bear-warning-nps-sign

The National Park Service is giving bad legal advice to people who visit their web page and to find out about firearms policy at various national parks. For Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, they claim that firearms “cannot be used as a wildlife protection strategy.”

From nps.gov:

Federal law also prohibits firearms in certain facilities in this park (such as visitor centers, government offices, etc.); those places are marked with signs at all public entrances. Firearms may not be discharged in this national park (except during legal hunting seasons) and can not be used as a wildlife protection strategy. Bear spray and other safety precautions are the proven methods for preventing bear and other wildlife interactions. See the Bear Safety and Wildlife Viewing pages.

Having a firearm as a “wildlife protection strategy” is not illegal. The park has no say in the matter; lawful armed self-defense is defined by state law, not park regulations. And yet Yosemite National Park in California claims that “Discharging a firearm for any reason is illegal.” From nps.gov:

It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering this park. As a starting point, visit the California Attorney General’s website.

Federal law also prohibits firearms in certain facilities in this park; those places are marked with signs at all public entrances. Discharging a firearm for any reason is illegal.

Discharging a firearm for defense of self and others is legal. You may have to show that your purpose was defense, and that a reasonable person would have done what you did, but it is not illegal. Going to the Frequently Asked Questions Implementation of Firearms Law link reveals the National Park Service’s sympathy for hoplophobic visitors.

Q. My family and I come here to enjoy the peacefulness of the park – why is the National Park Service allowing people to bring firearms?

A. Firearms are allowed – consistent with applicable federal, state, and local firearms laws – as a result of a new federal law enacted in May 2009.

Q. I am frightened by firearms and am leaving the park. Can I have my entrance fee refunded? My annual pass refunded?

A. Park superintendents have the authority to provide a refund if the circumstances warrant it.

The NPS is not known for its high level of competence. I suspect a mundane case of bureaucratic inertia allowed this alarmist anti-gun attitude to fester. Which is now dissipating in real life, if not on their website. From eenews.net:

Mark Magnuson, the chief ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, was hard-pressed to come up with examples of the law’s effects. But one was immediate confusion from visitors.

“The year after the law change, we had several complaints from visitors about people openly carrying firearms — which was now legal,” he said. “So it was a little bit of an educational learning curve for members of the public, but not a huge deal.”

It is time for the National Park Service to move into the 21st Century, and do away with their 20th Century prejudices. They should update their websites to reflect reality and update their hastily made DRAFT FAQs from 2010.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

61 Responses to National Park Service: Discharging Firearms for Self Defense is Illegal

  1. “Q. I am frightened by firearms and am leaving the park. Can I have my entrance fee refunded? My annual pass refunded?”
    Really? This is a FAQ? I somehow doubt it.

      • I think he means, “is this really a frequently asked question…a question that park visitors ask sooooo frequently that it warrants a prepared and published answer.” He doubts that it’s frequently asked.

        • Having worked in various national parks, I can tell you that people do NOT ask this. People ask all kinds of dumb things, but they don’t ask this.

    • Snowflakes have no business being in a national park unless they’re falling from the sky in winter. God save us from this generation of pu***es.

      • No kidding. If you are afraid of the real wilderness then go ahead and watch it on tv instead of ruining it for the real America. Better yet go ahead and move to Europe with the rest of the pu$$ies. Feel free to give us a call when your cowardess starts the next European war.

      • Absolutely. I spent my childhood learning how to survive in the wilderness. I spent some of that time doing Search-and-Rescue. These creampuffs tend to chase butterflies or whatever into the woods, and then they get lost. When we would find them or their bodies, we would find out that they went out there without a way to make a fire, water, knife, or decent clothing. Often, it would take days to find them because they would just keep walking, often in a circles, and we would find them in an area we had already searched. When we did find them alive, we would learn that they practically expected that there would be street signs and Starbucks on every trail. Sometimes, I wish we could put walls around all of our big, liberal cities so they cannot get out. For those leftists sipping their latte as they read this post, do us grown ups a favor and stay home. You do not belong outside your concrete oasis.

        On another note, bear spray certainly works…unless it doesn’t. In a perfect world, it would be great if bear spray worked 100% of the time. Unfortunately, I have read countless articles and seen a few YouTube videos where bears ignored the bear spray. Heck, I watched a friend of mine with the Federal Protective Service unload a whole can of LE grade pepper spray on a raccoon, and it didn’t even phase the creature. If I recall correctly, bear spray is about 1% CRC, and LE grade is about 10% CRC. A Raccoon weighs between 8 and 20 pounds and a Grizzly Bear weighs between 280 and 400 pounds. In my opinion, if a liberal wants to add a little seasoning to himself before the bear has a people meal, who am I to stop them.

        • “In my opinion, if a liberal wants to add a little seasoning to himself before the bear has a people meal, who am I to stop them.”

          You, sir, made me laugh. Thanks for what might be The Quote of the Year 🙂

      • @Nativeson, I disagree, those snowflakes absolutely need to be there. Bear need to eat. So do mountain lion, coyote, and plenty of other carnivores and scavengers.

    • Look, I love guns, but there are far too many wing nuts that go to national parks and then freak out and draw down the critters that live there.

      I live near two major western national parks and the number of pistol-packing-Petes I meet on the trail has increased ten fold. Yup, their all ready to take out a raging grizzly with their 9mm or .45. In fact they seem just a itching to take out some four-lagger and save the day.

      Heck, if I ever visited a big city packing my heat, I’d be popping scary people left and right just trying to get out with my life. Well, that’s what I see in the national parks: armed citizens who have zero experience or understanding about the outdoors made worse in concentrated parks.

      • Have you seen these folks draw down on the animals? Have you had a convo with them? Or are you just assuming that because they’re armed they’re wing nuts?

        • “Heck, if I ever visited a big city packing my heat, I’d be popping scary people left and right just trying to get out with my life.”

          JWM, look at that sentence he wrote. He’s a Progressive trolling you. See the ‘projection’ there? ” I’d be popping scary people left and right…”

          ‘Mainspring’ is un-sprung…

  2. This is just part of the liberal statist push to devalue human life, beneath that of animals. We saw it with that gator attack in Florida, where liberals were literally claiming the child deserved to be eaten. Same here. They’d rather their precious snuggly bear eat you. Until they’re the ones being eaten, then, they blame racist republican conservatives and climate change for forcing animals to attack people.

  3. The ludicrous part is that bear spray is well known to the NPS to be relatively ineffective against brown bears, but mostly works with black bears. I heard this from rangers in Glacier several decades ago, and on multiple occasions since then. I carry both in bear country (in NW MT, we have a lot of black bears in close, but the brown bears are out a bit, still, maybe 5 miles or so, but do cross the major highways and river).

    With Heller directly saying that firearms may be kept and born for self-defense within federal jurisdictions (and McDonald saying the same for state jurisdictions), it would be a major stretch for a judge to convict someone for actually using a firearm in self-defense. Self-defense is self-defense, regardless of whether the predator is two legged or four (or, normally four, but capable of two, as with bears).

    • Bear spray, advocated by NPS actually, is illegal by cfr 36 as a “chemical irritant”. It has the same penalty that firearms used to have before the Coburn amendment passed. NPS Steadfastly refuses to repeat he chemical irritant ban OR proclaim it illegal – I have emails from them.

      All of that said, discharging a firearm in a Nation Park or wildlife refuge, even in self defense can in fact be prosecuted. There was a California LEO who was, in fact prosecuted by NPS (charged by them anyway) for doing exactly that before the firearms ban was repealed. NPS is 2nd only to ATF in its vehement hatred of people who own, use or have firearms. And when I say hatred, I mean it. Their culture is awash in a superiority complex unrivaled by other feds.

      sure, you may be vindicated eventually, but you cannot count on NPS, even if the investigation is by a “so called” friendly, gun owning, CCW NPS ranger. NPS in particular within DOI is a group of people convinced of their superiority and importance.

    • “Self-defense is self-defense, regardless of whether the predator is two legged or four …”

      Ah, but you forgot to account for the fact that self-defense does not include using a firearm if someone else objects to it.

    • “bear spray is well known to the NPS to be relatively ineffective against brown bears, but mostly works with black bears.”

      So, pepper spray is on par with yelling and other loud noises?

  4. ” Firearms may not be discharged in this national park (except during legal hunting seasons)”
    You can hunt in national parks? I though national parks where off limits to any hunting.

  5. Isn’t that a big crock of crap. More liberal Progressive BS for the populace to be Bram down our throats. These lawmakers and the state park officials are absolutely retarded. My grandfather a coal miner a World War 2 veteran used to always tell me when I was a little boy when you go into the woods you make damn sure you carry yourself a shotgun with you so that if you come across an animal that doesn’t want you in his Woods you can defend yourself. This was way before bear spray this was back in the seventies. And speaking of bear spray we know that stuff doesn’t even work. Like spraying a crackhead with pepper gas is going to run right on through it and keep on coming. I’ve seen this happen many times with our local PD to the point that they almost use their tasers more than Pepper gas now because the pepper spray is just not effective enough at deterring a violent person or animal for that matter. If we don’t get Donald Trump into office we are looking down the barrel of a gun. Hillary Clinton is the worst human being on the face of the planet right now. A murderer of over two thousand people in Benghazi Libya lying to the FBI into Supreme Court denied her computer to be looked at and examined for illegal emails. If this happened to any one of us we be looking at 15 years in a federal prison for treason. She’s been in politics for 30 years and she doesn’t know what a classified document looks like give me an effing break.

  6. Where I live, it is also illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits. But nobody who does so to defend themselves or others gets prosecuted.

    • And that’s pretty much the case in National Parks. It’s not a hard and fast rule. If you discharge a weapon, it IS illegal, but each case is decided based on a range of information.

  7. Q: I piss my pants and run away screaming at the sight of any weapon of mass destruction. Will this behavior attract bears and get me eaten?
    A: Probably not. Bears don’t like loud, annoying noises. But we obviously don’t know shit so just stay at home for your own safety.

  8. Q: Everything I disagree with I descriminate against and shower hate upon, and want it changed to match my world view. Why am I such an intolerant douchebag?

    A: Its quite possible that your parents were intolerant douchbags, or were such inept bubble parents that they did nothing but cater to your every whim in order to keep you quiet and you came to beleive that you and your opinions mattered more than other people’s. You suck; and the rest of us know it, and talk behind your back about how intolerant are. You should probably go someplace quiet, away from everyone else, and eat a handful of pills and save us all from having to interact with you anymore.

  9. Q: if I follow your ridiculous regulations and allow a charging bear to get close enough to me so I could effectively use bear spray but I am eaten and turned into bear poo, will the national park service pay for my funeral?

    A: No.

    • “Q: if … I am eaten and turned into bear poo, will the national park service pay for my funeral?

      A: No.”

      Also your estate will be fined for illegal disposition of toxic waste.

  10. I can’t speak for other states but catering to the hoplophobic has become a thing here in Colorado and is a part of why I gave up on camping.

    A lot of the places I could go just a few years ago are now completely overrun by… well pansy ass liberals. Not only do they trash the area, act obnoxiously (party very loudly), camp illegally, light fires illegally etc, they are a pain to deal with because they call LE when they see a gun. If they see a gun they will actually drive to get cell phone service and call the authorities to come harass you, and the LE will show up because they got a vague “guy with a gun” call. The authorities, state or local that showed up were usually pretty chill and would sit there and jaw with you for a while about how they hate these kind of calls (they really appreciate a hot sandwich off the fire and a cup of fresh coffee).

    However, the guys from the Forest Service and the NPS were generally arrogant assholes that would make a big deal of all the tickets they could write “You haven’t been putting targets on trees have you!? You know that’s $500 per round that strikes a tree on federal land, right? I’m not afraid to write those tickets!” (Close to verbatim what one of them told me).

    Oh boy do they get pissed if you have a gun on your hip or even a rifle leaned against a tree and a beer in your hand. It’s basically the textbook definition of “overreaction”.

    • The nice thing is, or at least was in the 90’s when I lived out there, it was not that hard to find places to camp that the hippies just would not venture to.

      I spent some memorable time well off the beaten path on the 12k-ers above St. Mary’s Glacier. Drive in toward that campground up that one road, park, grab the back and foot-it over a ridge or two and believe me, NONE of the hike-in-sandals crowd anywhere around.

      I don’t even want to know if that’s still the case. I’d be saddened to learn the whole area has been overrun. An AT thu-hiker friend of mine recently did a portion of trail here in NC and said he saw maybe 200 other hikers. Places on the AT I used to go in WNC that were considered remote 20-30 years ago are now almost like city access groomed campgrounds.

      Insane.

  11. Its like this in most places now, at least in my experience.

    State, local, and Federal laws all mish-mashed together. If I haven’t visited one of our local or State parks (sometimes they are declared federal, or federally-owned land?) in a while I have to spend some time on their website, and others, untangling all the rules so I can be informed. No longer can official signage be trusted. The hodgepodge is maddening.

  12. Maybe they should issue visitors guns that shoot chunks of steak loaded with sleepy drugs, to fire at the nasty animals.

    /sarc

    • Interestingly, to visit Spitzbergen, the Norwegian gov’t requires a rifle in possession. They even issue them to visitors when they obtain visitor’s permit (or so I’ve read).

      So, the Norwegians understand the consequences of having tourists killed by large predators (polar bears) and take precaution against it.

      I’m guessing not a lot of Proggie Environmentalist types visit Spitzbergen to see the polar bears since it would require them to OMG carry a gun.

      • Well, your guide can have the gun. That’s different (somehow.) I don’t get it. If you are alone, and shoot an attacking polar bear, you are responsible for the death of that animal. If you hire a guide, and HE shoots the bear, then…you are responsible. Hell, now you HIRED a killer, which to my mind would be worse if you’re the type that conflates self defense and murder.

  13. So if it’s legal to possess a firearm at a National Park, but illegal to discharge it, even in self defense, what about hammers, large pipe wrenches, baseball bats, etc…

    Is it illegal swing a baseball bat at an angry attacking raccoon?
    The logic is mind blowing.

  14. Coming soon everywhere when Hillary Clinton enacts her “common sense gun safety laws” that “still respect the 2nd Amendment.”

    • You’re not going to have success stopping a bear with anything less than an extremely high powered rifle. Shooting a bear with anything but a kill shot is just going to make it angry, and a kill shot requires penetration of the skull, which isn’t going to happen with a handgun or a standard rifle.

      • Totally not true. Majority of handguns, yes, but there are enough high-powered revolvers that can take down anything, even with a misplaced shot. A hot load in a S&W 500 mag pistol generates as much energy and stopping power as a 45-70 rifle or a 12-gauge shotgun slug, and far easier to wield in short distance. In occasions, a 500 mag bullet will penetrate entire length of animal, even exiting. These are even used to hunt bear with. So headshots need not apply with the right cartridge (not to mention a bear’s skull is quite thick).

        I understand your point, but a well-informed person will stack the deck, carrying bear spray if far enough away but close enough to fog, make noise when hiking, BUT also carry an appropriately sized handgun to accommodate the possible wildlife threat, as a a final counter measure. Sadly, just the report of a handgun is enough to scare one away (which is what I do when backpacking in Alaska, letting the bear see me first but then scaring it), however it is illegal to discharge. Just stupid. This is their way to not “infringe” but make every other possible related aspect of a gun illegal.

  15. Hahahaha, I LIVE in California and know for a fact that they PROHIBIT pepper/bear spray in Yosemite so obviously they just want you to die.

    From their site:
    Other Weapons
    Within Yosemite National Park, it is prohibited to possess or use pepper spray (including bear spray and other irritant gas devices), pellet guns, BB guns, bows and arrows, crossbows, blowguns, spearguns, hand-thrown spears, slingshots, explosive devices, or any other implements designed to discharge missiles.

  16. The alert was dated 2010. Each park in each state runs off the rules by their area. I know in the nf near me, they allow target shooting. It just depends on where you live. I think our park will change though. They took down the category on their site off about target shooting rules and now have nothing. No info at all, good or restrictions. So…no site info, no signs, screw em.

  17. “It is the responsibility of visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering this park. As a starting point, visit the California Attorney General’s website.”

    So state laws prevail in national parks.
    In California state (covers Yosemite NP):
    1. Open carry is illegal
    2. Concealed carry is illegal without a permit
    3. The exception is in your campsite where you can ope vary or while hunting and fishing.

    • I agree. You can prepare yourself for nature, but you can’t prepare yourself for the erratic behaviour of those perpetrating inner city crime.

    • I posted this above, but…

      Most firearms won’t work on bears. Feel free to check out my response above for more info.

  18. Come to Canada!!! You can’t even STOP your vehicle in the park if you have a firearm in it, and God forbid if said firearm is not locked in a case AND disabled, rendered incapable of firing AT ALL TIMES while in the park.
    The National Parks Act up here makes having a firearm in your posession & not secured in Park boundries an offence nearly comparable to manslaughter in terms of punishment.

  19. I’ve posted above a little, but I just want to remind people that most guns will NOT stop bears, in particular grizzlies. If you’re using a gun, you need a kill shot. Anything less makes a bear angry, and good luck aiming your rifle when a bear has your head in his jaws.

    Anything less than an extremely high powered rifle will not penetrate the skull of a bear, and that’s what a gun needs to be doing to be effective.

    Yelling and making yourself big are effective if the bear is simply curious. Not so much if the bear is already attacking.
    Bear spray does work on blacks and browns and cinnamon browns, but not as effectively on grizzlies.

    The -best- way to handle game/predator/animal situations in National Parks is not to get yourself into an encounter in the first place. Nearly all incidents between humans and bears are over poorly stored food. Nearly all other incidents of animal encounters are people invading the space of a wild creature. (You would not believe how many people think it’s okay to climb fences and approach the buffalo in the Teton area.)

    I’ve lived IN multiple national parks. I’ve had personal encounters with bears. I love the back woods, the back country. I have no issues with people being armed. Personally, I’m more afraid of humans than wildlife and carry pepper spray, where I’m able, for the point of deterring -humans-. If you carry a gun for that purpose, more power to you.

    I hope you all have fun, are safe, and enjoy our beautiful wildnerness.

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