Guns in US National Parks

Note: No Off the Beaten Path segment this week--too many other stories that I wanted to make comments.

As a young police officer, I did lots of hiking at US National Parks. I always debated whether or not to violate gun bans at the parks and sneak my firearm onto federal property. Reluctantly and knowing my luck, I decided that I would be more likely to be found in violation of the law versus encountering a situation where I actually needed the gun. My colleagues thought I was nuts going unarmed, but fortunately nothing ever happened.

You may have seen this week that President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that would allow visitors to US National Parks to carry concealed firearms. These restrictions have been in place since the Reagan years, and as with anything gun-related, it has been hotly debated.

Conservative commentator S.E. Cupp had this to say about the issue:

…First, what the bill doesn’t do. It doesn’t make hunting in national parks legal, so everyone can stop worrying that Gomer and Bubba are going to single-handedly deplete the bighorn sheep population in Yosemite. Hunting in most national parks is already prohibited, but not by law.

Individual park superintendents determine hunting regulations, so those who’ve banned hunting in their parks will likely keep it that way.

It also doesn’t mean we can expect more violence at the Grand Canyon. The expansion of Right-to-Carry has historically had an overwhelmingly positive and vitiating effect on violence. As the number of Right-to-Carry states has increased – there are now 40 – the nation’s murder and violent crime rates have decreased.

And it doesn’t mean we should prepare for a rush on assault weapons. The bill doesn’t have anything to do with buying guns, nor does it make it easier to buy guns…

Now for what it does do. First, it corrects a significant restriction on 2nd Amendment rights, which shouldn’t apply everywhere except in our national parks. — The idea that I can protect myself from predators in suburban Florida but not in the wilderness is absurd.

Furthermore, it provides some much-needed uniformity to federal land restrictions, which are made unnecessarily complicated by patchwork regulations and conflicting bureaucratic rules. The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, for example, allows the carrying of firearms, but the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do not…

It will also allow the hunter, on private land on the edge of the national park, to stalk his kill past the gates without getting arrested for unlawful possession.

And it will allow a couple hikers to legally defend themselves in the wild –- against the crazy escaped convict or the charging grizzly…
In my opinion, the most persuasive argument with the public concerning anti-gun laws is that they create an environment that no one will have firearms except authorities. Certainly, this idea is debatable, but the rationale for gun bans make even less sense at national parks in the US.

In many of these parks, visitors can quickly find themselves isolated—-with no police or even a method to contact someone else if the need arises. As a result, each individual has to rely on his/her own abilities to survive if danger is encountered--making guns illegal there offers affords less protection to visitors.

Allowing concealed weapons in a National Park simply allows those visitors who want to go armed one other reasonable option in a life and death situation.

If I had seen the horrific stories on hikers who had fatal encounters with bears at parks like Christine Courtney in British Columbia, as well as graduate mapping student Alyssa Heberton-Morimoto who was murdered by a felon in a Colorado national park, I may have changed my mind, went armed on my visits back then, and just risked being caught.

9 comments:

outandaboutagain said...

I see nothing wrong with carrying on National Parks and always thought it okay, concealed or not, with me not as I don't have a carry permit. Bears alone can be problems, and why one needs at least a 357 m and higher to do some damage, as to other critters, they attack from above or behind and there's no way to prepare for a mountain lion, they are simply faster than us. I also always carry Mace outside and ready on my belt, it may buy me a few seconds but probably not against a bear or even a crazed bull. But my dogs smell and snarl and circle such critters, snarl and bark, so that makes me a little safer than the average lala hiker.

J. J. in Phila said...

Nor do I see anything wrong with it.

I use to live in west and central Pennsylvania, but I now live in Philadelphia. I use to carry a gun there, but not here. Why?

The police here really do show up quickly and my neighbors all keep watch. I'm not isolated at all. If something should happen, the police will be called.

I was in more rural areas; I've lived in towns without full time police protection. The state police could 30-40 minutes to get to my location, if I could have gotten a call out.

And yes, I had a concealed weapons permit when I lived there.

Sandra G. said...

We in Canada have a long way to go before we even reach such a complication as carrying in a park. As it stands now we can't even carry on the streets unless working as an on-duty peace officer.

Sigh...

But I do love reading about your laws in the States..

thewinkman said...

While I'm anti-guns in general, I have to admit that the benefits seems to outweigh the cons when it comes to the legality of carrying in areas that are not densely inhabited/wilderness.

mappchik said...

No matter how surprised I am to see this coming out of a bunch of very liberal elected officials, I think this is a wonderful development. I don't know that we'd carry when out as a family, but carrying when out on my own would ease the minds of many of my family.

Stories like the two you mentioned, and the Meredith Emerson (murdered hiker) and Jennifer Ewing (bike path) stories here in Georgia led to several calls from my concerned dad. This was followed with calls from him to my husband when dad heard I'd bumped from 20 mile rides in town to 40+ miles on rural trails.

Like my dad keeps saying, having a dog and some basic self-defense training may hold a general thug at bay, but when someone wants to kill you, there's nothing as handy as a gun.

Slamdunk said...

Ha, with no dog or gun permit, I am def one of those lala hikers.

MC: Thanks for the other names. For some reason, I missed reading about the Ewing case--sad. I did see that someone had geocached her crime scene--which seem to have more of a morbid attraction versus a respectful one for visitors.

Oz Girl said...

I guess I would say I've always been rather anti-gun, but having hiked in Yellowstone by myself (albeit not TOO far off the beaten path) I can see where it's a good idea. Most definitely. It is a rather scary thing to hike by oneself on a remote trail.

outandaboutagain said...

When I first stated camping on my own here in CA, I was most concerned about bears, being they are so plentiful, but knowing the weapon to use is only part of the story. It's getting to it in a surprise attack, hence the dogs, not much gets past their noses; needless to say I don't go where my dogs aren't welcomed. But if some one wants to do you in, a swift hit from behind with a big branch is going to leave your head spinning and not too much time to do anything else. This from a gal whose taken years of martial arts, but then again at least I feel prepared and if the dogs hackles are raised, I'm out of there.

fayezie said...

my lay-man's response is that more psychos can now go hunt down helpless isolated victims and bang bang bang... but, i do see when i step back and look at your proof in the numbers, that it may not be such a bad thing after all.... besides, my next thought is, "yay, now we have defense against an attacking grizzly"....

well done, SlamDunks, you always have great perspectives....