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Of guns and mordant humor

It became official Feb. 22: Visitors to national parks can now tote loaded firearms, openly carrying legal handguns, rifles and shotguns. But oh, the many restrictions, as noted in a handy brochure available at parks. Here’s a major one: Although it is legal to carry loaded weapons in national parks, existing laws and regulations prohibit their use, meaning no hunting and no target practice. You also can’t carry a gun into a federal facility within a park, which makes us wonder where tourists will stow their weapons when they walk into visitors’ centers to ask questions or use the bathroom. What’s more, a permit is required to carry a concealed weapon, and not all guns are legal: Most states prohibit fully automatic weapons. You also can’t get on a shuttle bus, ferry or boat in some parks if you’re carrying. Visitors to parks who can’t bear to be parted from their arsenals should check state laws to see how they apply to the new federal regulations.

With mordant humor, Salt Lake Tribune columnist *Casey Jones skewers his state for its peculiar distinction*: It is one of the few states that allows a prisoner condemned to death to choose his or her manner of dying. Choices, however, are limited to lethal injection or firing squad. Ronnie Lee Gardner, a death-row denizen for 25 years, picked a firing squad for his upcoming execution June 18, making him one of the last of a “dying breed,” Jones says dryly. Only Gary Gilmore and one other man have been so killed in Utah since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976; state law prohibits anyone sentenced after 2004 from choosing “between a cold needle or hot lead.” Volunteers from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office “will send Gardner to hell Utah style.” But Jones complains there’s just no good way to kill a person these days: “The guillotine causes separation anxiety. The electric chair makes the lights dim. Burning at the stake contributes to climate change. …” Still, the state has to do something once someone is sentenced to die, he concludes, and we all know that the death penalty is a proven deterrent: “That’s why there are hardly any murders in America.”

From our friends

HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor

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