Reader Participation Day: Has The Change In Gun Rules Changed Your National Park Plans?

Since late February it's been legal for properly permitted concealed weapons owners, and rifle and shotgun owners, as well, to bring their weapons into a national park if the surrounding state law allows such carry. Has that change in national park gun regulations changed your thoughts about visiting a national park?

There was quite an uproar over this rule change, on both sides of the issue, with more than a few folks saying they wouldn't want to be in a park where some folks might be armed. Has the issued turned into much ado about nothing? Or, if you opposed the rule change, are you changing your plans to visit a national park?


Was never a factor on any planned visit.

Yes, I am more likely to feel safer knowing that law abiding citizens may be armed in National Parks. Before only criminals an Park rangers, who are few and far between, were armed.

I'd prefer if everyone had a gun, then maybe those that can't read the laws or refuse to follow the laws regarding guns would be less inclined to pack them around or even think about pulling one out for fear of like retaliation.
Get real this ain't your Grandpa's National Park anymore.

Yes, it has. Where as I was NOT going because I could not have my gun, I will be going with my family now becase I will have the ability to defend them. Google Dr. Gaery Kleck. With 2.5 MILLION defensive uses of a firearm in this country every year Guns SAVE Lives!!

There are a number of National Parks here in Washington not far from where I live. I have not visited them YET. One big reason was that I don't go in to the woods without my firearm. Now that I can legally carry it with me concealed, I'm planning on visiting as many Parks as I can as soon as I can.

I've visited approximately 100 NPS sites and have never felt threatened or the need for a gun. I'm not against guns, my husband is a hunter and I've taken an NRA-sponsored shooting class, but I"ve never felt the need, whether in the city or the wilderness, to be armed.

I have worked as a Campground Host at several State Parks and a couple of N.P's and I must say, that for the most part campers were good decent people. But, I will not forget the summer I worked at Sol Duc Campground in Olympic National Park. Some of the local Washingtonians were so upset about the amounts of foreign visitors quote " taking up all those campsites". The locals would get so upset that we often had to break up altercations between the visitors. Now that you can carry a concealed weapon, I would hate to have to be the one to try and maintain the peace. All it takes is one upset person with a gun and an itchy finger.

It's beyond me the fear that some people feel where ever they go. I have been to about 125 NPS sites, including almost all of the big western parks. I have camped, hiked, and backpacked in the frontcountry and the backcountry and not ONCE have I EVER felt threatened by another human. The parks are one of the safest places an American citizen can be.

What will happen though is that sometime this summer some wing nut with a gun will shoot and kill a wolf, grizzly, bison or other wildlife "in self defense" even though they were intruding on the wildlife's habitat, in many cases the LAST protected habitat these animals have. The vast majority of people who are injured by wildlife in the parks are folks who get too close to the animal and then are amazed when they get gored or mauled. This is not the 1820's where we need to think or act like John Colter, Kit Carson, or some other mountain man and gun down a griz to protect ourselves. This is exactly what the NPS is worried about now that they have to let guns in the park.

Poachers will also be hard to catch since they can claim the gun they are carrying in the backcountry is for self defense even if it is a hunting rifle. Poaching is a huge issue in Yellowstone and other parks.

No change in plans. We never felt threatened in a NP because of the no carry/carry issue. I am curious whether the parks see an increase in gun related vantalism, increase in poaching or similar related discharging of a firearm; and for the record I am considering encroachment on an animals natural habitat or negligence on the part of humans as part of this issue; increase in threats towards park personel and others with a weapon, this is a big issue at Lake Mead National Recreation Area; and any other weapon/firearm related statistic now that it is state regulated. This includes where the mere presence of a firearm caused the situation to come out positive. Hopefuly these will be reported to park personel so the perpertrators can be apprehended.

No change in plans. Doesn't bother me. I'm in favor of responsible gun ownership, and if otherwise responsible people need their precious firearms as security blankets, then so be it. And has been often said on this forum and others, few laws are going to prevent irresponsible gun ownership, even in national parks.

Now if they allowed OPEN CARRY in parks, then you'll see me get riled up. Open carry, in my view, is pursued by folks who want the "right" to bully folks through intimidation. It's a blatant way of saying "get out of my way or I'll shoot you". I find it horribly irresponsible in the same way as a person running around yelling profanity at people. It's free speech, so it's protected, but it's irresponsible, juvenile, and shameful.

I'm irritated as hell about the recent open carry protest in Virginia, that's why I bring this up today.

Barky, open carry is permissible if the surrounding state's gun laws allow open carry.

It is a little difficult to conceal carry a shotgun or rifle. Conceal carry only pertains to hand guns. Rifles and shotguns are permitted per state law.

My plans to visit aren't changing. However, I will be more cautious visiting the parks. Even if the chance is tiny, the chance of getting shot in a park has increased. One thing I'm going to do is make more noise while hiking (I don't want to surprise a gun toting hiker).

Heading for Arizona 6/3 to 6/19. In the middle of that trip taking a 7 day raft trip through the Grand Canyon with Hatch. Wouldn't be doing it if I couldn't take my firearm with me.

Gary Slider: what exactly are you afraid of? Are you going solo?

Kurt & Jim, backcountry shotgun/rifle carry doesn't bother me too much. What bothers me is folks who want open carry, including rifles/shotguns, in places frequented by the public. I would include standard hiking trails in national park units. I can't think of a single need to carry a gun in any non-backcountry area in any National Park. But if you feel you must, keep it outta my face.

Paul "Barky" Dionne,

I have carried a firearm for 30 years. It is not a firearm that makes you safe. It is your mental preparation that keeps you safe. But if you need a firearm to protect the ones you love nothing else will work. A firearm is just a tool. A tool that I don't want to use but will if called upon.

I carry insurance on my home that I never plan on using but have it for that one instance I may need it. Do I drop my home owners insurance and take that chance? Would you? Are you afraid to go without insurance on your home? It is not fear that makes you buy insurance on your home. It is being prepared just in case something does happen so you will be able to get your life back together after the fact. You can't get a life back. If someone wishes to do my family harm I want the only tool that will work in that instance. That is why I won't go without it. Just like I won't go without insurance on my home. We never know what is going to happen. Funny thing the motto of the Boy Scouts is always be prepared. To many people don't want to take the responsibility of protecting their family in all instances. They want to depend on 911. Cell phones don't work at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You are on your own.

Paul "Barky" Dionne,

I am not a big fan of open carry either. The first regulation the Interior Dept put forward would only allow concealed carry. That reg was ruled invalid by a Federal Judge because they didn't run an Environmental impact study on carrying firearms. Like that mattered. Then the Feds passed a law and the president signed it allowing any type of carry that was legal in the state the national park was in. Just like other things when politicians get involved they don't solve problems they just create more.

Just out of curiosity, Gary, while rafting where will your sidearm be, in a ditty bag? And does the outfitter allow clients to come armed?

One thing I've found is that businesses that work in the parks are reluctant to explain how they're dealing with this rule change. While in Saguaro NP last week I saw that at the Desert Museum, a complex surrounded by the park, they have a sign right at the entrance stating firearms are not allowed.

I'm sure many readers would be interested to know which stance the various park concessionaires take on this issue.

All I can say is that it will be interesting in California. The laws aren't all that clear on where a loaded firearm can be carried without a permit.

Recently people have been making a fuss about unloaded open carry, which is legal on the street almost anywhere in California. Loaded open carry is legal in unincorporated areas where it's not "illegal to discharge" a firearm. I sort of assume that means in an area where one could otherwise do target practice, hunt, or go plinking. It probably wouldn't be legal in my neighborhood (I live in an unincorporated community) since it's a residential neighborhood. It's still illegal to go target shooting on NPS land, so I suspect it would be illegal to open carry a loaded firearm in let's say Yosemite.

The NPS hasn't given much guidance, and suggest people research state/county laws on their own. I don't believe that the discharge of a firearm rule has changed, so I'm under the impression that someone wouldn't be able to keep a loaded gun ready, but probably would be within their rights to load a weapon if a threat was perceived.

I'm just waiting for someone who is freaked out trying to shoot a campground raiding bear with a Glock. I really hope nobody in a crowded campground gets hurt if that happens.

That is my point. It is not just in the backcountry but everywhere allowed by state law. Backcountry, hiking trails, ranger nature talks, parking lots, etc... Now I hope we don't see a "in your face" attitude from those that feel they have to bring Smith and Wesson, Browning, Klock or Remington along just because they can, but there will be an uncomfortableness in situations were firearms and weapons are present. The public is not used to seeing firearms and weapons in NP's! I never have felt threatened or felt the need to conceal carry or open carry a handgun nor the need to carry a rifle or shotgun unless I was out hunting. I do know someone that was in a bi-racial marriage at the time and had a concealed carry permit.

I suppose one of the problems is that law enforcement had to respond to these "someone with a gun" calls. Especially in California, I've seen warnings by local law enforcement that these situations could get hairy since they may be forced to act quickly to a perceived threat if someone doesn't comply with requests to show that they're not loaded. One local police chief warned that someone open carrying an unloaded weapon could be robbed by someone with a real loaded weapon. It gets really, really strange when there are non-uniformed people carrying firearms in plain sight in populated areas.

I personally witnessed an incident where someone was changing the oil in his car in a public parking lot. I think changing oil there (and maybe having a firearm) might have been against the policy of the store/mall, but this guy also was clearly showing a revolver in a side holster. The local police weren't taking any chances, undid the fasteners on their holsters, turned off their manual safeties, and had their hands right on their sidearms prepared to draw their weapons if needed. Besides that, I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to crawl down on the ground with a gun. I'd think it would probably cause some cosmetic damage to a valuable object.

Has a handgun ever saved anyone at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?
As for the parks in general, I've heard that shooting a grizzly with anything other than a high-powered rife will only make it mad. Any thoughts on that?

The Outfitter I am going with has not one word on their website about firearms. IF they didn't allow them they would have it there. I am legal In Arizona and 39 other states to carry a concealed firearm. That makes it legal for me to carry in the Grand Canyon. There are no Grizzley bears in the grand canyon. There are Mountain Lions but the biggest predator in the Grand Canyon is Man. There are bad people everywhere. Just because I am at the bottom of the canyon doesn't mean I will not run into one. I hope I don't.

My Firearm will be on my person at all times. A little water will never hurt a Glock. Even If I end up in the water it will dry off. It has been wet before. Water doesn't hurt a gun anymore than it hurts your car if you take care of it. As for the Ammo if you buy the right stuff water will not hurt it either. It is sealed to keep water out.

As for concessions etc in the National Parks. If the building is not posted then I can carry in it. Federal Law states that if the building is off limits it must be posted. If I were in a building and they did discover my firearm and the building is not posted all they can ask me to do is leave. If I don't leave then I am breaking a law. Here is the Federal Law on posting buildings. Want to find out more about State and Federal Gun Laws. Go to my website at
I18 USC Sec. 930 01/03/2007


Sec. 930. Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities

(a) Except as provided in subsection (d), whoever knowingly possesses or causes to be present a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility (other than a Federal court facility), or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.
(b) Whoever, with intent that a firearm or other dangerous weapon be used in the commission of a crime, knowingly possesses or causes to be present such firearm or dangerous weapon in a Federal facility, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
(c) A person who kills any person in the course of a violation of subsection (a) or (b), or in the course of an attack on a Federal facility involving the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be punished as provided in sections 1111, 1112, 1113, and 1117.
(d) Subsection (a) shall not apply to -
(1) the lawful performance of official duties by an officer, agent, or employee of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof, who is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of any violation of law;
(2) the possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon by a Federal official or a member of the Armed Forces if such possession is authorized by law; or
(3) the lawful carrying of firearms or other dangerous weapons in a Federal facility incident to hunting or other lawful purposes.
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), whoever knowingly possesses or causes to be present a firearm in a Federal court facility, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to conduct which is described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (d).
(f) Nothing in this section limits the power of a court of the United States to punish for contempt or to promulgate rules or orders regulating, restricting, or prohibiting the possession of weapons within any building housing such court or any of its proceedings, or upon any grounds appurtenant to such building.
(g) As used in this section:
(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.
(2) The term "dangerous weapon" means a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2 1/2 inches in length.
(3) The term "Federal court facility" means the courtroom, judges' chambers, witness rooms, jury deliberation rooms, attorney conference rooms, prisoner holding cells, offices of the court clerks, the United States attorney, and the United States marshal, probation and parole offices, and adjoining corridors of any court of the United States.
(h) Notice of the provisions of subsections (a) and (b) shall be posted conspicuously at each public entrance to each Federal facility, and notice of subsection (e) shall be posted conspicuously at each public entrance to each Federal court facility, and no person shall be convicted of an offense under subsection (a) or (e) with respect to a Federal facility if such notice is not so posted at such facility, unless such person had actual notice of subsection (a) or (e), as the case may be.

Black bears, grizzly bears, and bison can all survive gunshots (multiple gunshots) from commonly carried handguns long enough to do some damage to the person doing the shooting (or anyone else nearby). They will often die of their wounds later. That is why the parks with bears suggest that visitors carry bear spray. That and you don't have to be a an incredible shot with bear spray.

When I tell family that I hike in bear country or that I saw a bear on the trail, they often remark "Did you have a gun with you?" I have also had friends and many strangers ask the same question. I never do, but I usually have bear spray. It identifies the problem that parks face in properly educating the public about bear safety.

Last fall a guy just east and outside the boundary of Grand Teton NP shot a bison with a large caliber revolver. Before his guide had a chance to convince him otherwise, he walked up to the bison to inspect it. Before, it died from a couple rifle shots from the guide, the bison was up and goring the guy. He didn't realize that bison were so tough. He spent the next few weeks in a hospital thinking about that.

If you are interested in doing some reading, Steven Herrero's book on bear attacks has multiple stories of griz that were shot and survived to maul the shooter or their partner.


First, thanks for the agreement that open carry is wrong-headed.

I still have to say that, although I agree it's constitutionally protected, and they don't really scare me, I disagree with the logic of gun-toting for safety for the average American. I don't think statistics back that position, I don't think human or criminal behavior backs that position, and I think it just expands the likelihood of accidents and satisfies ego more than anything else.

Carry them if you want, just be safe and responsible about it, and don't use them to intimidate folks. Otherwise, I'll see ya on the trail (I'll be the guy you want to rob because I'm unarmed I guess ;-) ).

Firearm ownership has gone up dramatically over the last 10 years and accidents and even murders committed with firearms has gone down. What has gone up is the number of rapists and home invaders who have been scared off or shot when a home owner brought out the firearm. Just the other day an 89 Year Old woman shot at the young man who broke down her front door. It scared him and he was arrested shortly after. The old lady was fine. I wonder what would have happened if she had not had that handgun. 47 States issue permits to carry concealed firearms. 38 of those states are shall issue and as long as you have had 8 to 16 hours training and no criminal record they will issue you a permit to carry. 8 of those states do not have any training in their law. In Alaska and Vermont anyone who can legally own a firearm can carry one concealed without any type of permit. You can carry one in those two states if you can legally own the firearm. Arizona just pasted the same law and on 7/1/10 anyone who can legally own a firearm can carry it concealed in Arizona without any type of permit from the government. VT and AK don't have problems with people carrying firearms.

As for bears etc. I will shoot a bear and continue shooting if someones life is in danger. There is no reason for me to approach an animal if I have to shoot to save myself or someone I love. Shot placement is the most important element when taking down any animal. I have hunted since I can remember so it has been almost 50 years. I have shot more deer than I can count and not one has gone over 30 yards. I could drop it in its tracks but that ruins meat and that is why I hunt. My whole family likes wild game. It is low in fats and is more healthy than store bought beef. I know where to shoot animals that live in the wild.

As for stories of someone doing something stupid while hunting. I can tell you stories about Bicycle Riders who did stupid things. Does that make all bike riders stupid. I can tell you stories about people who drive drunk. Does that make all people who never drive while drinking but have a drink or two at home? I can tell you stories about Doctors and stupid things they have done in the operating room. Does that make all Doctors Idiots? If people misuse a firearm the can hurt someone. If someone misuses a Car they can hurt someone. If someone misuses just about anything they can hurt someone. Are you afraid of cars? No you get in one and drive it everyday. If you do it properly then everything is OK. But everyday 100 people are killed in or by automobiles in this Country. Transportation saves lives everyday. I am an EMT and have used Transportation on the ground and in the air to save lives. A person with a Firearms can hurt someone but they can also save people. It all boils down to the person behind the wheel or the firearm.

My Government trusted me with fully automatic Rifles, Machine Guns, explosive and rockets that could take out a 50 ton tank. I used them to protect my fellow soldier. My Buddy. Now that I don't wear a uniform i still have the right and the responsibility to protect my family. I take that responsibility very seriously.

Paul "Barky" Dionne,

Didn't say open carry was wrong headed. I said I wasn't a big fan of it. The big reason there is Open Carry in the news is mainly California and Virginia. California county sheriffs won't issue permits to qualified applicants so they have no choice but to go by the law on the books that allows them to open carry an unloaded firearm. In Virginia if you have a permit to carry if you go into Fridays to eat dinner you can't carry a concealed firearm in any place that serves alcohol. But you can just tuck your shirt in because open carry is legal in places that serve alcohol in VA. It is the state that makes the rules. Those who open carry are just going by the rules. Wisconsin is the same way. They won't let people carry concealed firearms with a permit but the law says they can open carry. Again the Elected officials make the laws we just obey them. Open carry is legal in some states. People are just obeying the law. What I don't like about open carry is not that there are people who are afraid of firearms. All my training in the military and outside the military teaches one thing. If you have the element of surprise you have an advantage. If It comes to me having to use my firearm I want all the advantages I can get. No one and I mean no one wins a gun fight. There are only survivors!

You have a good point, but we should take it one step further and lay off all LE rangers. Then you paranoid gun nuts can provide enforcement and save the rest of us a few tax dollars.