Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks

How will families with youngsters feel about attending interpretive programs in national parks when the person next to them might be armed? Will the National Park Service have to install metal detectors in parks to ensure gun owners don't enter buildings with their sidearms?

Those are just two of the questions being asked today by active and retired National Park Service rangers lamenting adoption by the Bush administration of a rule that will allow park visitors to carry concealed weapons.

While many 2nd Amendment rights backers and the National Rifle Association view the rule change as long overdue, not everyone shares their belief. The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the Association of National Park Rangers, and the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police jointly voiced concern Friday that the rule change will not make parks safer and could in fact make them more dangerous.

“This new rule is fraught with a variety of threats and hazards to the solitude and atmosphere visitors have come to appreciate and to seek in national parks,” said Bill Wade, chair of the coalition's executive council.

The coalition has nearly 700 members, all former NPS employees, with more than 20,500 accumulated years of experience in managing national parks and NPS programs, including law enforcement and visitor services.

Mr. Wade, whose Park Service career included a stint as superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, said the rule change stands to create risks to "natural and historic resources in parks." Additionally, he said the coalition is "troubled by the likelihood that the way park visitors relate to each other will be affected."

"Until now, parks have been conducive to visitors having casual chats with each other on hikes. Not uncommonly, visitors camped next to each other share a morning cup of coffee. This open social interaction is liable to change as suspicion and apprehension about the possession of concealed firearms makes people more distrustful,” he said.

At the 1,200-member Association of National Park Rangers, President Scot McElveen, a retired chief park ranger, expressed apprehension about the ability of the Park Service to provide the best available protection to park resources under the new rule.

“Park wildlife, including some rare or endangered species, will face increased threats by visitors with firearms who engage in impulse or opportunistic shooting,” said Mr. McElveen. “We also worry about increased vandalistic shooting at historic monuments, archeological petroglyphs and park signs and markers.”

The ANPR president also described situations in parks that will be confusing or troubling:

* How will a family with small children who are on a ranger-guided tour feel about the fact that other visitors on the tour very well could have concealed guns in their pockets or backpacks?

* How will visitors attending an evening program at an amphitheater in a park campground feel about the possibility that others attending the program could have firearms in their purses or jackets?

* Firearms will still be prohibited in most federal buildings, but will parks now have to provide places for visitors to check their firearms before entering visitor centers or ranger stations? Or will they have to install and staff metal detectors to ensure that firearms don’t get brought inside?

* Some parks lie in more than one state. Natchez Trace Parkway, for instance spans three states, each with a different gun law. What do visitors do when they pass from Tennessee to
Alabama and then to Mississippi?

* Some park visitors have a predisposition to kill on sight animals that they believe to be “varmints.” Such animals include coyotes, wolves, prairie dogs, snakes, and some raptors. Even though harming such animals has been illegal and will continue to be illegal under the new rule, having a loaded, readily-accessible firearm increases the chances that these visitors will act on their misplaced beliefs and fears.

John Waterman is a law enforcement ranger at Valley Forge National Historical Park and president of the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the majority of commissioned Park Service law enforcement rangers. He worries about employee and visitor safety and visitor confusion.

“This new regulation has replaced a clear and consistent regulation prohibiting guns in all national parks unless they are rendered inoperable and inaccessible, with one that opens a Pandora’s Box of confusing exceptions," he said. "Now, if you are in a national park in a state that allows concealed firearms and if you have a concealed-carry permit; or if the state you're from has reciprocal laws with the state you are in, then maybe you can carry a gun, but not in public buildings or if the state says you can't have one in a public park.... This is a regulatory nightmare both for the public and for rangers.

“More guns means more risk," Ranger Waterman stated. "For example, rangers sometimes have to intervene in disputes in campgrounds. With the possibilities of guns being present, the risk increases, not only to the disputants, but to the rangers who have to resolve the problem. Moreover, traffic stops now become more hazardous for rangers in parks.”

Mr. Wade of the retirees group scoffed at the Interior Department's intent in ramming this regulation through without appropriate analysis of the impacts it will have on national park resources and visitors.

“They said it would increase consistency for the public. Clearly it doesn’t. They said there won’t be any impacts to park resources or visitors. But thousands of current and former rangers and other employees – who actually work or worked in parks – say otherwise," he said. "They said this is what the American people wanted, but over 70 percent of the 140,000 who commented during the public comment period opposed the proposed rule.

"They said, ‘if you can carry a gun on Main Street you can now carry a gun in a national park.’ We don’t think Americans want their national parks to be like their main streets; they go to parks because they are special and different, and knowing they can get away from the pressures and stresses they face where they live and work.

“January 9, 2009 is not a good day for national parks or for their visitors,” Mr. Wade added. “We hope the new Interior Secretary will reconsider this ill-advised regulation and keep national parks special and safe.”


Kurt presents a list of firearms-concerns assembled by former Park-employee groups.

1. Families & children at Parks will be spooked by the mere idea that some other visitors may be armed.

People know that other people in the communities they are in, are armed. Guns are part of many families' experience. In isn't a novel concept, that some people have guns.

2. Rangers will be forced to mount extraordinary security measures, to prevent guns in buildings.

I understand that under Federal law, Parks staff will be required to mount signage on buildings alerting those with firearms that such weapons (and others) are not allowed within the building. While I also understand that some courtrooms and maybe even some Federal buildings have installed metal detectors, I think this is done only where it is thought (or demonstrated) that there is an actual security-threat.

3. Solitude will be subject to threat & hazard.

Solitude is where you find it, when you find. The fact that somebody else in the Park, somewhere, smoked pot in the parking lot before going off into the woods does not affect our solitude. The fact that somebody else in the woods, somewhere, is going through a painful divorce, with children who suck the joy out life ... is a personal tragedy. But not ours, and we don't worry about it.

That some people have guns is, and always has been, a fact of life. Normal people aren't going to be disturbed in their solitude, at the mere thought of another visitor, somewhere, possibly being armed.

4. Wildlife will be subject to impulsive & opportunistic shooting.

I would guess that in some areas/Parks, a certain amount of poaching has always gone on. But I seriously doubt that much of this is by licensed concealed carry people, and it is highly doubtful there will be a change - up or down - in what poaching occurs due to the new rule.

5. Trigger-happy varmint-hunters will be shooting up everything that twitches.

Although some classes of citizens deplore varmint-hunting, the truth about the sport is that it takes place under specific conditions, in specific locations, with specific species as targets.

In sum, most of the objections raised in this article are such over-wrought caricatures that I think their real purpose is to provoke (ill-considered) reaction in the pro-gun community.

All you hunters and firearms-owners out there do understand bait, don't you? ;-)


Thanks for sicing the dogs on the bait. But first things first. Let's make the record clear that *I* didn't "present" those concerns, they were presented by the Association of National Park Rangers. I merely reported on 'em.

I just want to make that clear because, while you understand the construction, there are others out there who are awfully darn quick to blame the messenger. Over the past few years *I've* been taken to task for reporting what OTHERS have said regarding guns in the parks. And you know what? It's tiresome and has led my wife to suggest I enter the witness protection program. I'm pretty sure she was joking.

I mean, it's really quite amazing how "civilized" many Second Amendment-rights advocates can be. I've had my masculinity challenged, my sexual orientation questioned, my maturity and god knows what else taken to task. From folks who claim they are law-abiding, upstanding, just-a-regular-Joe-who-I'd-never-realize-was-packin'-in-the-parks. And then they occasionally use ALL CAPS or underline their words in a futile bid to raise the sound of their typing to make it appear as if they're shouting.

Hell, Ted, if they act like that on an Internet forum....what might transpire face-to-face on a backcountry trail?

Now, that said, let me make it clear (that's for emphasis, Ted and anyone else reading this, not shouting) that I fully realize those folks are in the minority. I would indeed agree that most CCW permit holders are upstanding individuals who'd watch my back in a pinch. At the same time, I hoped you'd agree that accidents (here's one, here's another, here are a couple more, though you can ignore the hunting accident) happen.

Still, I'm one of those who, like Warren Z, probably are just too dang naive after spending quite a bit of time over the past four decades tromping about woods, deserts, national parks, national forests and who knows where else without a scent of crime or furry attacker and just don't feel that in the parks I need firepower to protect myself from man nor beast. Now, out on the highway, that's something else....

Oh, one other point I'd like to make clear to those who you hope will beeline it for the bait: I'm not anti-2nd Amendment. I could care less if you own a gun. I've fired a rifle and what at the time was reputed to be the world's most powerful handgun. A good life-long friend is an ex-state trooper who often was armed around me (not that I always knew it). So let's not have any bashing Kurt cuz he's anti-gun, because he ain't.

All that said, I'll let others debate (hopefully constructively) the list presented by ANPR. Perhaps we could even entice some active-duty rangers to describe some of the incidents they've encountered.

"How will families with youngsters feel about attending interpretive programs in national parks when the person next to them might be armed?"

They will feel the same way as they do today (whatever that may be) since the person next to them today might be armed. Not everyone follows the rules.

The first line of my previous comment is:

"Kurt presents a list of firearms-concerns assembled by former Park-employee groups."

Kurt presents a list. Of firearms-concerns. Assembled by former Park-employee groups.

Read the sentence again. The concerns are "assembled" by former Park-employee groups. Kurt "presents" a list of them.

Kurt is not the author of the "concerns". I didn't even pin authorship on the "groups". Only that they were "assembled" by them.

Kurt presents "a list". The stuff in the list is somebody else's. Not Kurt's.

I pointed out in my previous comment that the "concerns" (being "caricatures" (aka, 'cartoons') appear intended to:

"provoke (ill-considered) reaction in the pro-gun community."

In other words, to induce gun-owners to, um, go off half-cocked and, um, shoot themselves in the foot.

This is pretty standard-brand politics. We watch McCain and Obama and Romney and Clinton and Palin and (Caroline) Kennedy do this to each other 24/7 wall-to-wall non-stop. (Biden doesn't count, because he does it to himself without provocation.) Hey, I even watch little kids who don't what puberty is do this!

Make a statement designed to get your opponent's panties in a twist, whereupon he jumps up and in four seconds convinces the entire audience that he's a congenital imbicile. He did it to himself, and you walk.

The former Park-employee groups are putting out these outlandish statements about how horrible it will be when folks can carry concealed pistols in the Parks. The idea is to provoke the pro-gun folks into jumping up all in a lather and making themselves look ... as ding-dong as the Park-employee groups wants the public to see them.

It's bait. Don't bite!

I guess that your name is on the page so you get the glory and the blame. I've enjoyed the Traveler and I'm a person who believes that we would be more respectful of each other if there was the possibility that someone was armed. You make a point that people rant and rave across the internet at you. They wouldn't be so brave in a face to face situation. They would be down right civil if they thought old Kurt was armed somehow (gun, attack dog or your own set of bodyguards). I looked at the accidents and they were all tragic. They were all preventable if the people involved parents,hunters had used any intelligence. You can't protect against stupidity! I agree that the street is far more dangerous then the woods. You do read about mountain lions out in California attacking bike riders. I spent a week this past summer up at Baniff national park in Canada while we were there a park employee was attacked by a black bear. She was jogging and the bear took an interest. She walked backwards yelling at the bear for about a quarter mile. the bear followed her then she made the mistake of playing dead and was bitten. She fought back then and the bear went away.Bear Spray would have been ideal. I'm sixty and if i go walking in the woods, I bring some sort of weapon. It's usually a large stick and a decent knife but there were times that I've taken a firearm. I wish that as a society that we weren't always adjusting for those on the lowest level of intelligence. If you do something stupid or bad you should be punished, the same way if I'm backing out of a parking space to fast and kill someone. It doesn't matter that i was in a hurry, I was negligent with a three thousand pound weapon. Gun owners are a persecuted bunch and sometimes they get excited since we can't understand why us legal guys always have to change. Thanks for doing a great job!

Ted, you are probably correct in your assumption that many of these comments were made to bait the Pro-Gun folks, but I suggest that it is not the only reason for the comments. I genuinely believe that these folks (park employee groups) have actual concerns about being exposed to higher numbers of firearms on a daily basis, and that maybe they just aren't very good at nonconfrontational speaking. Should their concerns be overtly ignored when it would appear there is a 2-to-1 margin of the public in the comment period agreeing with them? Isn't that rather undemocratic? I suggest that gun-rule changes put into place despite the lack of a majority support really makes it irrelevant as far as a constitutional issue. The Pro -Gun (In the Parks) Folks will get their way due to the activist-policies of an administration that doesn't seem to give a SH*# about the will of the people who have the most vested in these parks. When a public outcry for keeping guns out of national parks (about 98,000 people) is absolutely ignored, I think it's safe to say that Pro-Gun folks aren't really being baited, but are instead being out & out reviled as thugs. But you are correct, as long as the gun lobby is winning, Ya'll should probably just keep quiet.

As I have stated before. I carry a gun on my RV for protection. I consider this my home space and I will continue to carry the gun onboard legal or not. I see no reason to carry concealed . If someone thinks they need protection while out on a trail, carry bear spray. In my opinion it will do as good on a man or beast as a handgun. These are my thoughts only not intended to cause a major debate.

You do an awesome job with this site, I for one appreciate the breadth of coverage, and the amount of content, and the sometimes alternative viewpoint you present for debate.
So far I've only found myself posting comments related to the legal carry in National Parks issue. (What can I say, I enjoy a good debate.)
Keep up the good work!


Since the pro- carry folks are focusing their comments on a civil-rights based platform built on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so will I. At the risk of Ted calling me a politician again (!) I will ask the pro- carry folks for evidence of their support on all civil rights issues, or at least one particular issue that matters to me.

A couple of commentators here at NPT have compared no- carry laws to Jim Crow laws, i.e. gun owners had been treated in a separate but equal way in our National Parks. I will ask here (as I have in another comment string concerned with the guns in parks issue) if the gun owning civil rights advocates will join my fight for legal same-sex marriage. How does legalization of same-sex marriage relate to legal carry in our National Parks, you might wonder.

I am a gay man in a relationship of 18+ years, hurray for me. Yet the Federal government, and most states (including my own) refuse to legally recognize the stability and worth of my long-term relationship because of religious prejudice (based on idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible) towards what I do in the privacy of my bedroom. (And let me tell ya fellas, after 18 years there ain't much going in there, I'm sure you can appreciate that little tidbit! It's as if I'm married, just like you.)
Wouldn't you agree that legal bans on same-sex marriage are as much a violation of my civil rights as prohibitions on concealed carry of firearms are on yours? After all, just about every civil marriage law on the books (on both the state and federal levels) is based on a religious definition or belief. Isn't that a violation of the Constitutional Principle of the Separation of Church and State? Love the sinner but hate the sin? Separate but equal. Legal recognition of "civil unions"? That's just separate but equal again.
(As for the argument that legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to legalized human/animal marriage, or intra-family marriage, or legalized bigamy... well, that's just the same as saying that a legal gun owner will always use it an illegal manner, or will buy their guns illegally, or refuse to take the requisite training courses for proper, safe usage.)

Do you see where I'm going with this?

As far as I'm concerned, all those organizations out there devoting their time and effort to making legal carry a Second Amendment issue need to get on board the Constitution train and fight for lawful interpretation of the 10th Amendment, the 14th Amendment... heck, why not support the entire Constitution as it applies to all Americans. History shows us that the most effective movements are those built on broad-based coalitions.

This is not bait, nor a politician's argument, just the sincere plea for fair, consistent application of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The same sex marriage folks just flat out need your devotion to Constitutional Principles.

I look forward to the good folks at the NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Second Amendment Committee ( ), ,, , etc., joining me in a coalition based on Constitutional consistency when it comes to civil rights in America. You don't want me to pick and choose which portions of the Constitution I'm obligated to support, so don't you either. Okay?


You're encouraging some serious thread drift here, which concerns me in that it's directed AWAY from national park-related topics.

The primary focus of the Traveler is to take a look at what's going on in the national parks and explore those issues. To trot off in a direction away from the parks and into a no-holds-barred debate/discussion of civil rights, well, I don't see that as at all germane to the national parks. Perhaps someone can spin it in a fashion that does tie it to the parks, and I'd be curious to see that one.

That said, I do find it incredibly curious that most -- most -- of those who visit the Traveler to comment on the gun issue only visit to discuss or debate the gun issue. It's as if they don't care a bit about national parks, only where they can carry their weapon. It's as if they surf the Internet looking for sites where they can weigh-in with their pro-gun agenda. You never hear them speak up on park funding issues, on some of the intriguing reasons we visit parks, on legislative issues (aside from gun-related issues) affecting the parks.

That said Warren, I look forward to seeing YOUR comments on some of these other issues;-)

vince K.,

I have seen folks use the quote (uncited):

"An armed society is a polite society."
There is good merit in it.

Right on, Kurt. I am completely aware of my drift away from the source of the topic, and I thank you keeping the discussion on track. (Though I am very curious to see response to my last post, I totally understand if it doesn't make onto the site.)

I spent many years in customer service and retail management. I always found it interesting that in that arena, most customers only spoke up when filing a complaint, it was rare for customers to go out of their way to express their happiness.
Rarely did a customer express happiness in the range of products one of my stores sold; comments were usually limited to judgment of my character based on what I didn't have in the store...
Not exactly the same situation as how guns-in-parks topic/comment string draws out particular individuals, but it's the closest example I have from my own experience. :)

I get it, and apologize for intentionally drifting away.


Yes, the original publishers of these 'talking points' would (hopefully) have more in mind than solely to inflame the pro-gun faction. Sure - that's how it's supposed to be done. With the more skilled practitioners, such statements as these intentionally deliver a different message, and have a different effect on the widest possible range of different groups. That's one of the key skills of politics - to be aware of the different parts of the audience and be able to deliver differing messages to each with the same words.

You mention the opposition-sentiment being represented 2-1 in the official comments submitted. Comments such as these are not, and are not intended as a proxy for democracy. No. These comment-opportunities are primarily to provide a 'pulpit' so those with no voice or 'champion' can bring to the attention of law-makers points of view, circumstances, factors etc which the big-wigs may not have before them, to help ensure that avoidable mistakes aren't made (experience shows this does happen). "Comment periods" are in no way shape or form a "ballot" or "vote". Thinking so is a mistake.

In this case - as in lots of others - what we see in the breakdown of the comment-sentiment is a reflection of: 1.) the bias of those who most-successfully organize a 'write-in campaign' to promote their preferred outcome, and: 2.) yes; that those whom the new law favor feel little insecurity about the outcome.

An exception to my previous point about these comments not being a kind of vote, would be if a meaningful portion of the entire voting population takes the opportunity to weight in on the matter. If instead of 140,000 comments from a nation of 300,000,000 there had been 14,000,000 ... yeah, we're going to have another look at this.

But if much of the country did submit comments, then you would see that actually just shy of 2 out of 3 support gun-rights - around 65%. This is a sentiment that has been polled often, and the results are consistent.

Warren & Kurt viz Parks, Gay Rights, and Drift

Kurt cracked the door:

"Perhaps someone can spin [(gay) civil rights] in a fashion that does tie it to the parks, and I'd be curious to see that one."

I believe that gays are over-represented on the 'intermediate to advanced' backcountry trails.

Once you have hiked in farther than can be hiked back the same day, it starts to become noticeable that some of the folks being encountered are evidently gays. Normally, one does not notice this, though of course it is always true.

On the trails and 'designated' campsites a couple days 'back in' from the madding crowds, it becomes emphatically evident that an unusually high portion of one's fellows are gay. I am going to guess that the 'enrichment' may typically run 25% to 50%. On an extra-good day, in an extra-good setting, a casual glance indicates that most of the others finding tent-sites, unpacking, fetching water, getting a few pictures - are gay.

I think there is a serious - and important - over-representation of gays in the Olympic National Park backcountry.


I'm starting to worry about your efforts at sarcasm....or, if you're being serious, does this impression overly concern you?

And please, let's read for comprehension and not insert thoughts into my comments. Whereas I referred to discussion of *general* civil rights issues, without specifying one or another aspect, you felt fit to label my interest as being specific to gay rights. Why is that? What about how minorities are faced with stereotypes or discrimination? What about women not being paid equal to their male colleagues?

But I suppose that would be thread drift....unless you tied 'em to NPS hiring somehow.

When I went to Yellowstone, I had a .44 Mag. revolver in my back back when I hiked and camped in the wilderness areas. At that time a young woman 3 weeks earlier had been attacked by a grizzly bear, I felt I had the right to protect myself! I have a CCW for Minnesota, the left wing said it would be like the wild west, there would be gun battles on Main St., we haven't seen any of that. Serious crime has gone done, even the Police Chief of St. Paul says it has posed any threats to any of his officers.


There was no sarcasm in my observations about the high level of gay usage in the Olympic Peninsula backcountry.

Warren brought 'civil rights' into the thread explicitly in the context of 'gay rights'. You responded to him, expressing reservations about the thread-drift, and indicated that you were "curious" whether his drift can be tied to the 'Parks-theme'.

I believe there is an opportunity for such a tie-in as you requested, in that gays appear to be disproportionally represented, in comparison with the general population, in important parts of Olympic National Park.

Ted, I should know better, but....

* "Disproportionally"?

Disproportionate to what? To Hispanics, to Asians, to African-Americans, to AARPers, to twenty-somethings, to white males, to white females, to black bears?

You mention the "general population," but I'd wager the "general population" of the Washington peninsula is considerably different than the "general population" of Torrey, Utah, the gateway to Capitol Reef NP or Hurricane, Utah, on the border of Zion NP, or even Bar Harbor, Maine, next to Acadia NP.

If you're being specific to the general population of the peninsula, I'm not sure if your point is that out-of-area gays find the park overly nice and enjoyable or that there's been a disconcerting drop in non-gay visitation.

* "important parts of Olympic National Park"?

And what would be the unimportant parts?

The bottom line is, "So what?"

Back in July of '07 I wrote about an African-American BLM ranger, Wayne Hare, who had written an essay lamenting the general lack of people of color in the backcountry areas of our public lands. Part of his point was that, "The most recent U.S. Census indicates that sometime around the year 2050, people of color in this country will outnumber the current white majority. If the emerging future majority doesn't find intrinsic value in our birthright of publicly owned lands, how much tougher will it be to fund and protect these special areas?"

To say the least, that post generated quite a bit of heat out...from folks who agreed with Mr. Hare, from folks who disagreed, from folks who complained about all the talk about diversity, maintaining that it had become overly PC and was failing to accomplish the underlying goal in favor of merely playing a numbers game.

I guess my point is that I would be more concerned about your observation if it was that you didn't encounter ANYONE in the backcountry. Who cares if those you did are gay, or black, or yellow, or purple? Would you have made the same "disproportionate" claim if the majority of folks you encountered were white males aged 35-55? Just to tie back into the original post, would you have commented if you found a "disproportionate" number of backcounty travelers were armed or unarmed?

Last time I checked the parks were there to be enjoyed by all-comers regardless of race, creed, age, gender, or sexual orientation. Shouldn't they all be encouraged, welcomed, and feel comfortable without being labeled as "disproportionate"?

It's been awhile since I've chimed in on this issue. My viewpoints haven't changed and I don't think anyone else's have either. I think it is immoral to require someone to disarm themselves when they cross a line on a map. How my concealed pistol will "scare" someone is beyond my wildest comprehension. It's like saying that they're offended by the color of my underwear!

As for the comments being mostly OPPOSED to this new rule change, I invite you to go to the comments page and read some for yourself. There are many thousands of them. Pick a hundred at random; it might take you a half hour. But it will show you the fact that most responders were in FAVOR of this new rule change!

As for Kurt, I truly appreciate that he puts forth the time and effort to operate this website and blog. He and I disagree on this issue but I still think that we could spend a day in a National Park together and enjoy each other's company. We all owe him a big "Thank you!"

As for Kurt, I truly appreciate that he puts forth the time and effort to operate this website and blog. He and I disagree on this issue but I still think that we could spend a day in a National Park together and enjoy each other's company. We all owe him a big "Thank you!"

Here here! Running a site like this takes a lot of energy, effort, and time. I'm glad to have a forum to discuss this and other relevant issues.

Mr. Wade and McElveen's comments are unnecessarily alarmist and have little basis, if any, in evidence coming out of states where shall-issue right-to-carry has been law for a decade or more.

First, the majority of the US population lives in shall-issue states, so people and their small children are already in proximity to lawfully armed citizens.

Second, Federal buildings in parks have always been off-limits and they don't have metal detectors. As before, law-abiding people will not carry in federal buildings, and as before, criminals of a mind to carry inside these buildings will do so anyway.

Third, carry licensees already have to disarm when they cross certain state borders, enter schools, university campuses, and the like. They understand and abide those boundaries, and they will do the same when national parks straddle states with different carry laws.

Finally, data coming out of shall-issue right-to-carry states confirm that licensees are an extraordinarily law-abiding demographic. In many states, licensees are 15-20 times less likely to be arrested than the public at large. Simply put, licensees are extraordinarily trustworthy people. There is no rational basis for worry about crimes at the hands of these people.

All said, the arguments forwarded by Mr. Wade and McElveen are simply unfounded. It is rather absurd to hear them arguing so strongly for something that has little, if any, rational basis.

I suppose that what dumbfounds me the most regarding these arguments is their long and repetitive history.

Florida passed shall-issue right-to-carry in 1987, and similar arguments were brought out at that time. Since then, only 2 states have NOT passed some form of concealed carry law. During this 20-year process, these same arguments came up in state, after state, after state. Now after 20 years these fears of Mr. Wade and McElveen have yet to be realized! People, we have good, solid data regarding these carry policies. Look at the data, and distrust the alarmist rhetoric.

Public policy is too important to be swayed by empty arguments. We are smarter than that.


Check out this brief that was filed on behalf of Dick Heller in the US Supreme Court. Those folks, you will see, fight not only for their enumerated right to keep and bear arms, but also for their penumbral right to gay marriage.

For the record, I am pro-gay, pro-choice, and pro-privacy. I am also pro-gun rights. Individual rights are not just a list of things you can do. The idea is one of personal freedom and a commitment to responsibility, both individual and societal. Perhaps when I feel the most free is when I am in the backcountry, be in National Parks, Wilderness Areas, Forest service property, or BLM land.

But I think that you are mistaken to demand that every rights-oriented interest group fights on all front, for all rights at all times. I for one support the ACLU, but they have a dismal record on 2A rights. Before Heller, they said they would not support the 2A because it protected "states rights." Now that the SCOTUS has come out and said it protects an individual right ... do they change their position? No, they say "we disagree with the Supreme Court." They see what they want to see.

Good luck in your battles for equal rights. They are yours. Go get them.

"How will families with youngsters feel about attending interpretive programs in national parks when the person next to them might be armed? Will the National Park Service have to install metal detectors in parks to ensure gun owners don't enter buildings with their sidearms?"'re kidding, right? What a drama queen you are!
Well ya know, that gun just might jump outa that holster all by itself and shoot that kid! Lions and tigers and guns...OH MY!
Fact is, anti-gun liberals, those of us who will be carrying CONCEALED are law-abiding citizens who have passed extensive background checks. NO ONE will know and most people won't really care if there are people in the room carrying...unless they are linguine-spined libbies who suffer from gun paranoia anyway. Myself, I feel better knowing that if some looney without a CCW wants to start shooting up the place, I can stop it...or another law-abiding CCW could. Most rangers I have talked to see no problem with CCWs carrying in the parks...they will be concealed out of sight anyway. Uh, Mr. Wade...get a grip! Good thing you didn't live 100 years ago in the old west!
If I knew my camp neighbor was packin', I would probably strike up a conversation about guns and ammo...and we could even check out each other's weapon of choice!
The bad guys have been carrying all along. And remember Cary Stayner (Yosemite killer)? He didn't need a gun...he just used a knife. I'll bet Carol Sund, daughter and her friend would be alive today if they were armed....

Oops, sorry are just the messenger...I guess the three lobbying groups you mentioned are the drama queens I was referring to!

Gerald, the 1999 murder of Carol Sund, her daughter, and her daughter's friend did not take place in Yosemite National Park. The murders occurred at a nearby place called El Portal. Seems to me you're implying that parks are unsafe because people may be killed while on their way to a park, while on their way back from a park visit, or while staying at a motel near a park. That argument doesn't work for me, no matter how many times I see serial murderer Cary Stayner inappropriately referred to as the "Yosemite killer" in the media.

Tell me, out of sheer curiousity, what good will the weapon be to you in your backpack? Imagine yourself walking along the trail, as you round an outcropping, you run into mama grizz and her two cubs a mere handful of yards away. Now what? I know, drop your pack, that will only take a second or two, then unzip or unbuckle the pack. Another couple of seconds. Now reach in and get a grip on the weapon and draw it out. I'm thinking at this point the grizz is on you like glue. But, at least the grizz is distracted with you and your companions or family can now make their escape. Congrats! Carrying a weapon has saved lives. Just not yours. Carry bear spray on your packbelt, easier access and weighs a lot less. Plus you don't have to be as accurate as with a handgun. Oh and the pepper spray works equally well on humans too, just incase you are attacked.

I know it happened in El Portal, but the young naturalist that was also killed WAS in the park. She should have been allowed to defend herself. My young daughter carries wherever she goes, and she knows how to use it. She is so dang quick on the draw! Wish I had her reflexes!
The point to be made as far as the Sunds, however is that if they wanted to carry a weapon, they would have had to leave the gun in the room while they visited the park. That is not good idea for anyone to do that while they are on vacation for many reasons, the most obvious being the gun may fall into the wrong hands. That is the unintended consequences of gun control laws and how the bad guys get guns. Thus, law-abiding citizens should be able to keep their firearms with them no matter where they go, and this is the intent of the new NPS law. Myself, I believe visitor centers should not be any different, and as time passes they will probably won't be as it is also not a good idea to leave it in the car in the parking lot.
The only ones who benefit from "gun free zones" are the criminals...they don't care what the law says.

You didn't mention victim number four, Gerald, so how were we to know? Incidentally, I feel really bad about victim number four. The police screwed up. Stayner killed Victim number four AFTER the police had already interviewed him about the Sund murders, failed to make the connection, and let him go.

The Ranger can lament all they want but CCW is now allowed and they will not know as there never dis who is armed or not. In all propbability the number of CCW at NPS will be very small and have little or no impact.

The kids will not know and neither will their parents if a gun scares them so. Poaching will not increase since that is still illegal and this change has nothing to do with poaching. Most of those concens are just Gun scared hysteria.

A very good point is that guns will not be allowed in buildings and that presents a practical problem. Guns can not be left safely in camp since there is very little security and the need to prevent theft of a weapon is a very high priority.
Problably there will be a cost to secure storage for CCW holders for buildings and that may become a standard item in many states with CCW and prohibitions in several area that secure storage will be a need to provide.
Kind of like spitoons were everywhere when chewing tobacco was more common or ashtrays for smokers.

If I visit a park, say Gettysburg, and want to attend a lecture or a diorama, then a room set aside like a cloakroom but more secure for weapons to be checked for CCW holders. Serial number recorded and a receipt given and then that info given back when the owner retrieves the weapon. Like a check stub. Easily sone but it will add cost to the NPS.

I expect that courtrooms should also do this since they check at entrance and then the guns are not left in unsecure cars where they can be stolen. I believ that Ohio was required to do this when they approved CCW.

So this rule will require changes beyond changing signs and posting new signs at buildings.

Murders have happened on NPS land and the worst in recent times was the young women killed in Georgia, I believe. She stayed alive for several days but was subdued and she fought hard. She was jogging and her dog survived but a gun may have helped her, Her martial training was not enough even against an older man.

The fact is that some murderers do prey on people on NPS land since they think the solitude allows them more free reign to committ mayhem.

CCW in NPS will not impinge on visitors solitude or the children's sensibility. They wil never know any more then they know at a movie or grocery store that someone has a gun hidden.

Criminals hide their guns also so there may be guns already on people with bad intent. This just allows the good guys and possible victims to also be armed and even the playing field.


I presume you're referring to the young woman who was murdered around New's Year Day in 2008, while hiking in Georgia. The case was widely publicized.

Unless we're talking about a different incident, that case did not occur in a national park. As pointed out above, similar highly publicized cases near Yosemite in 1999 also did not occur in the park.

I'd like to invite those who are convinced violent crime against park visitors is a significant problem to present even a modest analysis of how many of the extremely small number of cases actually: (1) originated on park property, (2) involved park visitors, and (3) could have been prevented if the victim had been armed. Feel free to use news reports, flawed as they may be. I think the results would be revealing.

My personal experience during 30 years of performing law enforcement in 8 parks, including heavily-visited areas such as Grand Canyon and Lake Mead, is that many of the small number of violent crimes reported in park originated outside the park (example: a rape that is reported in a park actually began with an abduction of the victim outside the park, and a homicide reported in a park is actually a body dumping after drug-related violence that occurred outside the park.) Whether or not park visitors are armed is a moot point in preventing such incidents.

Furthermore, many of the small number of violent crimes that do occur in the park are premeditated incidents involving family members or acquaintances (example: the man who pushed his wife over a cliff is a homicide reported in a park, but I doubt that the outcome would have changed if the woman had been armed. If your spouse who is standing behind you gives you a shove over the edge, good luck in whipping out your concealed handgun in time to change the outcome.)

Are park visitors victims in very rare cases? Yes. Whether or not that justifies this major change in parks is more a question of philosophy and politics (i.e. interpretation of 2nd amendment rights) than a public safety issue.

Do the presumed gains for gun supporters outweigh the presumed risks for those who oppose the change? If the new regulations remain in force for an extended period of time, only time will tell.

I've hiked backcountry in Yellowstone three times, many times in Washington, and even more in Alaska. I honestly do not feel the need to have a gun. However, the thought has occured to me that having one of those small .22 derringer 4 shots would be nice- it would make a loud noise and a big flash. Plenty to scare off a cougar or black bear.

The best thing is to be smart when you're in the woods. be kind of loud, and watch where you're going. And have a big can of pepper spray in a holster.

Anonymous -

You've summed up the correct approach for bear safety:

The best thing is to be smart when you're in the woods. Be kind of loud, and watch where you're going. And have a big can of pepper spray in a holster.

I'd like to note one comment about pepper spray for benefit of all readers of this post: it's essential that bear pepper spray be carried for defense against bears. The small canisters of "personal defense spray" purchased by many people for "urban" use are not the same product and are not effective against bears.

Canisters of bear pepper spray have a larger capacity, discharge the product over a much longer range, and have a different formulation than the product sold for use against people. Look for EPA registration for use against bears when you purchase bear pepper spray.

An informal survey of hikers in Glacier a couple of years ago found that about half who were carrying pepper spray had the "human" version, not the correct one for bears. It's an education issue.

Incidentally, although it's not licensed for use against people, if push came to shove, I'd put my money on the average citizen having more luck defending himself against a human attacker by using bear pepper spray than a handgun. In a panic situation, some (many?) untrained shooters will have a hard time hitting their target with a handgun, but it's hard to miss at 30 feet or closer with bear pepper spray.


Regarding bear spray, perhaps you could resolve a dilemma I've been faced with, and my bet is that more than a few other carriers of bear spray also have been confronted with: What's the shelf life on a can of the spray? I've got one that dates to 1991, and I'm guessing I should probably toss it. Do you know of any guidelines pertaining to the viability of the stuff? I've never seen any notation on the cans themselves. But then, perhaps they've added something since '91;-)

Gentle souls... you have nothing to fear from law abiding citizens who are willing, unlike yourselves, to assume the responsibility for legally carrying a firearm. In fact you should find comfort in the thought that help may be near by rather than far away at the ranger station should trouble befall you. Remember when seconds count the police are only minutes away. In the national parks that may be hours.

I just finished watching an old "West Wing" episode where the President and an advisor had recently been shot. A conservative pundit is arguing about how the ability of "law-abiding" citizens to carry guns makes us all safer. One of the President's men points out that three people (including the President of the United States) had recently been shot despite being surrounded by the most heavily armed, best trained security team in the world; and that they had been shot with a weapon legally purchased. Fiction, yes. But seven US Presidents have been shot in real life, four have died. Guns do not stop crime.
Someone above wrote, "When I went to Yellowstone, I had a .44 Mag. revolver in my back back when I hiked and camped in the wilderness areas." Another states that he keeps one in his RV. I have read many such statements on these pages over the past several months that this issue has been debated. How can these individuals argue for the rights of "law abiding citizens" when they themselves are not?
Most people who have actually spent a considerable amount of time in National Parks (as I have, back country and front) will tell you that there is no need for guns there. My daughter spends quite a bit of time hiking (alone and with her girlfriends) in Yellowstone, as well as in the Gallatin National Forest. She has never felt the need to arm herself. However, I do understand that there are grown men out there who are afraid to do so. So be it. Let the buckaroos have their toys. As Kurt implies, there are a lot of issues facing our National Parks. The fact that a handful of machos are walking around our parks with their chests (or something) all swelled up in second amendment pride, thinking that they are protecting the rest of us, is of little consequence in the big scheme of things (a shame, but of little consequence). My daughter, myself and millions of others will go about our business as usual. As has been pointed out, some law-abiding (read that law-breaking) citizens have always carried in National Parks. Carrying and discharging are two different things, after all. I believe that the millions of (truly) law abiding citizens who visit our parks safely every year should be able to expect that, in the event of an illegal discharge, the full weight of the federal government would come down hard....and I mean hard....on the perpatrator. As long as that happens, let the children play cowboys and indians while the adults get back to exploring our beautiful National Parks.
Kurt, get rid of the bear spray. Most manufacturors recommend replacing it about every three or four years (the date on mine is an expiration date).

Well said, Frank N!

Kurt –

Here's some information on the shelf-life for bear pepper spray from a paper ("Bear Pepper Spray: Research and Information") by Dr. Tom Smith, who at the time was at the USGS Alaska Science Center. I'd rate him as one of the top bear researchers in the country:

Know how old your can of bear pepper spray is and discard it when the manufacturer’s published shelf life expires. Safety in bear country is serious business so why trust your well-being to an old, out-dated can of bear spray? As I understand it, the chemicals used in bear pepper spray are stable over time (i.e., contents are good for quite a few years), but that the seals holding the pressurized contents in the can age and will eventually fail, resulting in leaks. So what is the shelf life? I recently browsed a number of bear pepper spray web sites (June 2003) and found that most did not post their product’s shelf life, although a couple did ( e.g., Frontiersman and Counter Assault have shelf lives of 4 years). If the date of manufacture is labeled on the can you are in good shape, but if not, you might do well to write the date on the bottom of the can for future reference. Occasionally I see some very old, nearly empty cans of bear pepper spray out on the trails in Alaska. My peace of mind and personal safety are worth more than that.

I'd say use your '91 vintage can for practice, or as a demo for someone who needs a chance to become familiar with how the spray works :-)

The best news is you've had it this long and didn't need it!

Frank N. wrote:

Guns do not stop crime.

And conversely, banning guns doesn't stop crime.

And if guns really do not stop crime, I suggest all law enforcement park rangers give up their Glocks. Oh, yeah. It's a twist on the ol' favorite: Guns don't stop crime. Park rangers stop crime.

Frank C: The goal of law enforcement officials is to "get the drop" on criminals, just as the goal of criminals is to "get the drop" on their victims. I submit that guns are very effective on offense, somewhat less so on defense.

Ya NAILED it, Frank C!!!!

When liberals like Frank N refer to goofy TV shows like "West Wing" ya know they are in deep trouble with their argument. Garbage in, garbage out.
Uh...pssst...Frank...West Wing is produced by flaming liberals!

Pepper spray can result in unexpected problems. I have experienced the results of an accidental discharge of pepper spray and can testify to its extremely painful and disorienting effects. I flew light aircraft for the National Park Service in Alaska including moving persons to and from remote sites. I banned the carrying of pepper spray inside the plane allowing it only in compartments of the floats where leakage or a discharge would be harmless. Believe me, if a can of bear spray goes off, even in a tiny amount, while you are flying or even driving a car the chances are that you will crash. I would also caution that you carefully note the direction the wind is blowing before using the spray. It can blow back into your face.

I hiked and camped in bear country for many years and had several close encounters with bears, both brown and black. Sadly, I had to use a firearm twice in response to serious attacks. The great majority of bear approaches are bluff charges where the bear does not intend to cause injury. My concern is that people carrying pepper spray or firearms may have a false sense of security and take unnecessary chances.

Ray -

Thanks for a good reminder from someone with first-hand experience that no defensive measure, including bear spray, is without its risks, and safe handling and use of the product is essential.

I think the most important part of your comment is the last sentence:

My concern is that people carrying pepper spray or firearms may have a false sense of security and take unnecessary chances.

The best defense against bears or any other threat is education about proper behavior in any environment - and then using good judgment based on that information. My experience was that a significant percentage of injuries or deaths in parks (and anywhere else for that matter) were the result of poor decisions by people.

Anonymous wrote:

I submit that guns are very effective on offense, somewhat less so on defense.

I suggest you read Professor Gary Kleck, an award-winning criminologist cited in DC v. Heller.

The data "show that, far from defensive gun use endangering them, gun-armed victims who resist robbery or rape are injured far less often than either those who resist with other weapons or than those who submit. Gun-armed victims are also much less likely to be robbed or raped than those who take Handgun Control's advice never to resist."

Do you have any suggested reading for your claim, Anonymous?

Consider a short and incomplete list of 20th-century liberal triumphs, all vehemently opposed by conservatives at the time: the Federal Reserve System; women's suffrage; federal deposit insurance; Social Security; the investor protections of the Securities Acts of 1933 and `34; public power; unemployment compensation; the minimum wage; child labor laws; the 40-hour work week; the Wagner Act, which gave private-sector workers collective bargaining rights; the Civil Rights Act; the Voting Rights Act; federal fair housing laws; Medicare; federally sponsored guaranteed student loan programs; and Head Start. Sandi: Don't try to turn "liberal" into a dirty word. You bet your bippy I'm a liberal. Every ounce and every inch of me; and proud of it.

Conservative wisdom:
"You've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I'm for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord"?
- Rev. Jerry Falwell

That's neo-conservative wisdom, Frank N.

You call the Federal Reserve System a "triumph"?

Just as Congress doesn't have constitutional authority to delegate its enumerated power to declare war to the president, Congress doesn't have constitutional authority to delegate its enumerated power to coin money and regulate the power thereof to a cartel of private banks.

The Federal Reserve creates the business cycle of boom and bust by tinkering with interest rates; the Fed created the housing bubble through this method. The Fed inflates the money supply, which enables us to maintain our vast empire. Inflation disproportionately hurts the poor who find the "value" of fiat paper in their wallet greatly decreased. The Fed has devalued the dollar to 5% of the value it had before the Fed took over.

FDIC. What a joke! Unnecessary if we abolished the fractional reserve system.

Social Security is an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. A report from the National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that paying Social Security and Medicare benefits to current workers will cost $52 trillion. If these programs were funded by investments, they say, the government would have to set aside $102 trillion ("about 7 times the size of the U.S. economy") to keep the programs solvent. Assuming the government continues to use current tax revenue to pay for Social Security and Medicare, the two programs will consume one-tenth of the federal budget by 2012, almost half by 2030, and 80 percent by 2070. If these and other entitlement programs are factored into the national debt, it is staggering.

Student loans account for one-third of the two to three trillion dollars of consumer debt. Inflating the money supply in the educational sector caused tuition prices to skyrocket over the last 20 years, and graduating students are now the equivalent of indentured servants. Luckily, Obama, and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, seem big on compulsory volunteer service and would like all citizens 18-25 to give two years of their time to the State. After all, as Mr. Emanuel has stated, "Citizenship isn't an entitlement." I certainly prefer the Porn-to-School Act to indentured servitude.

Big government is not an answer. It is not a solution. It is a problem. It almost always exacerbates any situation rather than helping, like a doctor letting blood from a patient as a cure, but the treatment actually weakens the patient. If you think the Leviathan can be tamed if only we chain it to the right masters, think again. History has repeatedly shown otherwise.

The new rules won't result in any real change in the national parks. Anyone with half a brain who goes in the back country has already been carrying, illegally, while the old ban was in effect. The vast majority of national park visitors who see the park by car and wouldn't dream of treading where flush toilets and hot dog stands aren't immediately available, wouldn't and won't be carrying. The only difference is that now, if I end up having to defend myself against a mountain lion or (much more likely) a Stayner or Manson wannabe, I won't have to worry about being prosecuted by the government for exercising one of my fundamental human rights.


So much for the old, tired refrain that all concealed weapons permit holders with half a brain are law abiding if they were all carrying illegally.

Rick Smith

Rick - Concealed weapons permit holders are, by definition, law-abiding citizens. You can't get a CCW if you have a criminal record.

Note that I didn't specify permit holders in my comments. I just said that firearms were being carried by anyone with half a brain. If you wish to exclude yourself from that group, feel free.

Laws that make generally law abiding people criminals because of breaking a stupid rule are bad laws. Laws should not make the law abiding criminals. All people can become criminal by definition with bad laws.