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.”
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