Yellowstone National Park: Poster Child For Goofy Gun Laws
For all, including Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who thought the rules change concerning carrying concealed weapons in national parks would simplify life, Yellowstone National Park is proving the case of some of what's wrong with that rule change.
The problem, you ask? One park, three states, three different sets of gun regulations. Indeed, apparently Idaho has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country when it comes to honoring another state's concealed weapons permit, while Wyoming has reciprocal agreements on concealed carry with 23 other states, Montana with 40.
Cory Hatch of the Jackson Hole News & Guide points out that while a gun owner from West Virginia could legally enter Yellowstone in the Bechler region in the park's southwestern corner, which spills over into Idaho, once that individual crosses into Wyoming they'd be breaking the law since Wyoming doesn't honor West Virginia's gun permits. But if that same individual made it quietly up to Mammoth Hot Springs, which is in Montana, they'd be legal once again.
Beyond the state laws, Yellowstone officials still are trying to sort out exactly what is a "federal building," which are off-limits to guns. While it's obvious a visitor center is a federal facility, how are lodges -- which in most cases technically are owned by the federal government but run by concessionaires -- categorized?
And what about trailhead restrooms? If the later is off-limits to guns, what will an armed hiker, who just came off the trail, do with their weapon if they want to use that restroom?
While Secretary Kempthorne applauded this rule change as a step towards simplifying gun laws in the parks, Yellowstone's situation would seem to run contrary to that interpretation. And, of course, there are other parks that span multiple states: Death Valley, Great Smoky Mountains, Natchez Trail Parkway. Blue Ridge Parkway just to name four.