Regulatory Landscape For Guns to Change in National Parks on February 22

Marble Hall in Sequoia National Park's Crystal Cave. NPS photo.

Is Marble Hall in Sequoia National Park's Crystal Cave a federal facility where you won't be able to carry a concealed weapon under the new gun regulations? NPS photo.

A controversial rule change concerning firearms in national parks takes effect February 22, a change likely to cause confusion and raise concerns over personal safety, but one also that could go largely unnoticed and give some a measure of personal security.

Foisted upon the National Park Service in a most curious way -- attached as an amendment to legislation that had nothing to do with national parks but everything to do with addressing credit cards -- the legislation has kept Park Service staff meeting for months on how to clear the way for park visitors to carry not just concealed weapons if they hold the requisite permits, but to openly carry rifles and shotguns.

Problems the Park Service hopes to have sorted out by February 22 include defensible definitions for what constitutes a federal facility -- Are the labyrinths that define Mammoth Cave? The warming huts in Yellowstone? Open-air facilities such as the Children's Theater-in-the-Woods at the Wolf Trap National Park for Performing Arts? The communal bathhouses at Curry Village in Yosemite? And they hope to have carefully navigated the various state laws that might use "firearms," "gun," "weapons," or some other nomenclature in their particular statutes.

Each park also is expected to have a handy information card for visitors that explains the rule change and outlines the applicable gun regulations for that park. But what looks good on paper might not look so good out in the field. For instance, how might rangers in parks with visible wildlife, such as Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Theodore Roosevelt, react if a visitor grabs his rifle simply to look through its scope to get a closer view of an elk or bison?

While the rule change has been applauded by many 2nd Amendment backers, there are ongoing efforts in New York, California, and Maine to block it in their states. In Maine, a legislative committee is expected late this week to consider a bill (see attached) that would circumvent the rule change for units of the National Park System in the Pine Tree State -- Acadia National Park, St. Croix Island International Historic Site, and the Appalachian Trail -- by making the previous firearms rule, which allowed weapons to be transported through parks as long as they were unloaded, broken down, and out of reach, the law.

"There is concern in a number of state legislatures by the fact that the new law, which will go into effect February 22, is NOT limited to concealed firearms being carried by permitted individuals with training. The new law allows for any kind of firearm to be carried in a national park unit unless the state forbids it," the National Parks Conservation Association said. "Some state legislators are troubled that that their state laws may not sufficiently keep firearms, such as holstered pistols, rifles, and semi-automatic weapons, from being openly carried in national park units in their states. They also worry that there could be adverse impacts on tourism.

"NPCA supports any effort at the state level to retain the firearm rules developed during the Reagan administration that simply require firearms to be unloaded and put away while visiting a national park unit. This is a reasonable requirement that has proven successful at maintaining America's parks as safe family friendly destinations. It has also served as an invaluable tool in combating poaching and harm to historical resources."

In Maine, Friends of Acadia, a non-profit that fosters and supports stewardship of Acadia, worked to see "LD 1737" introduced to the Legislature.

“The previous rules were working perfectly fine here in Acadia, and I think that for, especially for the rangers, the new firearms laws present a challenge," said Stephanie Clement, conservation director for the friends group. The old rule, she went on, made it easier for rangers to spot possible poachers; anyone carrying a firearm could be stopped. Under the rule change, it would no longer be that simple, she said.

“Really, it was a very effective anti-poaching tool. It was an opportunity for a point of contact, so that point of contact will be gone," said Ms. Clement.

Additionally, there are many park visitors who worry the rule change could actually endanger their personal safety, not enhance it, she said. While those who endorse the rule change say it will give them a greater sense of safety from wild animals and human predators, Ms. Clement said there are many others who dread the thought of pitching a tent next to another where there might be firearms, or hiking up trails with others carrying guns.

“It’s going to be a scary thing for a lot of visitors who don’t live in the Alaska wilderness or in places where people are used to seeing folks with open firearms," she said.

For the National Park Service, sorting through the regulatory changeover has been somewhat daunting. Under the change, firearm regulations in a specific park would resemble those of the state in which the park is located, except, however, when it comes to federal facilities. They would still be off-limits to visitors with guns. But what is a federal facility? Certainly, park headquarters and visitor centers would be considered federal facilities. But what about restrooms, warming huts, amphitheaters, or concession facilities?

“The federal facility law, the way I understand it, defines a federal facility as a building where federal employees work on a regular basis," explained David Barna, the Park Service's chief of communications. "Now, trying to find out what ‘regular’ means can also be difficult. We’re assuming that means if they work there weekly, that that’s probably a federal facility. But that would not include our concessions facilities.”

Campgrounds, shower facilities, and restrooms likely would not be federal facilities, since they're not regularly assigned duty stations, he added, "even though we may go in and clean them."

And yet, what about the campfire ring where there are regular ranger talks? Probably not a federal "facility," as there's no roof overhead, said Mr. Barna.

"So at a campfire talk, you would be able to carry your firearm," he said, only to pause before adding, "and again, all these things have so many caveats. In Virginia the state law says if it’s a gathering of children, it’s prohibited. So if you were at an amphitheater conducting a children’s program in the summer, in the state of Virginia, they will say that during that program you can’t have a firearm."

That's where the subtle nuances can change from state to state, and why the Park Service hopes to have those handy information cards ready for your visit beginning on February 22.

“We’ve asked all the parks, and we are going to have an all-superintendents phone call, and we’ve asked people to submit those instances where they do need to make a decision, and we’re going to make those decisions and just see how it plays out," Mr. Barna said.

As for Mammoth Cave and other parks with ranger-led cave tours?

“A cave is not a building, it’s not man-made," said the spokesman. "It is a place, however, where federal employees work on a regular basis, and we give tours, and almost all the instances, when you enter these big touring caves you’re entering through a federal facility to get into them anyway, there’s some gatehouse or entrance. Now, a cave out here in the woods, like out here behind my house, probably would not apply. In other words firearms would probably be OK. But in those places like Mammoth and Carlsbad where you actually enter through a federal facility to get into it, you probably could ban the firearms in those places.”

But when it comes to these caves, what constitutes a "federal facility"? At Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park a ticket is purchased at the Foothills or Lodgepole visitor centers. At the cave, you hand your ticket to a ranger and pass through a gate into the cave. So where's the "facility"? A similar setup can be encountered at Mammoth Cave.

“We’re wrestling with those decisions. At some point somebody’s going to have to make a decision and let it be tested, I think," said Mr. Barna.

And then there are the concession facilities. In some parks these lodges and hotels are owned by concessionaires, in others they are park facilities leased to concessionaires.

"Concessionaires also have to operate under their state law. We’re not directing the concessions people for what they should or shouldn’t do," said Mr. Barna. "That’s kind of broken into two pieces. There is, the concessionaire dealing with the public, and there is the concessionaire dealing with their own employees. Someone in a staff meeting said they had heard -- I can’t verify this -- that Xanterra (Parks & Resorts) has as a condition of employment that their employees don’t carry firearms. They don’t want those firearms in the dorms where all of these young kids are, so they as an employer can probably do that for their employees.

"What their restrictions are on doing things for the public are something that those concessionaires are going to have to find out. How do restaurants out in the community operate?" he continued. "What can the owner/operator of a facility in that state do, and that should dictate what these concession operators can do. So it may very well be that you won’t have consistency across the country at restaurants in parks because the state laws aren’t consistent with restaurants.”

Requests made to Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Delaware North Parks, ARAMARK, and Forever Resorts for how they were dealing with the impending rule change were not immediately answered.

While Mr. Barna said there are expectations that some gun owners will show up in national parks on or after February 22 simply to showcase their 2nd Amendment rights, in the long run he hopes the rule change will quickly meld into the background.

“Even in the staff meetings you get that entire breadth of opinion ... people who are really concerned this will be a big issue, but I’m kind of the moderator who comes back and says, ‘You know, in Virginia you can carry these things now. I’ve lived in Virginia for 35 years and it’s not like you walk around the see people carrying openly," he said. "So it shouldn't be any different in the parks than it is in the states you’re in.

"...Certainly there will be those people whose view is, maybe they don’t feel safe because they know someone has weapons there. But remember, there are also those people who now feel safer because they do have their weapons," said Mr. Barna. "And so you’re going to have that whole gamut of opinion. We have had instances and emails from people on both sides of this issue, and certainly we’ve had people who say, back when the rule was proposed, 'The judge killed this, I’m never coming back to a national park until I can bring my weapons and protect my family and myself.'

"We’ve got to stay middle-of-the-road. We’re implementing a law like we implement all laws."

AttachmentSize
Maine-Proposed_Gun_Law.pdf8.28 KB

Comments

It would appear to me that there is a lot of time and energy wasted on this issue. There have got to be some isolated incidents that will be exploited and blown out of proportion, but for the most part common sense on both sides will prevail and this will be a non-issue some time from now.

Mr Barna seems to me to be striking exactly the right tone for a civil servant. No whining, no histrionics. Congress passed a law, and we must uphold it, and refrain from publicly griping about the politics of it. Rather refreshing, really.

Volpe, Unfortunately common sense is often missing from the average park visitor. I can see many cases where "city folk" panic over a wild beast invading the campground and pull out the pistol to shoot it. I have the feeling that it will happen sooner rather than later and some poor innocent child out camping with their family will be hit by a stray bullet. I often have seen visitors beating animals in parks with sticks or throwing rocks at them or sometimes purposely running them over. What is going to happen when they have guns?

I do not think this should be such a big thing. Here in Minnesota when the right to carry concealed firearms was past, the liberals said we were going back to the wild west days, there will be gunfights on Main St. We have not seen any of this, it's public hysteria that blows this out of proportion. In fact the St. Paul Police have stated permit carriers are a very lawful group out of the thousands that carry, one broke the law. I think even the media has to agree that is pretty amicable. We have to try and get over demonizing guns maybe we should outlaw cars going through the park they kill much more then guns?

"I can see many cases where "city folk" panic over a wild beast invading the campground and pull out the pistol to shoot it."

You can't be serious. "Many" cases?

I am not a great fan of the open carrying of firearms. But in some places the laws on the books force people to carry them that way or not carry a firearm at all. If you can legally own a firearm you can carry it concealed in Alaska and Vermont without any type of permit/license. If you don't have a criminal record you can legally carry it concealed. Alaska and Vermont don't have probelms. The Anti Gunners have said over and over again that if state X passes a concealed carry law that blood will run in the streets. That has never happened. In fact as the number of firearms in private hands has went up and the number of people who have obtained permits/licenses to carry concealed firearms the crime rates have gone down. The crime of Murder is down to levels not seen from the 60's. We also hear that it will turn into the wild west. For those who have never studied history and learned all they know about the so called wild west from TV you will be very surprised. In the so called wild west women could walk anywhere in their cities and towns day or night and the chance of them being assulted or worse was almost zero. Women would really welcome that today.

The anti gunners are the reason we have the law as written today. The Interior Dept adopted a rule that would only allow concealed carry. The anti gunners shopped around for a federal judge till they found one who made the rule null and void because the Interior Dept didn't do an Enviornmetanl Inpact Study.

But I don't see a problem. I think it will mostly go unnoticed by the vast majority of people and I believe National Parks will become safer for the Public.

I live in Virginia, and as someone who carries a firearm nearly everywhere I go, it's nice to know that I will be able to visit a national park with my family - and I can do so legally. If we're traveling hours from home to visit a place, I can guarantee you that I'll be armed. When I say "Armed", please understand that I'm a law-abiding citizen and I handle my carrying of a firearm very seriously. My firearm is never touched unless there's a need to do so. Luckily, I have never had a reason to touch my firearm in public. I hope that trend continues. It will be no different if I visit a National Park.

Those of you who disagree with this new law - seriously...nothing has changed for you. You didn't carry a firearm before February 22nd - and you likely won't be carrying a firearm after. People like me aren't going to be walking around in the park twirling guns on their fingers or shooting at wildlife for no apparent reason. The key thing to understand is that there are two types of people who carry firearms. Those like me who do so legally, and those who have no regard for the law and carry a firearm illegally. There are already laws on the books to deal with the latter. Similarly, if someone is in a Nat'l Park and does something that they shouldn't, whether with a firearm or otherwise, there are laws (and associated penalties) to deal with those occurrences as well.

So, really, all this new law does is open the door for law-abiding citizens to live their lives in accordance with state and local laws instead of having those laws trumped by federal restrictions.

Thanks for the article, Kurt.

It would be nice to see the federal government put out some advance info so that people could eliminate guesswork in planning their travels.

The government can be quite good about spreading the word when they see it as a priority- DUI laws, seat-belt laws, 2010 census, ID requirement for returning from lunch in Canada, how to keep your rabbit ear TV running, etc.

North Cascades National Park http://www.nps.gov/noca/faqs.htm says guns are illegal- no hint of an upcoming rule change- responsible travelers left to guess about planning their trip.

Just takes a moment to update a web page with good info: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZYAC3KIakw

"In Virginia the state law says if it’s a gathering of children, it’s prohibited. So if you were at an amphitheater conducting a children’s program in the summer, in the state of Virginia, they will say that during that program you can’t have a firearm."

That statement is simply not true. No such law exists. The closest law is one that says that a handgun cannot be carried into an area being used EXCLUSIVELY for a K-12 school function. If it's not exclusive, then the prohibition doesn't apply.

Poachers have been killing in places like Yellowstone for years. This law will not make it worse.

While I am not a gun owner, and don't personally feel I will ever need to own one, I implore NPT readers to let common sense prevail.
In the past I have opposed legal carry in our National Parks, but I've changed my mind.

Let time be the judge on whether or not this new law should stand as is or be overturned.
Crimes against people and wildlife are hopefully not likely to increase because the overwhelming majority of gun owners are not criminals. And park visitors that do not currently own a gun are not likely to go out and buy one for their next visit.

BUT I also ask in the light of common sense, that if gun related crime does markedly increase in our National Parks, at the hand of legal gun owners, then serious thought and action needs to happen to overturn this unnecessary but probably harmless law.

It might be interesting in California. Open carry of an UNLOADED firearm is legal in cities and unincorporated populated areas. I believe loaded open carry is legal in unincorporated rural areas. However - the law requires that anyone open carrying must submit to any search requested by a peace officer. There's some video of someone submitting to an inspection of his firearm - being required to place his hands against a wall while the officer checks the gun to see that it's not loaded. I've also seen in person a situation where someone was open carrying and the police had their hands ready on their guns just in case he had a loaded weapon and didn't respond well. He was changing his oil in the parking lot of an auto parts store. I think the employees called in someone with a gun. Law enforcement actually doesn't recommend open carry because of the situations where law enforcement has to respond and maybe the open carrier makes a mistake.

There have also been people attempting to bring open carry firearms into businesses only to be told they had to leave.

Parks are a very new experience for many, if not most, visitors and can be full of surprises.

A bear (or any other fear inducing critter) walking into a campground or down a trail next spring will face an increased chance of being shot. Hopefully parks that play host to both bears (or any other fear inducing critters) and humans make a strong effort to educate heat packing visitors about the efficacy of the common handgun and even a long gun at stopping said critters.

-Lee

I suspect the new law will make little difference, except for an occasional unfortunate incident or two. But what I don't understand is why some people - he-man hunter types I guess - claim to be honestly afraid to walk in the woods without a weapon, while thousands of septugenians and young couples with small children do it all the time with nary a thought about it. If I read the Morning Report correctly, more people are killed and injured in the national parks now by guns than by dangerous animals.

"twill be interesting to see how Brooks Camp at [Katmai] handles it, though.

I'm not sure why folks will be uneasy merely because they "know" someone has a gun in the park. Right now many people probably carry guns illegally into these parks. Those people are called criminals and will continue to break whatever laws they like whenever it suits their fancy. By definition no law-abiding gun owner currently carries a gun into these spaces. So, are the people that will be uneasy be so because of what a law-abiding citizen is doing? If so, why aren't they afraid of what the criminals do? Let's face it folks. Laws aren't there to protect us from illegal activity. Laws do nothing more that restrict the actions of law-abiding citizens. Criminals will continue to do as they please. Me, I'd much rather trust a law-abiding citizen with a gun than an armed criminal. That kind of thinking just makes good sense whether the venue is a national park, a school ground, or a bank.

I think it's important to reiterate that the DOI changed the rules to meet the 2nd amendment requirements of protection without allowing ANY long guns. This initial proposal would have allowed for concealed weapons only, and still given rangers the legal right to stop anyone with a long gun and speak to them. This would have effectively given the rangers the same tools to stop poaching and protect the resource while allowing citizens with conceal permits their legal right to protect themselves. It wasn't until after the Environmental study argument was used and a judge issued an injunction that the rider was placed onto the Credit Card bill in congress forcing the NPS to abide by State laws. If that legal action had not been taken by the NCPA (which by the way is chartered to enhance and PROTECT the national parks) the rangers would still have greater authority to perform their duties, and protect the parks.

You're kidding us, right Outdoormjd?

You're going to blame NPCA for an amendment the NRA successfully urged/convinced Sen. Coburn to attach to a bill that had absolutely no connection with national parks?

Put the blame/responsibility where it belongs, on the NRA and the Congress.

I really don't know if it's such a great idea. I'm trying to imagine someone in Yosemite with a CCW permit at a crowded campground. If a bear shows up looking for food and maybe bluff charges someone, is there a chance that someone severely overreacts and tries to shoot 300-400 lb black bear with a handgun? That's of course a big if given training and adrenaline pumping. Even if they could manage to hit it, there are people all around in tents that offer little resistance to stray bullets that could ricochet off the ground or rocks.

I don't buy the argument that "law abiding" means much. It doesn't mean that someone who is well-intentioned might not panic in a pressure situation where a firearm is far more dangerous to people than the animal.

It's funny that the "honest law abiding" gun owners who chafe so much at federal restrictions are so happy given the way this new rule came about. The gun rider attached to a credit card bill was a way for the NRA and their supporters to force their agenda on the rest of us without even going through the debate process. You've got to hand it to them, it was a very clever way for the NRA to game the system. It was skeezy and dishonest, and an exercise on how to stretch the definition of "law-abiding".

P.S. Does anyone seriously think their little handgun will stop that charging bear or moose? Please.

Today's captcha: war ensues (no kidding!)

Protecting ones self from wild animals aside, here is the deal. The 2nd Amendment gives all of us the right to posses and carry firearms period. Not being able to carry in a National Park or anywhere else for that matter is an infringement on that Constitutional right. Just a little food for thought - if one Constitutional right should be limited what about others. If you antis win the fight and severely limit or do away with our 2nd Amendment rights how long will it be before someone else gets a silly notion that another right (pick any of the more than 2 dozen amendments) is not good and must go? And, if you dont think that will ever happen then you are living with your head buried firmly in the sand. Think people. Our Constitution and the rights therein are sacred and vital to our freedom - each and every one of them. If one can fall, then they all are subject to fall. Do you really want that? I hope not...

Having said all that, virtually every law-abiding gun owning person I know is not only trained to use their weapon but are of the character to do so only as a last resort. Can you say the same? Let me pose a question. Suppose a bear came into a camp ground and a law-abiding with a gun was present. Suppose the bear attacked one of your children and the gun owner shot and killed or drove off the bear. Would you be grateful? Now suppose the gun owner did nothing. How would you feel about that? Would you sue them? Think people think...

Bat:
P.S. Does anyone seriously think their little handgun will stop that charging bear or moose? Please.

Well - the movie version of Into the Wild depicted McCandless as bringing down a moose by repeatedly plugging it with a .22LR. I suppose that might be possible, but people I've met who hunted said that anything shot with an unjacketed lead bullet couldn't be eaten unless the wound areas were cut out.

I've read about the San Francisco Zoo case where several officers tried to take town a Siberian tiger with their department-issued .40S&W handguns. It took a lot of from maybe 4 officers, and they reported that it didn't even get phased after the first few. Now a charging grizzly bear with real intent to protect its young and one person with a hangun? I've heard in Alaska, they won't even recommend that. Brown bear self-defense supposedly requires shotgun slugs. Have fun carrying that around.

There was the case of someone legally open carrying on a trail where he shot at a mentally deranged man. Some feel it was an unarmed and otherwise harmless lunatic ranting, but he shot him 3 times in the chest with a 10mm handgun. It sounded to me more like a case where something that was misinterpreted escalated once he started firing shots. I'm sure some feel it was justified, but I'm thinking what might have been if he hadn't been carrying a gun and decided to use it to scare off a few dogs.

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2009/05/16/20090516hikershooter0516.html

On of the main problems that I think is going to arise from this is that state laws are all different. In some of the parks that cover more than one state, the law is going to change depending which part of the park you're in. In Death Valley, which is mainly in CA, you can only carry a weapon if you have a CA permit...they don't recognize other states. But if you're in the NV section then you're allowed to carry. I do have to say it was a lot easier to figure out when it was no guns at all. The new law says that "The Sec. of Interior shall not promulgate or enforce any regulation from possessing a firearm...in any unit of the NPS." To me that's a little confusing due to all those state laws and isn't the White House also considered a NPS unit? Does that mean we can now carry guns there?

One anonymous commenter stated that poaching won't increase, but the persecution of said poachers may decrease. Often the rangers couldn't get enough evidence to persecute for poaching in the parks, but they could get them on having weapons. Now that won't be able to happen anymore.

I do not have a personal issue with people carrying guns. The bad guys don't care what the law is anyway. But I do have an issue with the 2nd amendment simply because (and please don't take this as me having a problem with our rights) that was written long before hand guns existed. That was when almost every person hunted and was a member of the militia. They were also really big guns that were hard to conceal and even harder to load. You took one shot and then took 2 minutes before you could shoot again. The guns now are very, very different and I think our laws do need to change to reflect that.

I'm not a big fan of this new regulatory change, but I would note at the time of the 2nd amendment there were such things as handguns. Handguns of certain types (muskets, flintlocks, muzzle-loaders, etc) were around since the invention of firearms. I'd think most people with a knowledge of American history would know that dueling pistols existed at the time of the Bill of Rights. Perhaps they weren't the large-capacity semi-automatic handguns or modern revolvers. It frankly wouldn't have been hard to conceal a pistol under a coat.

And CAPTCHA for today is "gonad to".

Well, you may carry your weapons all you want. Cool. The new law does not allow USE.

Will there be visitors who freak by someone having a gun? Yep. Will there be folks who want to make a point on Feb 22 and stride into parks armed and open carrying rifles etc.? Yep.

It wasn't that long ago that NPS management wouldn't allow their own sworn officers to wear their weapons in the visitor center, for fear of "upsetting and or scaring visitors."

Be interesting to see how it all plays out.

VGOF Member:
Having said all that, virtually every law-abiding gun owning person I know is not only trained to use their weapon but are of the character to do so only as a last resort. Can you say the same? Let me pose a question. Suppose a bear came into a camp ground and a law-abiding with a gun was present. Suppose the bear attacked one of your children and the gun owner shot and killed or drove off the bear. Would you be grateful? Now suppose the gun owner did nothing. How would you feel about that? Would you sue them? Think people think...

I would think of it as a severe overreaction. I've seen bears in campgrounds, in the backcountry, and on the side of the road. I've also seen people who were freaked out about their presence. If someone started shooting a handgun with live ammunition (especially one that's more effective on humans than large wild animals) in a crowded campground, I'd be more worried about a stray bullet hitting me or someone else than the danger of a bear. Even the NPS doesn't use live ammunition on bears. They use CO2-powered paintball guns, rubber bullets, and pyrotechnics. And they remain calm and generally use them when there is low risk of hitting people.

Unfortunately the laws on concealed carry and/or open carry don't always require that anyone be properly trained in order to get a CCW permit or to open carry.

@y p w - You avoided the question and made up an answer. The question was "if the bear attacked one of your children..." Use of a weapon at that point would not be a "severe over reaction..." Unless you want your kid eaten up by a bear. I would really like to hear your answer to the question I asked...if you are willing to answer. And, please dont tell me a bear would never attack a kid. This is hypothetical...

This article and issue is, to me, much ado about nothing.

Kurt,

Regardless of what state law says, Public Law 111–24 very clearly states firearm.

The Secretary of the Interior shall not promulgate or enforce any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm including an assembled or functional firearm in any unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System if—
(1) the individual is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing the firearm; and
(2) the possession of the firearm is in compliance with the law of the State in which the unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System is located.

As for the definition of a "federal facility", I believe federal law already defines it in 18 USC 930

(g)(1)The term "Federal facility" means a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where Federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.

There will also need to be signs "posted conspicuously at each public entrance to each Federal facility". See 18 USC 930(h)

Gunowners have been dealing with these sort of hysterical, emotional, ill thought out, overreactions, for more than 20 years ever since concealed carry laws throughout the U.S. began to be reformed in 1987 with the passage of a "Right To Carry" law in Florida. Police chiefs and public officials have been publicly issuing their mea culpas when it became clear there would not "be blood in the streets over simple fender benders". This is no different.

Gunowners aren't all that worried about four legged or even legless predators. It's two legged predators that are the danger.

Ken Grubb
Puyallup, WA

I don't really care if people are walking around with guns in most situations, and I certainly have encountered gun owners in National Forests and State Parks without incident. However, this doesn't change two facts: (1) very many of these "law-abiding" gun owners are also complete idiots and (2) many of these people that feel so insecure that they have to bring a gun with them into all kinds of peaceful, civil settings like to use them to create an aura of intimidation.

I don't like being around people that are getting off on the fact that they have a device they can use to kill me. If they're using it for hunting, that's fine, but why the hell do they need to hang out with their guns in the campground? Also, this will certainly lead to the deaths of more megafauna, because (gun owners) will no longer have a need to treat wild animals with proper respect.

Anyway, to conclude my comments, I will say that I mourn the loss of National Parks as a place where you didn't have to worry about ... guns. Also, I noticed the 2nd amendment came up earlier. My suggestion is that gun (supporters) try reading the whole sentence at some point (i'm talking about the "well-regulated militia" that has nothing to do with you...).

This comment was edited. Ed.

Wow. How can you connect this with gun owners having no need to treat wild animals with proper respect? You really pulled that one out of the air. Law-abiding gun owners I know all have the greatest respect for wild animals. Most of us are hunters and live/hunt by a special set of ethics. I guess folks like you dont understand that. Regarding the 2nd Amendment - what part of shall not be infringed do you not understand? Do you even know why the 2nd Amendment exists? So "we the people" - which includes you - can protect ourselves from a tyrannous government. Study our history and think about how our country came into being. It was because out forefathers took up arms against King George and his tyranny. Our Founders wanted to make sure their descendants (that means us) had the right to do the same...You want to infringe the 2nd Amendment? If that happens, then we start down a slippery slope. Which amendment will be next? The 1st, 4th, 22nd? Think man think...

Self-defense against wild animals has a tragicomic element to it. Check out the data on bear mortality in this study (http://www.jwildlifedis.org/cgi/reprint/41/2/298.pdf) and then compare with bear attack data here (http://www.bearrepellent.com/bear%20attack%20news.html).

Apparently, Swedish bears only attack you if you're carrying a gun.

(Or, what I suspect is the real reason: people with guns shoot bears and claim self-defense while unarmed people and bears leave each other alone.)

I'm not going to give an extensive reply because it isn't entirely germane to the article. Instead, i'll refer to my initial statement, where I suggested reading the ENTIRE 2nd amendment, and not just the first half. (Also, you don't actually have a legal right to revolution. It is your right, but don't expect it to hold up in court)

As far as respecting animals go, if you have the proper respect and behave accordingly, you don't need a gun to stay safe. I've been in the presence of bears and mountain lions many times, and I still have most of my fingers.

VGOF, I do have to have to say I'm happy that you know of law-abiding gun owners, because I sure don't. I'm ashamed to say that my family (don't get me wrong, I love them all) is full of rednecks in the worst sense of the word. My brother-in-law has always carried a loaded gun in national parks, regardless of the law, just in case one of those wild animals decided to attack his children. Of course my sister was feeding the bears marshmallows which would probably lead to an attack, but that's besides the point. None of the gun owners that I know personally are law-abiding and I do have to say that's what I'm basing my fear on.

Ranger Holly

Sorry to hear that Ranger Holly. But, just because you dont know any doesnt mean they arent out there. How anyone can label all of us bad based on isolated experiences is beyond me. Here's one for you. I was walking down the street and got chased by a yellow dog wearing a black collar, ergo all yellow dogs wearing black collars are bad.

There are so many misconceptions here!
The new rule is simply bringing the Federal government in line with the law.

For the anti-gun folks, try substituting one of your other rights for "carry a gun" and see how it feels. Would you put up with not being allowed to talk in a federal park, or not being allowed to read or carry a newspaper, or not being allowed to walk through the park with your family?

"what I don't understand is why some people... claim to be honestly afraid to walk in the woods without a weapon"
Same reason the rangers carry guns: 2-legged predators & the occasional 4-legged attack.

"why the hell do they need to hang out with their guns in the campground?"
See above, about 2-legged predators.

"there are people all around in tents that offer little resistance to stray bullets that could ricochet off the ground or rocks"
Apparently written by someone who isn't familiar with firearms safety rules, one of which is to know what's behind your target. If there's a person (or occupied tent) behind the bear attacking the child, then you move to a better position before shooting.

"I would think of it as a severe overreaction"
I don't believe this for a second. Stopping an attack on a child is an over-reaction????

"a way for the NRA and their supporters to force their agenda on the rest of us"
Odd how the phrase "forcing their agenda on us" is almost never applied to the anti-self-defense people, who are doing the same thing.

"many of these people that feel so insecure that they have to bring a gun with them into all kinds of peaceful, civil settings like to use them to create an aura of intimidation..."
Very few gun owners, especially those with permits to carry concealed, do so with intent to intimidate.
Try this, if you can, the next time you're "intimidated" by someone peacefully & legally openly carrying a gun:
mentally remove the gun from the scene. Is the person still behaving in an intimidating way? Then they're a jerk. Otherwise, it's your reaction to an inanimate object that's scaring you.
Cars kill many people every day. Baseball bats, knives, water... all kill people. Are you scared of them, too?

"I don't like being around people that are getting off on the fact that they have a device they can use to kill me... Also, this will certainly lead to the deaths of more megafauna, because (gun owners) will no longer have a need to treat wild animals with proper respect."
Sounds like projection - that's what you think you'd feel or do if you were carrying a gun. It's not reality.

"decided to use it to scare off a few dogs"
If the dogs were threatening his life, he'd be justified defending himself.
Otherwise, the gun wouldn't be used.
You're projecting again.

Dear Bat,

Um....exaxtly what do YOU prefer to use to stop a charging moose or bear???

Anyone who carries a gun anywhere is simply expressing a right guaranteed by the highest law of the land, the U.S. bill of rights. Only a poor gov't would attempt to violate the rights of the American people.

Gov't has grown too big for its breeches already. My carry permit is the second amendment.

Any gov't employee should support and uphold the constitution of the U.S. and if they fail to do so, should be terminated immediately.

Therefore, the lesser law prohibiting or allowing those entering parks or any other U.S. facility is a moot issue.

Have a nice day.

In response to - " try substituting one of your other rights for "carry a gun" and see how it feels. Would you put up with not being allowed to talk in a federal park, or not being allowed to read or carry a newspaper, or not being allowed to walk through the park with your family?"

I understand what you are attempting to say but comparing a person with a gun to a person with a newspaper is silly. Someone reading a newspaper doesn't pose the same threat to me or my family as someone toting a gun around.

And I am just curious... everyone says it is our constitutional right to carry a gun. Why aren't these same people fighting for rights to carry firearms in airports and on planes? And why shouldn't our kids take guns to school? Rights are rights, afterall...

Bernard Schwartz:

Um....exaxtly what do YOU prefer to use to stop a charging moose or bear???


2% OC pepper spray in an extra large size works well; I'm not describing 2.5 oz personal pepper spray. These are allowed in NPS units where the superintendent has approved an exception to NPS weapons restrictions. Studies have suggested that they're considerably more effective (and easier to use) than even large bore firearms on a charging bear.

A handgun isn't likely to stop a bear. And good luck trying to hit one. They're fast and hard to hit when coming at you. Even a couple of shots hitting a grizzly bear in the body aren't likely to make it stop. A mama grizzly defending its young isn't going to be deterred by a little bit of pain. We're talking animals that don't back down from considerably more powerful polar bears.

In any case, where they are black bears, they almost always bluff charge. Where there are grizzly bears, bear pepper spray is almost always approved. I mean, how would you feel if some panicked person with a handgun is trying to shoot a bear in an occupied campground? The reality is that the fear of animals tends to be irrational and I'm far more worried about someone with a firearm overreacting. In any case, you can buy bear pepper spray in almost every NPS unit that had grizzly/brown bears.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bearspraytranscript.htm
http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountrytripplanner.htm#bearpepperspray

I've heard of gun owners who stated that they would prefer pepper spray because it's easier and less dangerous than a firearm.

"there are many others who dread the thought of pitching a tent next to another where there might be firearms, or hiking up trails with others carrying guns"

Do people NOT realize that some people (those carrying illegally) are carrying in the parks now. They are on the trails and in the tents nearby, yet you don't realize this.

Do you really think this isn't happening?

Criminals carry guns wherever they want. This new law will level the playing field and allow law-abiding citizens to carry.

It's the criminals who are carrying now that you should worry about.

If you are going to start throwing around the 2nd amendment lets do the whole thing not just the selected part that fits your needs
"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."
Where does all this come from...English common law as there was not police to protect the people. And scholars have debated and will continue to debate what the true meaning of the full amendment is. Am I afraid of a law abiding citizen with a concealed carry permit...not especially...Am I afraid of the weekend warrior who wants to carry his gun because he is afraid of every two or four legged creature out there...YOU BETCHA! My brains are going to avoid more conflicts than your gun. With that said yes I am a gun owner, yes I have a carry permit...will I carry in a National Park, probably not and if I do you will never know. Its about responsibility and common sense and unfortunately that can't even be given away these days or so it seems to me.

To Bernard Schwartz:

First of all, I would behave properly while hiking in bear country - make enough noise so that the bears know I'm there. For a black bear, 9 times out of 10 all I would have to do is back down because the black bear charge is usually a bluff charge. In grizzly country I would carry a BIG can of pepper spray, which is recommended. As for moose, I'm not one of those morons who need to get close for a perfect photo. I can see them just fine at a distance. And do remember to drive more slowly during rut season - some moose weigh more than your pickup - and your pickup would lose.

In short, a firearm is a poor substitute for good sense. Using one's brain in a dicey situation is a far better option. Hauling out the pistol only gives the illusion of feeling powerful and safe. Big animals are perfectly predictable if you know a little about their behavior. And knowing a little about human behavior, I guess I will do the sensible thing and wear my orange cap the next time I go to a national park.

Coyote, I'm sorry that you mourn the loss of the National Parks as places you don't have to worry about guns. Just don't worry about them, problem solved. Your need to worry is really your personal phobia, unless you spend every single minute of your life outside the National Parks worrying about guns.

Secondly, for those of you still stuck on the militia part of the 2nd amendment, the Supreme Court of the United States already handled that one. And if you still feel that your interpretation is correct, maybe we should also go back to Brown vs. Board of Education for other folks?

I am amazed by all the comments from people saying they don't want to be around guns in NPS. Wake up people, if you live in a state where concealed carry is allowed, you are around people carrying concealed handguns everywhere there legal to be carried by the permitted persons as well by the thugs who are not permitted to carry handguns. Walmart, Wendy's, Shoney's and many other places. So don't try to make a big deal out of the NPS rule. Just live with it like you do every day of your life. I'll bet you spend more time in Walmart than you do in the NPS. Next time your in Walmart look around and ask yourself, how many people in here are carrying. I'll bet no one has ever botherd you and you probably can't tell who is carrying anyway. Look real hard, most people do a real good job of concealling so the public can't detect it. No one has ever detected mine. That goes for law enforcement as well. I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Never leave home without it.
Retired military and NRA Life Member.

Well the day all gun fearing people have arrived. I expect the largest people taking advantage of this are drivers on the GW Pkwy in VA since they had problems with traveling while using their CCW permits. Some will have traveled in NPS but most would have been courteous and kept their guns concealed.

The time has come for people to get used to the idea that all citizens have a a right to bear arms and that can mean concealed or open. People can be dangerous, it is not the tool that is the problem. If a traveler had no intention of doing harm then having a gun does not change that. Many traveled in NPS with guns anyway and did no harm.

I agree and disagree with this policy. I think people who hold concealed carry licenses should be able to carry only concealed in National Parks for personal protection. Most states require training, back ground checks and other procedures to get a license. In fact I think all home state licenses should be accepted nationwide like a drivers license from your home state. I do not think carrying handguns openly in National Parks serves any purpose except to freighten visitiors who are afraid of guns. You know the old saying "out of sight out of mind"... Long arms should be prohibited in developed areas of parks, but permitted in wilderness areas strictly for survival and defense against large predators. I have a license to carry concealed and my home state allows open carry also, but I don't think open carry serves any purpose except to show off "I have a gun, look at me". Personally I don't think it's anyones business that I carry a gun legally.

"I suspect the new law will make little difference, except for an occasional unfortunate incident or two. But what I don't understand is why some people - he-man hunter types I guess - claim to be honestly afraid to walk in the woods without a weapon, while thousands of septugenians and young couples with small children do it all the time with nary a thought about it."

Being blindly ignorant of danger and deliberately ignoring danger are not the same thing as being safe. The truth is that people are assaulted, robbed, and robbed in National parks miles from the nearest ranger. It may not happen on a frequent basis but it does happen. And if you're the one to whom it happens, then that's once too often.

Mr. Repanshek claims that the removal of the 73-year infringement on a Constitutional right was "foisted upon the National Park Service in a most curious way." He has an interesting view of proper procedures. The regulation was enacted arbitrarily by the FDR administration's unelected and unanswerable National Park service bureaucracy. It was repealed by an openly voted act of Congress. Yet Mr. Rapenshek feels the open vote by the body Constitutionally empowered to make laws is the one that's "a most curious way." One must assume that he feels the proper way to govern is by bureaucratic edicts decided in secret. While such things happen all too often I don't believe that's the way our country's Founding Fathers envisioned our government working.

Sorry, Chris, I do feel that the amendment was approached in a "most curious way." Had I been around during the FDR administration, I likely would have claimed the same if an amendment totally and entirely nongermane to the bill it was attached to was pushed through via this sort of congressional sleight-of-hand.

What possible connection with credit cards does the gun amendment have? If the NRA is so adamant about constitutional rights, you'd think it'd feel just as strongly about congressional process and would have demanded that the Senate consider this issue in the open and on its own merits.

And so you fully understand my position, I feel the same about the earmark process. If a project truly is worthy, then let it come before the full Senate or House in an open manner, not through some backroom or backdoor approach.

Kurt.. you need to revisit the "history" of this legislation....and who stood in it's way, and then how it came to be as it is now... the left has been using this method (it's called a RIDER) for eons now!! By the way, I do not like riders myself. I feel laws should be separate and stand on their own merit. But you know what? What's good for the goose...... And on you comment about NOT blaming the NPCA.. why not? If (they) hadn't been are running all around with their "the sky is falling" attitude.. the law WOULD NOT look as it now does, FACT! They made it become what they now have...Also, don't blame the NRA etc..... or Congress.. it's a little thing many of us believe in called the Constitution. THAT is the rulebook we follow... of course there are those who despise said rulebook...and to those I say... there are planes leaving the US for everywhere every 15 minutes.... I DO however agree with you on your view of Earmarks and riders in general.... you ARE spot on there!!

This comment was edited to remove gratuitous remarks. Ed.

Hankster, if I recall correctly, the Bush administration tried to change the regs administratively after being pressured by the NRA, NPCA and others opposed it in court on the grounds that the Interior Department did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act in terms of looking at the environmental consequences, a federal judge agreed, the NRA appealed, and then Sen. Coburn attached the amendment to the credit card bill.

As for pointing to the NRA for the move to change the regs, they even took credit on their own website detailing their efforts to change the reg. Here's more background from earlier stories:

The NRA was behind U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's proposed legislation that would prevent the government from banning concealed carry in the national parks, and also helped craft the letter that 50-some members of the Senate sent to Secretary Kempthorne asking for a change in gun policies in the national parks and national wildlife refuges.

I think it's safe to say that had the NRA not lobbied so much and not threatened politicians with opposing their re-election, this would not be an issue today.

But, bottom-line, this issue is history. Let's revisit it in a year when the NPS releases its 2010 stats on crime in the parks.

Finally, both sides of the aisle use earmarks, riders, amendments, whatever you want to call them, to sneak through legislation they know wouldn't stand the heat of full review. And the taxpayers are the ones who suffer.