Whatever Happened to That Rule Change To Allow You to Pack Heat in National Parks?

Remember earlier this year all the controversy over a proposed rule change to allow concealed weapons holders to arm themselves in the National Park System? Well, it's still lurking out there.

Some had gotten optimistic that perhaps this effort had been lost in the shuffle in Washington, as the Bush administration focused on things like energy exploration near national parks, opening up public lands to oil-shale speculation, and relaxing clean-air standards.

After all, those optimists noted, there's been all that focus on getting rule changes promulgated 60 days before the Obama administration came to town so it couldn't simply quash rules it didn't favor.

Well, it turns out that Interior Department officials apparently believe the rule change on carrying weapons in national parks and national wildlife refuges won't result in a $100 million impact, and so it only needs to have the rule promulgated 30 days in advance of Team Obama's arrival in Washington. So, more than likely this rule change will resurface before December 20.

That said, it's also likely that a group or two opposed to the rule will sue over its legality, arguing that Interior failed to conduct an environmental impact study on the rule change. Whether this rule change is significant enough to trigger such a study under the National Environmental Policy Act is the curious question at this point.


I guarantee you that cars have a larger environmental impact in parks than concealed weapons, yet why do I never hear of a ban on cars due to environmental impacts?

IF this rule change does take place, you can be SURE that the Obama administration will work TIRELESSLY to strike it down. We now (on Jan 20) have in place the most gun-hating government in more than 33 years.

Take heart Fred. Gun sales in the post-election era are up over 20% nationally.
I'm not sure if that's good for Obama or not........

It would be nice if each park put a system -- maybe something like Zion -- in place to limit car pollution in the park. It didn't seem to have a significant impact on tourism when I was there. Also, what on earth could the use of hand guns be in a protected park provide? I personally don't feel comfortable backpacking around and running into people that have guns. I live in IL so concealed weapons are illegal here, but I'm not afraid of them when I'm out in the open in legal states. I do feel a little uncomfortable people have guns in the back country that have no use for them but to shoot them off, or potentially kill protected wildlife. I imagine it's a principle issue about guns rights, but it's difficult to trust an interest group's explanation.

You can debate guns or no guns till the cows come home. The bottom line is our constitutional rights will be and are going to be restricted and sadly licensed after 911 changed all the rules.

It seems the enemy has suceeded in changing America They didn't do it alone however! They did it with the help of history ignorant well meaning Americans who become activist just to have a cause to fight for.

All you good Republicans and maybe even a few Democrats who support the Second Amendment need to make more noise in Washington. I voice my beliefs!

Not being able to carry a licensed firearm in the wide open spaces of a National Park is the last resort. We do need to be aware however that this could be a security issue in a parks congested public spaces.

Codification of the right to keep and bear arms into the Bill of Rights was influenced by a fear that the federal government would disarm the people in order to impose rule

How many of you reading this knows a well meaning, voting, citizen who thru igorance of US history supports a cause that reduces our constitutional rights?

We need more history taught in public schools.

Questions for so-called advocates of the Second Amendment:

Why would a anyone ever need a gun when visiting a National Park?

Self defense against wild animals? Shooting a protected animal would certainly violate established wildlife protection laws.
Self defense against humans? ANYONE could claim self defense for a shooting without any witnesses...
Roughly two/thirds of NPS sites are cultural or historical in nature; should concealed weapons be allowed in these many Federal buildings?

Personally I could care less whether or not a US citizen chooses to own legal firearms and keep them on their own property. But I just don't understand why a gun owner would ever need one on vacation in a National Park.
I wish that gun owners would stop whining about their "violated" personal rights and spend that energy on the broader spectrum of real human rights violations that plague our society.

Jay, if you don't trust an interest group, and I'm not a member of the NRA, you should look to the founders who made statements like, "it is their [the people's] right and duty to be at all times armed". I don't leave the defense of the Bill of Rights and Constitution to interest groups, nor should park rangers who take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Defending the Constitution should be the interest of every American, not just groups of Americans. And defending the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights against tyranny is impossible without the second.

The issue is not the use of guns in backcountry, allowing indiscriminate carrying of weapons in parks, or poaching, because the proposed legislation would not legalize these actions. The issue revolves around allowing law-abiding citizens who have gone through an expensive and extensive process (which includes criminal background check as well as gun safety training) of applying for a receiving a concealed weapons permit to carry a concealed weapon on federal public lands under the Department of the Interior's purview.

You mention that you don't feel comfortable around people with guns in the backcountry (how would you even know if they're concealed?), but a little discomfort is a small price to pay for preserving the integrity of the Bill of Rights.

Frank C:
... "it is their [the people's] right and duty to be at all times armed" ...

Why do you gun rights folks always refuse to look at the historical context in which the original statements of the Bill of Rights were made?? The "tyrants" at that time were the British, a completely separate government seeking to abolish our nation.

If you feel your own government is acting as a tyrant you are inherently devoted to overthrow of the government you claim to be a loyal citizen of.
Sounds crazy, right? But that's where the logic of your argument leads.

Keep your damn guns at home where they belong.

Fact- CCW holders are in most part law abiding people.
Fact- Criminals are do not care what the law is.
Fact- If the Law states, No Firearms in National Parks who will follow the Law.
Fact- Murders on the Appalachian Trail and In the Yosemite Park in the years past and more crimes elsewhere (parks are safe??????)
Fact- Anti Gunners don't like or accept facts!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, the murders you likely are trying to associate with Yosemite occurred outside the park. And you and many others continue to broadly -- and wrongly -- assume that folks who don't want to see concealed weapons in the parks are anti-gun and anti-2nd Amendment. Quite a few gun owners are opposed to the proposed rule change.

The more guns the better. I see no reason why people should not be armed everywhere they go, whether it be mid-town Manhattan or along the placid shores of Yellowstone Lake. This is a non-issue. Statistics show that places with the strictest gun laws are usually the least safe i.e. Washington, DC and NYC, while concealed carry jurisdictions generally have much lower rates of crime. The criminals never know who might be packing heat and thus are a bit less likely to perpetrate a crime. Guns-----the more the merrier.

Before we start the inevitable spewing forth the rhetoric, let's at least try to maintain some semblance of accuracy.........

The majority of CCW holders are most likely law-abiding citizens.

Criminals don't care what the law is.
Correction: Criminals very often seek loopholes in the law to minimize the penalties for their transgressions. Or work well within the boundaries set forth by our legal system in terms of illegal search or other rights violations, and never sees the interior of a penitentiary due to what some consider legal "errors".

Something about who will follow the law?
Correction: Many CCW holders who are regular contributors to this site freely admit personal violations of the current laws restricting loaded weapons within the boundaries of various NPS units. So, either nobody gives a damn about the current laws (or at least fewer people than you think), or there are far fewer CCW holders than you believe who are fine, upstanding, law-abiding citizens, or that segment of the CCW holder has transgressed into the criminal element domain. Choose any scenario of the three and the end result is that there are far less people following protocol than you tout in your "facts".

Parks are safe??????
Overall, yes. Like it or not, yes, far safer than other urban, suburban or rural areas with the same relative populace, and I mean in terms of the populace in the densest areas around the visitor centers, where most of the tourists gather. The crime rate on any given day in those regions is much less than in most equivalent metro areas. But on the other hand, if you're looking for ANY area of the country that, by your self-serving definition is "safe", forget it, it doesn't exist. Absolutely any area can be subjected to crime, but that simple "fact" doesn’t justify everyone and their brother walking around loaded for bear.

The last statement is just plain ridiculous. This coming from a staunch anti-NRA gun owner who spent more time in special services than I care to remember and who was trained by our government to be quite familiar with how to use various forms of weapons against his fellow man. The "fact" is your firearm can't save your sorry behind in every circumstance, so maybe it would be more practical to be trained in alternative methods of defending yourself, your family and your possessions. The "fact" is that if you were, you would most definitely find yourself feeling "safe" in virtually any environment. Provided the paranoia can be effectively eradicated.


I urge you to study the "historical context" in which the Bill of Rights was written and the Founders' statements on the individual right to bear arms:

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks." Thomas Jefferson

"[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." James Madison

"[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms. . ." Richard Henry Lee

"[C]onceived it to be the privilege of every citizen, and one of his most essential rights, to bear arms, and to resist every attack upon his liberty or property, by whomsoever made." Roger Sherman

While the British crown was the tyrant of the day, the Founders recognized government, in a much broader context, as having the potential to devolve to tyranny. George Washington wrote, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

Patrick Henry echoed that sentiment when he said, "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined."

It goes on. Adams. Washington. More from Jefferson.

Please read about the Original Intent and Purpose of the Second Amendment for more illumination.


Purely for argument's sake, those noble men you mention had the chance but did not outlaw slavery nor give women the right to vote, so should we now rescind the Emancipation Proclamation and the 19th Amendment because the Founding Fathers were silent on those two points? Or, should we accept that as times change it wouldn't be so outlandish to tweak the Constitution a bit?

Kurt, respectfully, I believe the argument you've broached to be a red herring, an "argument, given in reply, that does not address the original issue. Critically, a red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument."

We the People can "tweak" the Constitution through the amendment process, and if times have changed so much that we no longer have to worry about government tyranny, and we feel comfortable giving government a monopoly on gun ownership and use, I suggest that Second Amendment detractors use this process rather than ignoring the Constitution, as even Obama, a Constitutional scholar, seems prone to do.

I was a Weapons Specialist in the Army. No one claims that a gun will protect you all the time. As far as my last fact goes, YOU HAVE PROVED IT TO BE TRUE. Guns have been allowed in National Forest Areas with min. problems. If your anti gun, more power to you! I'm pro gun and also by the way, an NRA MEMBER and Proud of it (more power to me).

Sounds to me Frank C, just loves to jump on the bandwagon about any issue that favors more guns, or any issue that supports the gung-ho gun lobbyist. But, to be frantically obsessed Frank, I think is bit super overkill on your behalf. Right to bear arms...yes! But, keep your nasty guns and peashooters at home and not in the National Parks. For god sakes come up for air!


I guess there's no getting around it. No matter how many times you raise the issue of HOW the gun regulation is being developed, your readers refuse to discuss process and need to drag up the pros and cons of the issue. Folks, how many times do you have to debate the same issue? Do you actually think you are convincing anyone? It's obvious that NPT readers feel strongly and there are many of you on both sides of this issue. I get it. I'm sure Kurt gets it.

What seems highly pertinent to me, whether or not I agree with the substance of this regulation, is that it is being promulgated -- if, in fact it is going to be promulgated -- in a way that will make it suspect. Every regulation issued at the end of an administration, no matter what the substance, is one that looks like it was hurried through because the administration ran out of time. The best regulations are issued earlier in the four year cycle, so the process they are issued under is above reproach.

Even if you are a fan of this rule, you should be concerned at how and when it may be issued, and the company of questionable rules that are also being issued in these final weeks of the Bush administration. It will taint it and make it that much more likely it will be vulnerable in a lawsuit.

J Longstreet
A national park superintendent


I don't see it as a red herring at all. Here and in comments to other posts about the guns-in-parks issue you've trotted out the Founding Fathers and their intent and that what they viewed more than 230 years ago rings just as true today, or that it should.

If they were so omniscient when it came to bearing arms down through the centuries, how could they not have seen the justice in freeing slaves and giving women the vote?

And beyond that, as I recall the most recent Supreme Court opinion did not in fact uphold one's right to carry a sidearm anywhere they wanted, but restricted that right largely to their homestead, AND held that the federal government was within its rights to restrict where guns could be carried.

Anonymous, I have refrained from using ad hominem attacks and arguments and would kindly request that you do the same. You might be new to the site and might not know of my repeated condemnation of interest groups and lobbyists, but that doesn't give license to attack or mischaracterize me in an attempt to discredit my argument.

J Longstreet, you are quite right in several regards. I also bet Kurt "gets it" and am willing to guess the topic drives traffic to this site. The comment activity seems to reflect it. Controversy sells.

Kurt, on this thread, I was posting the Founders' sentiments regarding the right to bear arms in response to the assertion of user "VERY knowledgable [sic] of US history" that Second Amendment proponents do not examine the issue in historical context. I've quoted the founders to put the debate in context, because, as Jefferson wrote, "On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed."

As far as slavery, many Founders were against it, especially northerners like Adams. Jefferson, himself a slave owner, wrote to Edward Rutledge, "I congratulate you, my dear friend, on the law of your State, for suspending the importation of slaves, and for the glory you have justly acquired by endeavoring to prevent it forever. This abomination must have an end. And there is a superior bench reserved in heaven for those who hasten it." He also initially wanted to blame England for slavery in the Declaration of Independence, but that was struck from the draft. Unfortunately, political, social, and financial factors prevented him from freeing his own slaves.

So Jefferson, and many other Founders, did see the justice in freeing slaves. Should we dismiss the entire Constitution, rule of law, and the noble concept of individual liberty because they were postulated by (of course) flawed humans?

I have not read the Supreme Court decision in the DC gun ban case. The Supreme Court is not above reproach, however. It has evolved into a partisan, activist, unelected committee with total disregard for the original meaning of the Constitution's text.

As Lincoln said, "If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court...the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

Interestingly enough, ReasonOnline just posted an article titled The Trouble With Thomas Jefferson which states in part:

Does the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves—probably including his own children—negate the wonderful things he wrote about inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence? To put it another way, why should anyone listen to what Master Jefferson (or other slaveholding Founders) had to say about liberty and equality?

It’s important to remember that the idea of inalienable rights didn’t start or stop in the year 1776. The historian Gordon S. Wood, in his superb 1991 book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, argues that “to focus, as we are apt to do, on what the Revolution did not accomplish—highlighting and lamenting its failure to abolish slavery and change fundamentally the lot of women—is to miss the great significance of what it did accomplish.” In Wood’s view, by destroying monarchical rule and replacing it with republicanism, the American revolutionaries “made possible the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements of the nineteenth century and in fact all our current egalitarian thinking.” They upended “their societies as well as their governments…only they did not know—they could scarcely have imagined—how much of their society they would change.”

The article also provides historical background on Jefferson and the issue of slavery. Highly recommended.

Frank C, why is your whole life consumed on the gun issue. It seems like your always splitting hair over the gun arguments to pack heat...to anywhere and everywhere. In seeing my first homicide victim (a police officer with family) as a young surgical tech, just made me puke about the NRA and it's overly hell bent gun fanatics. I duly believe in the right of handgun ownership, but kept in the home and in a SAFE PLACE locked up. In fact, I've had two close friends involved in tragic gun accidents: one was showing off his loaded high powered rifle that went off accidently and killing his best friend, and the other, was in the fit of anger, in which brother shoots brother with a Remington 22 rifle (not sure of the type). Unfortunately, the brother that was shot is totally paralyzed from the waist down...and has been for the past 35 years. ALL TRUE TRAGIC STORIES!
Yes, an emotional issue on both sides, but I get the impression Frank, you fan the coals towards more hell bent gun ownership regardless of the carnage that it leaves behind. Just work in the hospital morgue for while on Saturday night (in any big mean City) and see the morass that guns play. The poor ER staff beating their brains out to save some poor innocent victim, or some crazy gang banger. Take real hard look Frank and pray it's not your kid or dear family member. I've had my fill of gun violence and hope that President elect Obama squeezes out more gun regulations and pinches out the NRA.


You're making assumptions. My "whole life" is not "consumed on the gun issue".

When I was a national park ranger, on ten occasions I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Not part of it. ALL of it. All ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. All articles and sections. As a park ranger, I took that oath seriously, and as a private citizen, I still consider that oath binding.

I have never advocated that people should be able to "pack heat...to anywhere and everywhere." You are intentionally misrepresenting my argument, setting up a strawman. Of course the Second Amendment does not apply to private property. It does, however, apply to federal lands. I do not "fan the coals toward more hell bent gun ownership". I don't care if people own guns.

But I do care that the Constitution and its civil rights protections are protected and enforced. Like it or not, it is the law of the land.

December 5, 2008
Interior Announces Final Firearms Policy Update
"WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Lyle Laverty today announced that the Department of the Interior has finalized updated regulations governing the possession of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges. The final rule, which updates existing regulations, would allow an individual to carry a concealed weapon in national parks and wildlife refuges if, and only if, the individual is authorized to carry a concealed weapon under state law in the state in which the national park or refuge is located. The update has been submitted to the Federal Register for publication and is available to the public on www.doi.gov"