What Would Wildlife Say About Concealed Carry in National Parks?

Much of the debate over the rule change that allows national park visitors to arm themselves has been filled with vitriol. But no one, it seems, has considered the wildlife's point of view.

Instead the debate has been waged over 2nd Amendment rights, fear of drug runners, smugglers, and fellow hikers, fear of dangerous wildlife, and even fear of gun owners.

As the accompanying photo shows, perhaps we should also fear bears that come upon handguns in the parks.


" The right to arm Bears! "

Well, I can forget about a caption contest. I don't think anyone can surpass the genius of RAH.

Kurt, I believe you've come to the same place I have with this issue. By & large this debate is almost irrelevant as it would appear from the comments left over the last 6 months by those in favor of concealed carry in the parks, that these people will and do carry their concealed & loaded weapons into the National Parks regardless of what the law actually is. It seems to me at this point to be a really frivolous point as to whether it's legal or not. At least that's what I gather reading a large majority of the posts by those in support of the rules change.

Now, I would like to thank those who do support the rules change, but don't currently break the law against carrying loaded weapons in the parks for their integrity & respect for the rules as they stand.

As for arming the Bears, I would much rather see them supplied with unicycles, juggling pins, & russian vodka! Drunk Bears with handguns, now that's something to worry about!

If that ain't a great caption, I don't know what is... :-D

i don't know as long as they pass the back ground check it seems ok to me but again old Yogi bear being smarter then the average bear (addicted to picnic baskets) could turn to armed robbery to feed his habit. Freedom is always a too edged sword!

I bet if someone was getting their butt chewed on by a wild animal . They would not Complain if someone who happened by had a concealed carry permit , I bet they would be more than happy then.

If the bear shoots alot you could really be in trouble, unless he runs out or rounds

Concealed weapons in parks don't bother me, as long as the guns stay concealed. If some idiot gets caught brandishing it, or poaches an animal, throw the book at him! It should be difficult to prove that some animal was a real bodily threat. Also, if they are making noise by shooting cans at dusk, they should be easy to find, and fined.

While weapons might provide a level of comfort to some, I think most hikers would get tired of carrying a heavy hunk of metal in their otherwise lightweight pack.

I guess we really should ask the Bears. After all, we certainly know that all the rapists and robbers and murders don't want us to be able to protect ourselves. So I'm sure a bear would be plenty pissed off if he attacked someone and they pulled a 44 out on him? What do you think? Remember, once your dead, by ANY means, YOUR EXTINCT.

To all those who respect their First Amendment rights but have no respect for the Second Amendment. Show me any animal in any park, anywhere in the world, not just our national parks, that can carry on an intelligent conversation against the second amendment, & I'll give up my rights under the second amendment!!! Like the animal's in the article that cannot speak, those who trample our second amendment rights, also cannot conceive those of us who respect our second and first amendment rights!! I also find that most of them also cannot carry on an intelligent conversation about the second amendment! I feel truly sorry for those people who are ignorant about guns and the people that respect them and use them as many people who like to use Golf clubs.

I have owned and used firearms from my pre-teens. My father trained me to be a hunter. I certainly am not an anti gun nut, but I believe that there should be limits to the right to own and possess firearms. All rights have reasonable limits. I have no problem obeying laws and regulations limiting the carrying of personal loaded firearms on airplanes, trains, busses or in most parks. For those who feel they cannot feel safe without a gun strapped to them, simply go where you are permitted to carry. There are lots of national forests and other public lands that allow the possession of a firearm. Why not respect the right of people who prefer the idea of being where guns are not permitted by the general public? To me that seems a fair exchange.

I really wish someone would explain to me why anyone thinks they need to carry a concealed weapon in a national park... In fact, why are we the only country obsessed with the desire to carry guns everywhere we go? Any questions about how we got to the point of believing we need to carry a conceal weapon in a national park? This seems ridiculous! & I was raised with rifles & handguns, enjoy recreational target shooting, & have worked in a pack-in hunting camp in Wyoming, so don't tell me I'm anti-gun!

oh yeah - not to steal RAH's thunder, but his comment was a bumpersticker in the late 70s/early 80s

CCW allowed in NPS should not have any effect since it would only be used in dire circumstance and all here has indicated NPS are generally very safe. Normal prudent human behavior for animal encounters should keep any need for a CCW holder to use the weapon to shoot an animal.

Visitors shold not be aware since it is concealed. The big diiference is for drivers not having to disarm every time they cross a NPS boundary while driving.

Enviromental impact is non existant since discharge except for self defense is not allowed and not the purpose of CCW holders.

As to Mr Bane, I disagee why should not Americans enjoy the second amendment rights in NPS? Why are we to be restricted to National Forests? The restriction is not logical.

No one has the right to deny another of their rights. So NPS visitors do not have a right to deprive gun holders of their rights. The only right the non gun people have is to their own choice. They can not decide for me what rights I should enjoy or not. I do not have that right to tell them what rights to exercise or not!

So people who prefer to be where guns are not permitted want to restrict others rights, but think they have a right to dictate what rights other should enjoy and where they can enjoy them.

Sorry I do not believe that is good reasoning. No one has superior rights to say that another can not exercise their right to free speech, own, keep and bear arms, free expression and practice of religion, and the right of free assciation. My fourth amendment rights are the same in NPS lands as in any city.

So Mr Bane's suggestion is inherently unfair.

Oh I am glad you all enjoyed my caption.

Maybe someday there will be parks where the game animals hunt humans and vice versa. I read SF story where that happened. I would not be surprised if hunters would not take that challenge.

What would wildlife say about cars in national parks?

Cars kill tens of millions of animals on our nation's highways each year. It's really not a pretty picture.

CCW permit holders do not use their weapons on protected wildlife, and I challenge the editors and readers of this site to produce any evidence to the contrary.

Those who drive in a national park, however, are guilty of killing some form of wildlife, whether insects like dragonflies, beetles, bees, or endangered butterflies, or chipmunks, squirrels, birds, deer, bears, endangered panthers, kangaroo rats, coyotes, skunks, bob cats, snakes, bats, foxes, raccoons, tarantulas, toads, turtles, opossums, and on and on.

Why, when this site covers repaving park roads, do the editors and commentators of this site not ask if we have "considered the wildlife's point of view"? Not to do so--while embracing a red herring, appeal-to-fear fallacy that law abiding CCW permit holders will illegally kill wildlife--is pure hypocrisy.

Oh, and by the way, just in case anyone takes that photo seriously, the gun has clearly been photo shopped into the photo, and poorly; it's pure propaganda being spread by the anti-gun lobby.

What about "controlled" burns? Doesn't this activity kill lots of animals in the name of "ecosystem management" ? What about the seemingly arbitrary decision to let a forest fire "burn itself out" ? Depending on the time of year these ghastly infernos can burn through a lot of wildlife.

Again, as Frank has already pointed out, and I was a ranger too, the biggest single killer of wildlife in parks are ROADS. I can't tell you how many critters I've had to scrape off the road or shoot after being wounded by a car.

This issue is a non-starter with me and as I've said before: guns, the more the merrier whether it be in the city or the wilds of God's great open spaces.

Camper shot by bear who found drug dealer's hand gun left on ground in the National Park... oh this is good, what a storiy for the media.

Does anyone here actually think that drug dealers bother with taking classes for a concealed carry license? They break laws! This will have no affect on them one way or the other... And they didn't go to thier local gunshop and purchase it legally either.

God forbid, I wonder how attitudes would change if a child was being attacked by a bear for getting just a little too close by accident and a law abiding licensed gun owner camping next to you saved that child's life? This is a more realistic scenario. This is not the big city that you live in, this is Wild life and we are invading thier territory. We need to protect it, understand it and respect it. But there is nothing wrong with being prepared to deal with it when things go wrong.

Too bad the anti-gunner's don't have any idea just how many guns travel through the National Parks system on a daily basis right now without incident.

Great topic and I'm glad it's come up again. First of all anti-gun people refuse to accept the fact that not just anyone can carry a handgun into a National Park and when they do, it cannot be into a concession area or park office. Secondly, only licensed and trained concealed carry persons would be allowed to carry and only in states where there is a reciprocity agreement with their home state where they are licensed. So someone from Texas cannot carry a handgun in Yosemite because California doesn't recognize a Texas CCW license. Simple. Illinois and Wisconsis don't issue CCWs so they don't recognize anyone. Personally, I feel this is a mistake because U.S. tax dollars are going to support all fedaral parks and a bona fide CCW permit holder should be allowed to carry, but the argument came up that in the event of a violation, the CCW holder would be prosecuted under the laws of the state the park is in.

Sigh, so much for trying to bring a little levity to this worn-out topic.

Perhaps it is time to take on the roads and all those killer cars, trucks and buses. At least then we'd know for sure what was driving the decline in national park visitation!

I do not claim original credit for my "Right to Arm Bears" That is a title to a book published by Baen books.
It was just appropiate to the picture.

Thanks for trying Kurt :) This worn-out argument could use a little smile now and then.

A nice touch of levity on this topic, Kurt - it was worth a try:-)

Kurt your humorous post has more comments than most so I think it was sucess. Of course those who are opposed and those for CCW in parks have passionate feelings about the issue, that is why posts on these subjects gather so many comments.

I think most of us enjoyed the humor. It was a nice light touch.

The majority of people who visit national parks cannot read a bear. That is why Grand Teton and other parks do things like the Wildlife Brigade.

In response to RAH, people don't follow normal prudent rules around wildlife in parks. If they did parks would not need to fund positions like the wildlife brigade. I have seen a young curious griz approach people with no intention of attacking... however visitors don't know that and many react the wrong way by, screaming, turning to run, or otherwise panicking.

I believe, in those emotionally charged moments, a visitor with a gun may harm/or kill a protected species (or perhaps worse, kill or injure a person).

I vote we give gun topics a rest on NPT. We aren't ever going to agree, and it is getting a bit tedious to read the same old points over and over.

Rick Smith

"What about "controlled" burns? Doesn't this activity kill lots of animals in the name of "ecosystem management" ? What about the seemingly arbitrary decision to let a forest fire "burn itself out" ? Depending on the time of year these ghastly infernos can burn through a lot of wildlife."- Beamis

Controlled burns don't often kill wildlife. See:

Fire at the wildland interface: the influence of experience and mass media on public knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions

There are many more examples of literature documenting the mortality of wildlife associated with wildland fires and controlled burns.

Cars on the other hand do impact (no pun intended) wildlife numbers.

However, the difference between allowing cars (or even restricting transportation to mass transit) into the parks and allowing armed visitors into the park, is that without transportation most visitors would not be able to enjoy the park as the organic act allows.

Not allowing loaded weapons into parks doesn't inhibit the park from achieving the requirements set forth by the organic act. While allowing loaded weapons into the park may actually go against the regulations of the organic act. However, nobody will know for sure until a study is done.

As an old friend of mine used to say: "Wolves don't vote, piping plovers don't lobby, and ginseng doesn't contribute to political candidates...unfortunately!!

Bill Wade
Chair, Executive Council
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees

Well Lee, we will see if your belief is correct or mine. Time will tell. I do not beleive that more deaths of wildlife will occur from CCW holders than happened before without considering many were carrying without the legal sanction.

The panic behavior that visitors exhibit when coming face to face often already has tragic results when the animal follow the chase instinct. But surprisingly actual history has not indicated that to have happened very often, people do read the NPS advice and do follow directions. However on actual hostile attacks between wildlife and humans, the use of firearms have saved humans. I think that is the correct result.

So to see some accounts of cougar attack this cite has listings http://users.frii.com/mytymyk/lions/attacks3.htm
This is not limited to NPS settings.

I too commend you for attempting to bring in some levity. It was a nice change. I have seen and responded to quite a few posts and have been thinking..... Why don't they let us first carry paintball guns concealed! Then they could count the number of paint rounds expended on animals, signs, people, or whatever. Then we would have an accurate account of the impact real guns would have! ( Unless, of coarse, all the lefties buy paintball guns and go buck wild (pun intended) on wildlife and such) But they (lefties) wouldn't do that would they? On another note, I wish all the pro- gun people would stop making us look like idiots. The 2nd amendment has little to NOTHING to do with CCDW! It says "a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." There is NOTHING in there giving us the right to carry concealed! It gives us the right to own guns ! If anything it says right there, bear arms.... meaning to show or have, as in bear your backside, which is what you do when you try to use the 2nd amendment to argue for concealed carry.

PS- can anyone "read" bears? I believe the last guy that thought he could and actually "lived" with them named Timothy Treadwell, the so called self -taught expert, sadly was killed by a bear in 2003. A tragic death for sure.

A very thoughtful response. Common sense sholud rule. CCW permit holders are not just gun owners or registered gun owners. They have gone the extra mile for some training (though minor) and a back ground check to make sure they are not convicted felons.

Environmental Impact Report? For what? CCW carriers aren't going out there to target practice. What a waste of taxpayer money. How can you forecast animal incidents with CCW carriers that haven't happened?

Nobody can predict bear behavior (especially over a long period of time). However, it is possible to read their behavior in a way that will help a person predict their next move. I am not talking "horse whisperer" reading, but bear experts can tell you if a bear is acting aggressive or is unconcerned.

So... Anonymous seems to think that many CCW holders are already breaking the law... From what other CCW holders are saying that is not true. Who is right?

This is just a thought, but the illegality of having a loaded weapon in parks may be enough of a motivation that CCW or CCDW (I don't know which acronym is correct...) who have been in parks arm themselves with other defenses or they just are more patient when it comes to bear/human interactions.... (They ask questions first, shoot later)

I could come up with theories (as could every other person here), but a study is really what is needed. The challenge will be to have one done that doesn't get challenged and held up in court for the next 10 years. And good luck to the researcher who tries to get that study through the Office of Management and Budget. OMB doesn't like studies investigate polarizing topics.

Actually, if more people were armed, then animals would be afraid of people and stay away from them like they used to rather than thinking that they are unarmed prey like the Mt. Tamalpais lady. Oh, that's right! People were more worried about the orphaned cats than the orphaned kids. There are also National Forests that have been taken over by druggies, so a few law-abiding citizens killing them would be a good thing.

Bears shoot in the woods? You mean I had it wrong all these years?

Folks, I think the bottom line here is that in general, the public is irresponsible. Adding guns to our peaceful National Parks will just add violence. Anyone can argue about the few "drug dealers" or anyone who disobeys laws that will ultimately carry weapons in the NPS may/will rob and/or murder others. What I believe will occur in our NPS by allowing CCW is the unlawful killing of animals in so called "self-defense", hot tempers leading to grabbing a gun, and again irresponsible people target shooting, littering and/or ruining the natural landscape and maybe even killing someone else accidentally. Guns, in general are not needed nor (in majority) wanted in our peaceful NPS. I read the comments here all the time, but have never posted here before. This topic disturbs me. I only see this being an issue from a disgruntled Presidents slash and burn policy while exiting office. I am not affiliated with any party nor do I see a need for a political discussion and I am not a "gun hater". I believe guns have a place in our society, just not in our NPS. In the grand scheme, there have not been problems in our NPS, just think what problems are going to come about allowing CCW in the parks. Its just my humble opinion.

First of all, the premise that the public is irresponsible is not one I accept. If that was true then we should not rule ourselves but rather have rulers imposed on us like divine kings.
Members of the public may exhibit irresponsible behavior and that should not be santioned and they should be educated as to the error of their ways. So recklesss discharge , shooting at signs and animals without cause should be prosecuted as it is already illegal and will remain so.

The concerns that Bryan have are the same concerns that people expressed in various states about allowing CCW in the first place. Wild shootouts and road rage and inconsiderate shootings. However the result has proved that to be false. In the states that allowed CCW, many who were opposed have changed their minds since these fears did not come to pass.

So the evidence has not shown these concerns to have validity. Based on that I expect the same result in NPS. No real change and no hot tempers resulting in bad shootings.

Since the rule is effect we will wait and see. I trust that the CCW holders will validate that trust as they have in 48 states.

Red Mountain Rob

I've just recently had to come to face this issue in my own life. I have hiked many a mile, climbed most of the 14'ers in Colorado and not once carried gun while hiking. But things in my life have changed, I'm older, retired, my health is not what it once was, moved to a new area and no longer think I can get myself out of most any jam by my wits.

Since moving here I have attended various seminars and workshop on wildlife and the environment. My passion is photography not hunting, and have been told by virtually every person, protect yourself, you can become the hunted. I have been told in private and heard it said at seminars, and I paraphrase, you cannot have a fire in this park. Period. But if your life is at stake, build a fire.

So what would a hungry bear say about me looking back at him? Ahh, a quarter pounder with cheese!

I have enrolled in a class to learn about weapons and will get a concealed carry permit.

Good for you Red Mountain Rob. May you never have to use the weapon against any predator human or animal.

Remember bears may be armed and cougars get hungry. With your fire they can get a lot more than a quarter pounder. Many days of nicly cooked meat.

But seriously you will find that most gun info indicates handguns are a poor choice against bears. The bullet just does not penetrate enough to stop them. That is why rifles with a better caliber are used to hunt big game and bears.

I truly hope that you are right RAH.

I do also Bryan. the past evidence in NF and the states have been so far good. No one wants what you fear. The primary difference is that most people equate guns and criminals and since criminals do bad things with guns that bleeds over into fear what decent people will do. But guns are just a tool used for ill or good.

Our parks are valuable to Americans but CCW should not impact that at all. Any irresponsible use should be cracked down hard. Part of that is continuing education at ranges and hunting to use guns responsibly and to follow the rules. Most gun users are very responsible, they understand the risks too well. I have taken a greenie to the trap range and when he made a mistake , three of us instantly corrected him at the same time. It made an impression that gun safety is very important.

I would like to see gun safety education in high schools and rifle teams so more young people get the right lessons rather than what they get from videos and movies. I want people to be competent, not afraid but use these tools responsibly.

That is one reason why CCW holders have a better record than even police in gun handling and incidents becasue they have to jump through many hoops and all the gun community emphasizes responsible use. This has to be a continuing effort.

What would the wildlife say?
Nothing...they can't talk, and if they could they would say "what's that thing? if they could see it...but they can't 'cause it's CONCEALED.

Rick Smith wrote on February 22nd, 2009:

I vote we give gun topics a rest on NPT.

I concur.

Search for gun on National Parks Traveler, and you'll get 9 pages of results. With over 500 comments on the articles pertaining to the rule change on the first two pages alone, I agree with Mr. Smith that it is indeed a topic that has been shot to death.

However, those 500 comments show that people flock to the debate. All those comments generate content for the Traveler, and that content increases traffic from search engines, and, presumably increases readership.

As such an unofficial contributor, I would like to humbly ask for some consistency in comment moderation on the gun debate and on other topics, too. Many ad hominem attacks and vitriolic comments go unchecked while others are monitored for merely their tone. (Search for "idiot" on NPT and you'll get a few pages of results; six on the first page comment on the gun debate.) I agree with Mr. Repanshek that ad hominem attacks only detract from the debate, and I hope to see fewer on the site in the future.

At any rate, the debate will rage on, and it should take place on the Traveler. This webzine provides the best and most popular discussion on national park issues and politics on the entire web. Its slick, easy-to-use design and coverage of issues are unparalleled. Its readership is broad and deep. My many thanks to the editors for their hard work and efforts to maintain this site.

Oh but Tom when was the last time you read the 2nd Amendment and the old version of 36 CFR 2.4 in the same sitting? It doesn't take a lawyer to figure out that this is not a 2nd Amendment issue. Granted it makes a nice soap box and people will listen if they think their rights are restricted, but it's just a wolf in sheeps clothing. You had the same rights granted in the 2nd Amendment with the old 36 CFR 2.4 While on the subject of 2nd Amendment rights ask the NRA why you are not allowed to carry with a valid CCW permit at their annual meetings?

At the last NRA convention. People were allowed to carry with a CCW. The only venue that disalllowed was when McCain spoke due to Secret Service rules for security. This convention was held in Lousville KY which allows open carry and conceal carry. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/may/18/blogging-gun-porn-nra-convention/

Sorry to have to make this correction but this allegation was false at the last convention.