A threat to species big and small

In May, Congress handed gun control forces a major defeat, voting to allow visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. “[I] personally think it is foolish,” Burns said during a question and answer session at the Press Club. “All species of all kinds are threatened by guns in the parks," he added.

Burns spoke of the parks’ impact on visitors in lofty – some might say overwrought – language. “The parks are the declaration of independence applied to the landscape,” he said in prepared remarks. The parks, he added, “continue to perform a kind of open heart surgery” on those who surrender to their beauty.

A huckster's paradise

There is “not enough time” to list all of the places of beauty in the United States that are in danger of suffering from the commercialization that affects the area around Niagara Falls, he said. He called the Niagara area a “hucksters’ paradise” and “part of our national shame.”

The youthful looking Burns, dressed in blazer and blue jeans, said he hopes his latest series “could be a galvanic moment for the parks” and that it was his “fervent wish that more families would go” visit them as a result. He said he was especially eager to stimulate visits by African Americans and Hispanics “that do not yet feel the ownership of the parks” that other citizens do.


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