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Bill allowing guns in parks advances

WASHINGTON – The Democratic-controlled Congress is moving to restore a Bush administration policy that allowed loaded guns in national parks.

The Senate voted Tuesday to allow guns in national parks and wildlife refuges, and the House could follow suit as soon as today.

The measure is included in a popular bill imposing new restrictions on credit card companies. Democratic leaders have said they hope to send a final version to the White House for the president’s signature by week’s end.

The Senate vote is a stark reversal from what many gun-control advocates expected when a federal judge blocked the Bush policy in March. The decision reinstated restrictions that had been in place since the Reagan administration. The rules severely restrict guns in the national parks, generally requiring them to be locked or stored.

The Obama administration accepted the March 19 ruling, saying that the Interior Department would review the policy over the next several months.

That timetable changed quickly last week after Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn inserted an amendment to the credit card bill that would allow concealed, loaded guns in parks and refuges.

To the surprise of many, the amendment easily passed, winning support from 67 senators – including 27 Democrats.

Coburn’s amendment would allow a range of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by federal, state and local law.

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters on Tuesday that the House could vote separately on the gun legislation. Doing so would allow each measure to pass, but Democrats who endorse credit card reform could still vote as they wished on the gun measure.