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February 01, 2008

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Guns-in-parks proposals is about convenience

In the rhetorical blizzard that clouds most gun issues, a recent proposal has been snowed in by both proponents and opponents. It’s the proposal by nearly half the U.S. Senate that would allow gun owners to travel through national parks and wildlife refuges with an unconcealed gun.

That idea is contained in a letter that 47 Senators sent to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne earlier this month asking the federal agency to lift Reagan-era restrictions that prevent citizens from carrying readily accessible firearms into national parks and lands managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The proposal would treat these properties like their adjacent public lands, where it’s not illegal to drive with a cased rifle on the back seat. As someone who regularly drives through Glacier and Yellowstone national parks and worries about breaking the law because my shotgun is literally riding shotgun, I like this proposal. It doesn’t punish those of us who may forget about the current law, and it recognizes the nuances of geography and property boundaries.

In Montana, for instance, U.S. Highway 191 enters Yellowstone National Park for about eight miles, running just inside the northwestern corner of the park. I have plenty of friends who drive this stretch of highway to a favorite elk area near Hebgen Lake – unloaded elk rifles beside them – and fret that they’re breaking federal law. The Senators’ proposal would eliminate this anxiety.

But some folks don’t like the idea of readily accessible guns in wildlife sanctuaries. Parks Service retirees and some active Parks Service managers have condemned the proposal as the first breach in a dike that will flood parks with poachers, gun-toting vigilantes and hair-trigger ninnies who will shoot bears and coyotes – and trophy deer and elk – at will.

They forget that using a gun for illegal activities is just as illegal as before. As anyone who has photographed Yellowstone Park’s habituated wildlife knows, it would be just as easier – and far quieter – to use archery equipment to poach an elk or bighorn sheep. Yet there are no restrictions on uncased bows in parks.

On the other side, some of the most passionate gun-rights advocates claim their Second Amendment rights allow them to carry guns anywhere, forgetting that the American landscape is dotted with areas where private guns are prohibited. These include prisons, military installations and most public buildings.

The sensible middle is where this proposal should be debated. The Interior Department should relax firearms restrictions in national parks and refuges because it keeps honest people honest. And because it would prevent otherwise law-abiding gun owners from inadvertently becoming felons simply because they cross a jurisdictional boundary.

Let’s hear from you about other places where the current gun restrictions don’t square with common sense or geography. It’s nice to see some courage on gun issues in Washington and with a little of our help this proposal should grow some legs.

-Andrew McKean



As a retired Police Officer, a gun owner and avid hunter I can see allowing the possession of firarms in our National Parks and on all other public land, but believe that the firearms should be cased and unavailable readily to the occupants of vehicles (in our Nation Parks), nor do I beleive that anyone should be allowed to carry openly a firearm inside our National Parks, but anywhere hunting is legal I see no problem as long as the person has a CCW permit for handguns. I also know that if everyone was allowed to carry a handcannon (I love them) readily available, inside our National Parks, there would be a percentage that would use these weapons to "ward off" a lot of animals that were perceived as attacking while they are most likely just curious or looking for a handout (I've seen this from more than one person, but most notably from a woman in Yellowstone with two small children, she had placed the children in front of her at "about 25 feet" from a buffalo for a photo, the animal showed no sign of attacking but did start walking toward the children sniffing loudly to get their scent, she started screaming for help and yelling for someone to "kill it" before it "got" her babies. Come on get real, the buffalo was scared off by her screaming, and never did make any threatening movements, although it was near to the children when she started screaming). I'll answer a couple questions now: No I don't have a CCW permit, and No I am not a plant for any antigun group, and Yes I have visited several of our National Parks (not being eaten or gored even once), and yes I do believe that our Federal, and many State, governments are too restrictive on firearms owership and carry, but to openly carry a firearm in our National Parks is a little too much to swallow.


"The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed..." You shoot a varmit with two legs or four, you're responible for your actions. Public parks are owned "by the people".


Sounds like a good idea!!

steve thompson

Shawns comments in my belief hits the nail on the head .For to long we have sat by and watched this right slowly erode away .No longer should we be defensive of our rights.I tried to find a blog to state these opinions on p.e.t.a sites or any other site that foster counter beliefs .IF anyone knows of such a site please let me know . I intend to take my fight to them even if my voice falls on deaf ears and blind ignorance. 6phunter

Brian Lynn

Hey Steve,

Here is the breeding ground for future PETA members:


and their messageboards:

Scary stuff considering that most of the people posting on the boards are junior high and high school kids with a few college kids thrown in.


Why would ANYONE need a readily-available gun in a national park?? It's not like drifters ever kidnap and murder hikers or anything like that...


(sarcasm off)

Mitchell Dean

I'm not sure there is no place offlimits to carrying a gun.Often times wih our police forces stretched to their limits and doing a great job,and it's a difference of only seconds between life and death. You don't have the luxury of minutes to wait on law enforcement. National Parks are a perfect example of this!

steve thompson

Thank you MR. LYNN I appreciate the info. lots of times people believe the only voice they hear ,now they get to hear mine . I may not be the best ambassador for our beliefs,My families struggles start with the revolutinary war and continue today in the mideast .I'VE practiced with the all army rifle team as a boy. I'M a former N.S.S. A. REFEREE I know it's the sportsmen and women dollars . hard work and time that have preserved our wildlife'.Only by educating the ignorant biased beliefs can we ever strenghten our position and deny those who would take away our passions and our RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS.6phunter


I would like to see the ability for open carry in a national park by people legally allowed to have the firearms. This speaks for national CCW reciprocity (I live in CT which doesn't honor anyone else's permit within the state) and for "shall issue" laws, plus, hopefully, the final recognition of our individual right to keep and bear arms by the Supreme Court in March (or later).

Open carry by a CCW holder should calm the hysterical and stupid, like the mother in "deepwoods" story, and bring some semblance of sanity to those situations which might require a 'show of strength'. There are enough times in the national parks when the comfort of having a concealed, or open, firearm could persuade some 'jokesters' to chill out. But you would always run the risk that they might try to take it away from you to show how cool they are! Ther are few cures for stupid!

Oh by the way, when my daughter and I take a walk in the evenings (usually the spring-fall), I ALWAYS go armed. Which means many times I feel naked when prohibited by local, state and federal laws whe I'm away from home.


Guy's Just this week I asked the Game wardens here in Kentucky about carring a handgun on my boat while Muskie fishing. Their reply was that they had no problem with it but on the Corp.of Engineer lakes , they did not permit carrying on a boat on teir lakes.


Sarg just brought up a great point. Since when did these lakes become the 'property' of the Corps of Engineers? This is another example of the Government getting too big and too full of itself, when it decides that the lakes belong to them and they might let us use them. Last time I looked, the citizens owned the lakes - since this isn't yet a truly socialist state. We legally have to take back the real 'ownership' of our country and its assets.


It isn't so much that the COE "owns" the lake, the fact that "the COE", shall we say, "constructed" the lake, the Gov't leaves it in "their" hands to manage!

I'm almost like deepwoods (1st blog) on this subject except, I don't have a problem with the CHL side of things. If your state issues you a CHL, it should be recognized in every state! Even in Nat'l Parks!
BUT, (there's that but {butt!?} again!) I too have seen the "hysterical" person, screaming for salvation because they trespassed within a "wild?" animal's personal space with Disneylike innocence! These people would likely be shooting/wounding bison, deer, elk, whatever for licking their new $60K 'Vette.


steve thompson

SARGE things needto be changed on corps. lakes in KENTUCKY, there are corps,lake impoundments here in western kentucky with public hunting allowed that can only be reached by boat unless you have private access, i'll see what i can find out about this and let you know . 6phunter


Thanks for post. Nice to see such good ideas.