Comment Period Reopens on Whether National Park Visitors Can Arm Themselves

The comment period regarding a proposal to allow national park visitors to carry concealed weapons has been reopened.

Starting today and running through August 8 you can post your thoughts on this proposal at this site.

The comment period originally was to close on June 30, but requests from groups such as the National Parks Conservation Association and members of Congress convinced Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to extend the period another 30 days.


I'm a Second Amendment advocate, but carrying firearms in our National Parks would just lead to easier poaching, unnecessary killing of wildlife by anyone who feels even remotely threatened, and an increase in opportunistic crime by people who can now legally carry a gun in secluded places where young people, families, and women are hiking alone. I understand the degree of protection that a firearm can provide, against both natural and human predators, but most of this risk can be eliminated by doing things such as making noise, hiking with a friend, taking proper precautions when storing food, etc. Also, many people will feel threatened coming across someone carrying a weapon while they are out hiking in the middle of nowhere with their families. I love our National Parks, and I want everyone else to as well, regardless of how they feel about me owning a gun.

All of this aside, there is virtually no reason to carry a weapon in a National Park in the first place. I have hiked in about 8 National Parks in Arizona, Utah, and up here in Alaska in the last year alone. This includes about a dozen back-country hikes in Denali National Park, which is definitely grizzly bear country. I have never felt like I needed a firearm to keep myself safe. I'm sure anyone can point out an incident where a hiker could have avoided injury if they only had a firearm, but these instances are very rare. The potential benefits simply do not outweigh the potential costs. I know Americans are polarized on the gun control issue, but I urge fellow Second Amendment advocates to exercise restraint and use common sense, instead of just looking at this issue as another potential political victory. Besides, your little 9mm is just going to make that charging grizzly bear angrier....

If the only things dangerous in National Parks were animals, I would be the first to agree that there is no need for guns. I don't feel that poaching would increase. People will still poach whether or not they are allowed to carry guns legally. In all, there will not be a noticeable difference on daily life in National Parks if guns are allowed in. A concealed carry license from the home state might be nice to require. We are all smart people; let’s figure out how to make it work without many layers of government bureaucracy.

I go to National Parks to view and enjoy our nation's great outdoor heritage. I am not a gun owner and never have been. I do not want to feel the need to purchase a weapon just so I can visit our great nation's natural resources.

Basically I agree with commenter Sully above.

We definitely should have the right to carry firearms in national parks, and anywhere else that we travel so that we may protect ourselves and our families. I live in Indiana and am licensed to carry a firearm, however, i never abuse that privelage.

Yesterday the Fairbanks, Alaska newpaper reported that a National Park Service researcher who was working in the backcountry of Denali, shot a black bear that was threatening the camp. He used a shotgun which he had special permission to carry. Kurt could post the link to the article.

It is time for American citizens to grow up and stop hiding behind weapons, the historical fiction of the gun toting wild west mountain man myth promulgated by hollywood, the news media and our federal governments fear based policies has gone on long enough, IMHO.

Yes, it should be legal for persons with legally registered and permitted firearms to carry them in our National Parks for the perpose of self preservation. Why not, those who carry guns illegaly and with intent to harm others surely do. Laws are already in place to protect the wildlife, those who break them now will continue to do so. Lets give the law abiding citizens of this country the chance to defend themselves when the need arises.

I am a Marine, lisenced concealed weapons permit holder, and a senior citizen. I fully defend our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I am a sportsman also and truly fear only one thing. The person who illegaly carries a wepon, and will continue to do so regardless of the law, with the intent to do physical or mental harm to his fellow beings. I see no reason why a leagly licensed citizen of the United States of america should not be able to carry Arms, concealed or in plain view, anywhere in this Country.

I have a concealed carry permit that I obtained specifically for camping and hiking. My major reason was protection against human predators. I carry the weapon “concealed” and there is no reason that any other hiker need ever know that I have it. I believe that people who have successfully gone through the process (including an FBI background check) to obtain a concealed carry permit should be able to conceal carry in national parks under the guidelines outlined in the laws of the state. I agree that hunters will abuse the privilege if all manner of weapon is allowed by all citizens.

As for the comment on concealed carry in national parks, increasing the potential for poaching is bunk. CHL holders are law abiding citizens, a poacher is a criminal who has no regard for law.
The statement about coming across someone in the back country with a firearm making people nervous, if they are a law abiding citizen their firearm should be "concealed" and no one will ever know.

"Opportunistic" crimes are committed by "criminals" who could care less about the laws, not law abiding CHL holders. Why would this be any different in a national park than it is on the streets of Miami? CHL carriers walk those streets every day. Besides, who is out in the back country to protect my family & I from a murderer, rapist etc, when we are out backpacking/camping? Who collects his firearm at the trailhead? It is more likely that a CHL holder will prevent a crime being committed rather than commit one. In my opinion is it is better to have and not need than to need and not have. Why can I carry concealed in city and state parks? What makes the national parks so much different other than the different wildlife, and size?

The comment about the 9mm pistol being no match for a grizzly can be debunked also. If you are familiar with your firearm and have trained and know where and what you have to hit you can stop most North American animals. This is an individual responsibility of each and every CHL holder, hunter & sportsman, in my opinion. Sometimes the noise from a gunshot is enough to stop an attack whether or not you hit the animal, when yelling, waving arms and bear spray do not work. Reference the story on black bears recently killed in Denali and Grand Teton.
I agree most incidents with wildlife, whether in national parks or not, is usually due to ignorance or stupidity and can be prevented. But there are instances where no matter what you do it will not make a difference or stop an animal from attacking. People forget that when in the national parks we are in the home of the wildlife (their backyard) not at the zoo, petting zoo or on our hometown streets.
Ask Timothy Treadwell if he needed a firearm to feel safe in Denali. Where is he today? Would he be alive today if he had a firearm? We can only speculate, but I feel he would have had better odds of surviving if he did have a firearm. Anything can happen at anytime to anyone, anywhere.

I am very committed supporter of the 2nd amendment, matter of fact I am a firearms instructor. So your statement of "exercise restraint" to me means to use a firearm when serious bodily injury or possible death are imminent, whether it is a human or animal threat. This is the rule of thumb that is used in CHL training in my home state.

It is more than a "political victory", it is a right guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment, not a "privilege".

"An armed man is a citizen
An unarmed man is a subject"

You need to do the same thing the Supreme Court did when they ruled on the Second Amendment - read the LAW. The government (us) has nothing to fear from its law-abiding armed citizens. Criminals and bears do. So you think the Rangers are going to rush in and save you from the criminals who now know that everyone in the National Parks is un-armed. Grow up.

The only way a person (private citizen) should be allowed to carry a firearm (in a national park) is if there is an absolute means of ensuring only those with good intentions, common sense and proper training have firearms. Can't be done-therefore-no firearms. Most wouldn't be much value against the larger predatory animals and small caliber weapons for personal defense are just a bad idea. Firearms are a wonderful privilege but too many have them that shouldnt. Just an opinion.

I just read a page-full of the "new" comments. They're pretty much like the previous 60 days of comments. Almost all of them SUPPORT the proposed rule change allowing concealed-carry. I read one that OPPOSED the change: they were sure that their vacation would be ruined if they knew people were carrying on the trail with them. Now, just how naive is THAT?

"We're scared of that law-abiding citizen, AND his CONCEALED (invisible) gun. Oh MY!"


Everyone’s safety will be enhanced if certified concealed carry citizens are armed in the parks. Currently, a criminal can be pretty certain that any intended victim is unarmed. Take that certainty away and the opportunity to prey diminishes. For those gentle people who believe the police and or rangers can protect them; when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. In a National Park those minutes may become hours. Never forget, Virginia Tech was a “gun free zone.”

I'm a nature lover and really appreciate the beauty and serenity of our National Parks, but am now feeling that there's a lot of fear out there -- especially from those individuals who feel they need to take weapons with them when they are on vacation (and hopefully, relaxing). I am not a gun owner and just hope that I don't run into any of the people out there who seem to think we still live in the Wild West. I do not support the right to bring guns into our National Parks.

The most dangerous thing you will ever meet on an isolated trail is another human being. As a woman that would love to prowl local trails on her own, I don't do it, because I live near Atlanta, and don't want to be a victim. Remember Meredith Emerson at Vogel State Park ? What about Jennifer Ewing on the Silver Comet Trail? All these ladies wanted was to use the parks THEY paid for with their tax dollars. They might both be alive if guns had been permitted.

The federal government has closed large parts of state parks out West because of the coyotes and drug traffickers, and rangers are murdered. Your government doesn't want you to be aware of these issues, but you CAN inform yourself via the internet. Usually the stories are on sites of local newspapers and television stations. Get informed!

I would like to use my parks more, and I think I could do it safely if I were permitted to carry a sidearm. If you believe these attacks are isolated, please check out this link on the Washington Post from yesterday.

Cate -

I'm also a nature lover. If you met me on the trail, you'd wouldn't know whether I was armed or not. After we parted ways, you'd probably think to yourself, "What a nice man". If you only knew. I feel sorry for you and your irrational fears. Good luck in our reality.

I am aware that guns can save lives, but they also take lives. I know that a lot of people like to say guns don't kill people, people kill people, but if the people didn't have guns there wouldn't be as many deaths. I am not saying people who work in bad areas shouldn't be able to carry concealed weapons for protection, but as a citizen with my own rights, I do not want them in National Parks. National Parks are not the most dangerous places, but if you want to be safe, don't travel alone, and travel smart, I do not feel a need to carry a gun in a National Park to protect myself.

I am also a second amendment advocate. In addition, I am a woman and a concealed weapon permit holder. I respectfully disagree with you Sully and here is why.

As has always been my contention; issues are not usually caused by those who carry weapons legally. In order to get a concealed weapon permit, a criminal background check must be passed. Only law abiding citizens get concealed weapons permits.

A poacher, is not a law abiding citizen. True, it could be they have a weapon legally because they haven't gotten caught at their illegal activities. However, I think these people are fewer than those who have the right to carry a weapon because they obey the laws.

As you, yourself stated, "women hiking alone". Well, I'm considering going on a solitary vacation in about a month. I'd like to visit some of our National Parks, but frankly, I'm a bit uneasy about doing so. I'm not afraid of the animals; but, I am a bit fearful of the people I could possibly encounter. It's a sad reality, that a woman alone is an easy target, especially when we have no means of defense and are in the middle of nowhere.

I am the first person to hope I never, ever have to use my weapon. But I'd feel safer knowing I have it if I need it....and no, I wouldn't bother to shoot a bear with a 9mm.

As far as people feeling threatened when they come across someone with a gun. If it is a concealed weapon, it means it is not visible, so they wouldn't even know a person has one.

The weapon would only become visible if it was absolutely necessary to use it. That is part of the responsibility that comes along with the privilege of being able to carry one and this has nothing to do with a political victory, it has to do with safety in parks and anywhere else I wander in this great country of ours.

Also, if people dont know who does or doesn't have a weapon, they may think twice before starting something. Meaning specifically, if I meet someone on a trail that has ill intent, they may think twice knowing I could be carrying a weapon.

"If you want to be safe, don't travel alone", is bulk.

I should be able to travel alone or walk the streets of any city any time day or night alone if I so choose...and be safe. But of course I cannot and why? Because of muggers, rapists, murderers, etc. So who is free here?

Not travelling alone if I so choose, infringes upon my right to the pursuit of happiness. Carrying a weapon is a right guaranteed to me by the second amendment.

National Parks are part of the United States of America. They belong to us all. The second Amendment, (whether you agree or not, says I can carry a weapon). Therefore, I should be able to carry one with-in the parks.

Why should *I* be expected to stymie my activities? I shouldn't. Instead I should be allowed the right to protect myself...mainly against human predators.

Lots of misinformed commentary here by the folks who refuse to believe that unarmed parks visitors (in isolated areas or otherwise) are potential victims of those with criminal intent. In other words "it won't happen to me". That is a classic victim's mentality.

The same histrionics about how dangerous concealed carry will be were brought up back in 1987 when Florida became the first state to streamline concealed carry laws - and those concerns were shown to be groundless in the years that followed. Over 30 states have follow suit in streamlining their CCL (Concealed Carry License) laws.

For you folks that don't know what's involved - CCL permit holders in most states have to go through criminal background checks, take approved firearms courses (including laws limiting the use of deadly force) and demonstrate minimum proficiency. The license has to be renewed each four years or so and any incident during that time is reported to the issuing authority - and misuse can (and does) result in revocation of the permit. In other words - a CCL holder sitting next to you is perhaps one of the most law-abiding citizens you will ever encounter - and you'll never know they are carrying. You have no need to know and they won't tell you. So all this "anti-carry" fuss is really over nothing.

If concealed carry is so dangerous - then why aren't National Forests as dangerous as these anti-carry types fear? - National Forests have long followed the guidelines that are now proposed for the National Parks - permitting concealed carry based on the laws of the states where they are located.

Don't kid ourself - there is a fair amount of crime in National Parks - and if it happens to you - it will take a long time for help to get to you. I hope none of the "anti-carry" folks have to find that out the hard way.

I have been carrying concealed since before the license was available. I figure if I ever have to use it, I have bigger problems than a fine or even jail time. If it saves my life I will gladly pay the fine or do the time. A friend once told me it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. I only use a gun in self defense. If my life is truly in danger, some "law" written somewhere on a piece of paper in a courthouse is not going to save me from someone who does not follow the law yet has bad intentions. The bad guys will always break the law, that is why they call them criminals. I have sent a guy with a large knife and a snoot full of drugs packing one time when he brandished the knife against my family. My gun saved our lives. I did not report it because I would be considered the criminal for carrying without a permit and he was long gone after deciding his life was not worth whatever he had in mind. I now have a carry permit because my state now offers it. I carry often and hope I never have to use it. I also wear my seat belt for the same reason. We should not have to worry about getting a ticket for carrying in an environment that is extremely vulnerable. I do not fear the animals, it is the criminal element I feel is the most threat. If you read the book “more guns less crime” by Dr. John Lott you will understand the firearm statistics much better. Best book I ever read on statistics and how they are manipulated. He actually crunched data from every county in the U.S., not just the ones that supported his point of view. He was actually against guns until he did his research.

Then there are the studies of the study:

For example, despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime, and there is almost no empirical evidence that the more than 80 prevention programs focused on gun-related violence have had any effect on children’s behavior, knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs about firearms. The committee found that the data available on these questions are too weak to support unambiguous conclusions or strong policy statements.

Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review

"The claim of many millions of annual self-defense gun uses by American citizens appears to be invalid."

The myth of millions of annual self-defense gun uses: A case study of survey overestimates of rare events.

And this interesting tidbit... :-)
For three years, John Lott pretended to be a young woman.

Her name was Mary Rosh.

Mary Rosh often spoke sweetly of her days as a student of John's, she gave a glowing review of his book "More Guns, Less Crime," she criticized anyone who questioned John's research or his conclusions, and she attacked other researchers in her ardent defense of Lott's idea that more guns on the streets leads to less crime.

She was also a petite defenseless creature. We know this because John, we mean, she said:

"Do you really think that most women can out run your typical criminal?…Even if I am not wearing heels, I don’t think that there are many men that I could outrun."

"As a woman, who weighs 114 lbs, what am I supposed to do if I am confronted by a 200 lbs. man?"


"People 'still willing to torture'"

That link is the BBC's report of a new repetition of the famous Milgram Experiment (circa 1961), in which experimental subjects are tricked into thinking they are giving higher & higher voltage shocks to an unseen subject. This experiment was designed by Milgram to explore how & why such social events as the Holocaust can happen.

The original and the new experiment both show that 70% to 90% of the population will easily collaborate in social activities in which their actions hurt, injure, or even kill an unseen victim, when the harmful actions are encouraged by an 'authority figure' (the scientist managing the experiment), or, more candidly, by peer-pressure and the desire to please/participate.

Here is the the Google News thread for reports on the new experiment (and plenty of review on the original, too).

The public focus of the analysis of the experiment is always the ~80% who are willing to hurt others, under the influence of mere encouragement. However, what has always stood out about this experiment for myself, is that about 20% of the population is relatively impervious to the blandishments of 'authority' in questionable contexts, and remain capable of perceiving the ethical merits of situations, even when their peers promote folly.

In other words, about 20% are actually "independent", and remain capable of setting & adhering to their own coarse & principles, when all around them are 'going crazy'.

There are major implications of this experiment, pertaining to both the nature of contemporary armed citizens, and the reasons why America protected the right of private armament in the first place.

Highly recommended reading ... and reflection.

i have been a gun owner for over 4 years now and have had my permit for close to one. i thankfully have never had to pull or discharge my firearm for any reason except in the range. thank god. i carry my gun with me everywhere i go except work, i'm not allowed to by law i'm a teacher, therefore, i cant have it on school grounds nor in my car. other than that, it's on me, on my side or in a fanny pack. do i feel safer with my gun? you're damn right i do. the way things are nowadays people get robbed for the clothes off your back so why wouldnt i carry it anywhere and everywhere. do i want to shoot someone? hell no, it's something i hope i never have to do, but if me or anyone that i'm with is threatened or in a situation where i have to use it, you can bet your ass i will not hesitate. a gun is for personal use only. i'm not a vigilante, or a guardian angel for anyone. and i'm certainly not going to wait around for someone else to come to my rescue. if you read the laws carefully, law enforcement is not required to protect you as an individual but more as a society in general. would you want to have to wait those 10-20 or more minutes for someone to have to come to your aid or would you rather protect yourself and not risk your life or that of anyone around you. as far as carrying in national parks, i am totally for it. people say that it will be more of a reason to shoot and kill innocent wildlife or to scare hikers and people walking trails. i dont know but as a responsible gun owner, i know the laws and i have never nor will i ever use my handgun to scare or intimidate others, nor will i shoot anyone or anything innocent just for fun. that would make me a murderer and that i am not. my gun is for personal protection. if you look up or talk to park rangers the world over, they'll tell you just how much crimes are committed in national parks. rapes, murders, assaults. why should i have to fall victim to that if i'm a law abiding citizen who responsibly carries his firearm without harming anyone or anything.

While neither the U.S. Forest Service nor the National Park Service keeps precise statistics about crime on federally protected lands, officers and rangers say that crime appears to be on the rise in the backcountry. Between 2002 and 2007, there were 63 homicides in national parks, 240 rapes or attempted rapes, 309 robberies, 37 kidnappings and 1,277 aggravated assaults, according to National Park Service statistics.
The article can be found here:

Statistics of people harmed in national parks by crime or wildlife are not justification for carrying guns, sure. I carry a gun with me every day, everywhere I go. I don’t shoot people, or have any intention of shooting people. Most people wouldn’t guess that I have a gun. I don’t carry it because I’m going somewhere dangerous and I’ll need it, I carry it because I am responsible for my own safety.

If you think our Nat’l Parks are safe havens, free from crime and bastions of peace and harmony with nature, you obviously don’t get out much. Just ask Julianne Williams, Carole Sund, daughter Juli, Silvina Pelosso and Laura Winans. Oh wait, you can’t. They were murdered in a National Park!

carry responsibly

Ed's note: Carole Sund, her daughter Juli, and Juli's Argentian friend Silvina Pelosso were not killed in a national park, as has been incorrectly claimed in this comment and in blogs all over the Internet. The three murder victims had recently visited Yosemite National Park. We do not know of a crime statistics category that consists of "people who have recently visited national parks."

When the fact of the matter is that any object, including a human fist, can be used as a weapon with deadly force, a gun is just another option. The intent of both wild and domesticated animals, humans included, is what harms. Guns are not to be feared, the inhumane nature of some people is, how do you regulate that? Leave our guns and freedome alone.

It is not my desire to debate the sensitive second amendment, but it is important for me personally to communicate how much I would appreciate the choice to carry a weapon in a Federal or National State Park.

I am not a hunter, a NRA member nor ex-military or law enforcement. I am however, one who was raised to respect and use guns for target practice, etc. Respecting the taboo position of much of the country, my family and friends I repressed my desire to own any guns. This changed quickly after being attacked by a bear while camping with my unarmed family and being taunted by a large animal for hours. I have since made it a priority to always be armed while camping or hiking remotely and while at home my weapon is securely locked away. It confuses me however, that in New Mexico, I can legally carry a weapon on my hip - without a permit (aside from within a school or facility selling alcohol) but if I were to go hiking in the surrounding mountains that are known for mountain lion attacks and heavy black bear activity - it is illegal.

Yes, this should be open for debate and while laws should remain in place concerning hunting and or poaching I see little reason why Americans shouldn't have right to bear arms responsibly in this environment.

I live in Montana in the backyard of Glacier National Park. I go into the park 7 to 9 times a month durring hiking season and 2 to 3 times each month in the winter. I have hiked many trails and have seen lots of wildlife. I enjoy my time in the park and on the trails knowing that I am armed and can protect myself. I am a 115 lb woman who hikes alone. I fear that I could run into a bear that can and would disable me in a heartbeat, or a mountian lion that could stalk me and catch me totally off guard. The most fearsome beast in the woods is another hiker who would see me as a victim, easy prey. My desire to be out in the woods is greater than my fear and I have fortunately not had the need to expose my firearm. I will continue to carry it for protection and once the 2010 hiking season comes around not fear that I will get in legal trouble for my preference to support my constitutional right to protect myself. I am aware of my presence in the beautiful park that I love and cherish, the right to protect myself should not been seen as a problem to the environment. I am not in the woods for target practice nor do I intend to expose myself or wildlife to unnecessary and undo harm. If you have never hiked a trail that is frrequented by grizzly bears and sat on a ridge to see the sun splay the most amazing colors across the sky I cannot imagine you have any input on this discussion as you are not making a statement based on the inherent dangers of being in the wild.