WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday voted to relax a long-standing ban on bringing loaded guns into national parks, an outcome that underscored divisions among Democrats over the politically charged issue of regulating firearms.
The vote was 67 to 29, with 27 Democrats and one independent joining 39 Republicans to approve an amendment overturning federal rules that required gun owners to carry their firearms unloaded and stored while visiting national parks.
Instead, states would set policies within their borders, even on federal land.
The measure was approved as an amendment to an unrelated bill -- an effort to impose new restrictions on credit card companies -- that is expected to be approved by the Senate by the end of the week.
The wide margin of support may not ensure success, said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), its principal sponsor. He said his proposal would probably be dropped when a conference committee meets to iron out differences between the House and Senate credit card bills.
But he plans to revisit the issue, and the vote was the latest evidence that many Democrats remain wary of challenging the gun lobby.
Critics of the measure argued that existing rules were designed to protect visitors and wildlife in places that should be sanctuaries.
But Coburn said that the ban was confusing and that states should be able to set gun restrictions within their borders. He cited the case of a driver who was carrying a gun in Virginia, where doing so is legal, but was caught and charged when he was stopped in a national park.
"This is not about shooting people in the park," Coburn said.