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Carrying Guns in the National Parks -- Is This Being Fast-Tracked?


Interior Department officials, no doubt with an eye on the election calendar, are wasting no time in their bid to rewrite laws pertaining to carrying guns in the national parks.

Just the other day Assistant Interior Secretary Lyle Laverty, who was given the rewriting task by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, shot off a memo (attached below) to Park Service Director Mary Bomar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall asking for their cooperation in the matter.

This matter requires our careful attention. I know you share my commitment to fulfilling the secretary's request to conduct a regulatory process that will provide for full and complete public participation, wrote Mr. Laverty. I also expect that the regulations will continue to preserve the values of our public lands.

While Secretary Kempthorne has asked that the proposed regulation be ready for review by the end of April, there's been no word yet on whether public hearings will be held around the country on it. And while there surely will be some form of public comment period, will it run for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, or longer? Certainly an issue as important as this one deserves great and thorough public review.

Here are some points I hope Mr. Laverty's efforts touch on:

1. Why is there a need to revisit existing gun regulations for the national parks? It's already legal to transport a weapon in the parks, as long as it's unloaded and out of reach.

2. How will changing the existing regulation so parks enforce gun laws of the states they are located in make the current regulatory system easier to understand? Currently, there's one regulation pertaining to carrying guns in the national parks. If this changes to allow state laws to apply, how many laws will gun owners have to familiarize themselves with?

3. If the law is changed to give state laws dominance, what sort of regulatory nightmare will that create in park units such as Yellowstone, Death Valley, Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Gulf Islands National Seashore that span more than one state? Will rangers and gun-packing visitors have to carry GPS units and rule books so they know what state they're in and which laws apply?

4. If the law is changed, will some national parks become gun camps during hunting seasons for hunters who wish to pursue game in adjoining public lands?

5. Under current regulations, if a park ranger sees someone with a gun inside a park, they have probable cause to stop and investigate what that individual is up to. If the regulations change to allow visitors to arm themselves, will that make it easier, or more difficult, to spot poachers and other criminals? Will rangers be tasked with stopping everyone they see with a gun to ensure they're legally entitled to be packing it?

6. If the regulations are changed to allow park visitors to arm themselves, how will rangers responding to a shooting know who's the good guy and who's the bad guy?

7. Will family advocacy organizations be sought out for their input on the prospect of picnic and campground settings in national parks where weapons are readily available?

8. Will national park visitation be affected by domestic and international travelers who avoid parks because they have an aversion to sitting, dining, angling, or hiking next to armed visitors?

9. Will lodging concessionaires in the national parks be required, at their own cost, to install gun lockers in their rooms? Along the same line of thinking, how will concessionaires who offer shuttle tours in the parks address gun owners? Will weapons be permitted aboard these buses, or have to be left behind?

10. Will concession and park employees be permitted to arm themselves?

11. Will the views on this issue by experienced professionals such as the Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police be respected?

OK, OK, I think we know the answer to that last question, since each of those groups went on record opposing a change in the regulations before Secretary Kempthorne decided to open this Pandora's Box. But I would hope the others receive some serious reflection by Mr. Laverty and others who have a role in revisiting the existing regulation.


Guns in Parks?
Do We Need Them?

If the antecedent of "we" is "National Park Service", then I'd say you've posed a very intriguing question.

Does the National Park Service need guns in national parks? If your answer is yes, then why? Is it because there is crime in national parks? If yes, then why shouldn't law-abiding citizens be able to defend themselves by carrying firearms in national parks?

Should the Government have a monopoly on carrying guns? Doesn't that alarm anyone? Is anyone concerned about our Government becoming a police state?

As a career park ranger, I've seen abuses of power by those legally carrying guns.

If one of your strongest arguments is that some stupid signs, which arguably don't belong in parks anyway, will get shot up, then you're approaching this from a weak legal position. Having worked before and after the ban on loaded weapons in national parks, the amount of shot up signs has remained steady. But hey, let's keep on sacrificing Constitutional rights to protect those signs.

Let the stir crazy, power mongering rangers go on carrying those Glock 9s, those shotguns, those semi-automatic weapons. Meanwhile, someone at a remote campground will have to search god knows how long for a working phone to dial 911 and will them wait for maybe half an hour or more for "protection" as a crazy meth-head or grizz rampages through a campground.

If the Government gets guns, then the law-abiding People get guns, too. Period.


"Carrying Guns in the National Parks -- Is This Being Fast-Tracked?"

Actually, this is a excellent example of how good the government is at dragging it's feet. This link will let you read the whole story. It also has additional links to other sources about this issue in case you would rather not take the NRA's word for it.

As someone who travels and hikes in remote and wild areas including many national parks, I think it would be irresponsible for me not to carry some method of defense. Any number of threats could exist from wildlife, bandits, thieves, or the above-mentioned crazed methheads. In these areas help for any violent threat is NOT AVAILABLE until after the potential injury has occured which is of course useless. If a bear or mountain lion really wants to attack, there are no good options outside of a firearm for protection.

As an otherwise law-abiding citizen with a legal CCW, I choose to carry in these areas in spite of present regulations for the protection of myself and the people I'm with. I carry a small .357 magnum that nobody will ever see unless they're threatening me. I'd hope that if I'm ever "caught" carrying illegally the ranger would understand my point of view.

Packing Hiker -

I couldn't have said it better myself. Right on!

Any capable and proficient adult who walks around in a remote area of a national park while unarmed has no business being there.

good to see the folks leaving comments have some common sense about supporting legal carry in our national parks. ranger tyler, i'm glad to hear there are some good rangers left!!! you can be assured i would back you up in a heartbeat if the need ever arose.
here in ca. mexican cartels are known to be present in many of the national parks and yes, they are most often armed. just last summer a friend of mine stumbled upon a grow while canyoneering in a very remote area. this scum has taken our public land for their own profit and it needs to stop now!!! granted, most folks will never spend time in very remote areas, but there are folks like myself who do. i worry about accidentally stumbling into an occupied grow where armed criminals (who probrably don't even speak english) see me and are pointing their guns at me to protect their profits. as an american citizen, i insist upon my right to protect myself and others from criminals that are often not even here legally!!!! if i'm not free to explore the wilderness in my own country where else can i go???
another time my girlfriend and i were fishing in the national forest. (no it wasn't a NP but just because it's a NP doesn't mean it's safe) while i was by a small lake fishing, my girlfriend went back to the truck to get a soda. while she was there a group of late 20 something guys (about 5-6 of them) tatooed, drunk, and still drinking showed up and demanded that she move the truck as she was in their campsite. she came back and told me as they proceeded to surround my truck with their 4 trucks and camping gear so i couldn't get out. (camping is not even allowed in this particular area!!) when i was done filling my stringer with german browns i put my glock on my hip after chambering a round. she was scared and although i wouldn't admit it to her i was kind of worried as well. before we got to the truck i had already assessed from a distance which ones might give me the most trouble and was prepared to act if the situation called for it. when we got back to the truck there was a big attitude change. i was offered a beer and complimented on my german browns and the custom 4x4 which i built. we gracefully got out, and i think just the sight of the firearm made a BIG difference in their attitudes. what would/could have happened if she was alone or with another female friend??? although she's always told me she was pro gun, i think that experience really sealed the deal for her.
we have also hiked in some of the southern arizona national parks where human and drug smugglers have become a huge problem. these areas are often very remote and you are on your own even if it is a NP. i pack illegally regardless of the laws (usually concealed) and will continue to do so whether it's legal or not. i was told by a head game warden on a wildlife refuge where guns are prohibited that "it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6" even though he could not tell me (legally) i could carry a gun, those few words explained the situation there perfectly.
i have come across many odd and unsavory types in the outdoors and always pack a LOADED firearm. (for my protection as well as those with me) thankfully there has been no need to use a firearm yet, but i don't leave home without one. if anyone comments that firearms aren't necessary in todays world, you probrably haven't spent much time in remote areas, or are too naive to see the real truth, or how the world really is. thats can relinquish your rights, and be a victim with no means of self defense but DON"T expect to IMPOSE your ideals and beliefs upon me!!! freedom is what makes our country so great!!!

It's refreshing to see there are people still among us who are able to see the reality of what "being protected" really is. I certainly wouldn't feel protected by relying on laws that prohibit law-abiding citizens their right to carry! We all know that people who want to, especially criminals, already do carry! So it's just ludicrous to think it's safe to deny people who possess carry permits their right to carry some protection, especially in remote, unkown territories where the chances of help or rescue may not arrive in the most timely of fashions! I understand, from researching this subject, the possibilities of dangers that may arrise in National Parks are factual. I also understand there may be some obstacles to overcome, like how will guns be transported on buses, regulations between states, consessioners carrying, etc, but the efforts to resolve these issues are worth it if it means that law-abiding citizens are able to exercise their right to protect themselves by carrying some means of adequate protection: legally registered guns.

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