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Yellowstone National Park: Poster Child For Goofy Gun Laws

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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.

Comments

JD - you are so wrong! Read the 2nd amendment again. Nowhere does it give you the "right" to CCW or open carry a fire arm, anywhere! The 2nd was established when we were at war and the need to arm citizens against an aggressor was vital to our new nation. The 2nd amendment was not established to allow individuals to protect themselves from wildlife that might choose to eat them while they wander through the woods. The 2nd amendment was not established to allow you to protect yourself from an individual with felonious intent on the streets of New York. The 2nd amendment was established to protect this new nation from aggressors looking to destroy our new democracy.


Mr. Smith,

I appreciate your perspective. I might be underplaying this. I can only go on what I see happening now. The individuals carrying weapons in parks who are getting arrested do not have concealed weapons permits.


Chief--

The spread of weapons in parks makes what you describe--While I appreciate the "what if's" I can tell you from being a ranger in one of the crown jewels the only time I responded to "shots fired", both in camping areas, resulted in off duty police officers shooting through tent walls because they thought they heard a bear all the more likely. That is what I am worried about. Shooting at night through tent walls in a campground is not responsible gun use, and these officers were far more hiighly trained than the average concealed weapons permit holder.

Rick Smith


"If Guns Kill People, Do Pencils Write Mistakes"? This was in the back window of a car in front of me the other day. The point of all of this is people right? Those of us who are charged with day to day operations in parks were ready for the gun law. It's our job. It's also our job to understand intent of the law. While I appreciate the "what if's" I can tell you from being a ranger in one of the crown jewels the only time I responded to "shots fired", both in camping areas, resulted in off duty police officers shooting through tent walls because they thought they heard a bear. I’m far more worried about our “visitors” who carry guns in parks who don’t have concealed weapons permits (felons in possession). I’m also far more worried about the “visitors” who consume large quantities of alcohol and careens down the road. I’m far more worried about the “visitor” who takes advantage of the unsuspecting tourist who left their possessions in the car at the trail head….

You want to really see people get upset look at the ATV laws for park units in multiple states. There’s a fun one to deal with….


Just make it like old west and let everyone open carry! Ok everyone who is legally entitled to carry. This concealed is crap! Makes me look like I got a hip tumor!!!


That laws respecting the right to carry arms have been somewhat liberalized by this rule change is a good thing in and of itself. Civil liberties are like that, but their rightful expansion often comes with some confusion and getting-used-to.

Greatly relaxing carry laws or removing the licensing requirements would surely make for less confusion, but such moves are probably unwarranted or unlikely. I firmly suspect that the best solution is a national reciprocity bill, and we are sure to see one coming along soon. There can really be no other way ... currently, 48 of 50 states issue (in one form or another) licenses to carry protective arms. They too issue driver licenses ... but at this time, carry licenses are not nationally-reciprocal like driver licenses are. There can be no other way but to make the licenses nationally-reciprocal, and draw boundaries around some maximally-restrictive standard.

Indeed, the best solution is to make all carry licenses nationally-reciprocal, and to define some maximally-restrictive standards. That way, carriers would know what is maximally restrictive ... and more liberal states could relax those maximal standards as they see fit.


James Watts, DOI secretary under Reagan put the regulation that guns had to be dissambled and not available .

Yeah, James Watt, a well known liberal, under the authority and guidance of President Ronald Reagan, put in place new restrictions on your ability to lawfully carry firearms.

Do you really need supporting materials to understand how that simply could not be true?

In case you do, here is some history gleaned from a variety of sources:

Prior to this latest change, the National Park Service (NPS) last promulgated a regulation on weapons on June
30, 1983 as part of a thorough revision of NPS rules. In general, the regulation prohibits the possession of weapons in parks but provides several significant exceptions. One of the most significant exceptions allows the possession of weapons in vehicles or in temporary lodging if the weapon is temporarily inoperable or is packed, cased or stored. Thus the NPS rule does not impose a general ban on the possession of weapons or firearms.

Prior to the 1983 regulations, the NPS last adopted system-wide regulations in 1966. The regulations of 1966 contained a provision on the possession of weapons at 36 CFR section 2.11. Under the 1966 regulations, the NPS prohibited the possession of firearms, traps, nets, and weapons in “natural and historical areas” of the national park system. “In recreational areas the above referenced items may be used or possessed in accordance with applicable Federal, State or local law.” 47 FR 11602

The 1966 regulation states:
2.11. Firearms, traps, and other weapons.
(a) In natural and historical areas and national parkways the use
of…firearms…is prohibited. The possession of such objects or
implements is prohibited unless they are unload (sic) and adequately cased,
or broken down or otherwise packed in such a way as to prevent their use
while in the park areas….
(b) In recreational areas (except national parkways) the use or
possession of all firearms shall conform with all applicable Federal, State
and local laws…The possession of loaded firearms…in developed,
populated, or concentrated use areas is prohibited.

NPS 1966 regulations prohibited the possession of weapons and firearms. The 1983 regulations liberalized the conditions for the possession of firearms by establishing exceptions that did not exist in 1966. On the other hand, the 1983 regulations tightened the condition for the possession of firearms by eliminating the different standard for recreational areas. But, in the final analysis, the 1966 regulations used very similar language as the current rule at 36 CFR 2.4(a)(3), in that firearms may be possessed in parks as long as such firearms are unloaded, cased, broken down or packed away.

The NPS regulations were revised in 1941 too:

2.11 Firearms, etc.
(a) Firearms…are prohibited within the parks and monuments, except
upon written permission of the superintendent. Visitors entering or
traveling through the parks and monuments to places beyond shall, at
entrance, report, and, if required to do so, surrender all such objects in
their possession to the first park or monument officer, and, in proper cases,
may obtain his written permission to carry them through the park or
monument sealed. Failure to obtain such written permission shall be
deemed a violation of this section.

The 1941 NPS regulation was more restrictive on firearms than any of the successive rules. But one thing the 1941 regulation shares in common with the rules of 1966 and 1983 is that guns may still be possessed in parks but ONLY if sealed, i.e. rendered temporarily unusable. Unlike the successive regulations, the 1941 rules required an NPS issued written permit to possess the sealed firearm while in the park or monument. Note that the 1941 regulation defines “parks” and “monuments” to include national military parks, national battlefield parks, national historical parks, national parkways, Boulder Dam recreation area national historic sites, and battlefield sites and miscellaneous memorials. 36 CFR 2.1 (1941)

Prior to the 1941 revisions, on June 18, 1936, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes promulgated the first set of
general NPS regulations ever adopted under the Organic Act of 1916 (16 U.S.C. 3). The first NPS regulations say this about firearms:
8. Firearms, etc. - Firearms…are prohibited within the parks and
monuments, except upon written permission of the superintendent or
custodian. Visitors entering or traveling through the parks and
monuments to places beyond shall, at entrance, report, and, if required to
do so, surrender all such objects in their possession to the first park or
monument officer, and, in proper cases, may obtain his written permission
to carry them through the park or monument sealed. Failure to obtain
such written permission shall be deemed a violation of this regulation.

The 1936 regulations permitted possession of a firearm in a park upon the issuance of a NPS permit, and then only if the firearm were “sealed.”


Beamis,

I am a native-born, been-here-all-my-life Tennessean. I wear my camo and drive my pickup truck with pride. I come from a rural, agricultural background, and live in a community of less than 5,000 people in one of the reddest counties in the state. I shop at WalMart nearly everyday and spend most of my money there. I am a 'redneck Southerner', more or less.

But prepare yourself. You might not understand this next part...

I am a Sierra Club member. I don't think that guns belong in national parks.

And I'm not the only person who can be described by both paragraph #1 and #3. So please, do everyone a favor and stop painting people with such a confrontational and broad brush. It's polarizing and not constructive in the least, and gives Tennesseans a bad name (and we wonder why our state is seen as backwards and hick...)


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