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In early 2010, National Parks opened their doors to those carrying concealed firearms. Naturally, the Brady Campaign went nuts and started prognosticating about the trees of liberty being refreshed with not so metaphorical blood of patriots. Now, over one year later, a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Herschel Smith has the hard and fast facts about reported crimes in our nation’s parks. And I have to say, the numbers don’t look good for the Brady bunch.

That’s not to say the numbers are outstanding, but they don’t definitively support the Brady campaign’s statements that “The Bush Administration’s last-minute gift to the gun lobby, allowing concealed semiautomatic weapons in national parks, jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law.” If their hypothesis were correct, then we would expect to see a jump in violent crime in National Parks. On the contrary, the total number seems to be remaining pretty stagnant.

This graph breaks out all of the major offenses recorded by the Parks Service for the years 1995-2010. Overall there is a definite downward trend , but larceny (petty theft) accounts for so much of the total major offenses that it masks the trends of the “violent” offenses.

This graph shows only the “violent” offenses reported through the FOIA documents. Aggravated Assault, Rape, Kidnapping and Homicide all show a slight to moderate increase over the previous year, but given the fairly regular ups and downs in the past trends for these crimes they don’t seem necessarily uncharacteristic.

I wanted to show this graph next to the national numbers, but I couldn’t find the crime statistics for 2010. All of those offences are nowhere near their 1995 numbers, and despite the population growing something like 17% the raw numbers have been either stagnant or trending downwards pretty regularly (indicating that park safety has increased greatly over that of the 1990’s).

The numbers are up compared to last year (yet still generally within the error bars compared to previous years), but that doesn’t necessarily prove causation between letting concealed weapons into parks and blood on the trails. Mr. Smith has an interesting analysis on that matter.

It [the numbers] doesn’t show what Henigan [Brady Campaign] wants it to.  In fact, our national parks are not less safe than they were prior to 2010 when firearms were made legal.  And I did research most of the homicides (through local news accounts) and they mostly have to do with situation-specific (and sometimes bizarre) incidents involving individuals who had no right to carry a firearms anywhere because they were convicted felons, or prisoners on the run, or other such exigencies.  Not one incident that I researched had to do with an otherwise law-abiding citizen who suddenly went berserk because he had a gun in a national park.

In terms of statistics alone, it’s too early to tell definitively whether allowing concealed weapons in National Parks has made any changes to the “safety” of those parks. All we can tell for sure is that so far there have been no “mass shootings” in National parks, no one has “gone berserk” because they have a gun, and homicides don’t seem to be being perpetrated by CCW holders. In other words, exactly what we’ve seen with other recent “shall issue” converts.

On the other hand, as Mr. Smith notes, there has been at least one recorded instance of a hiker’s life being saved by a concealed pistol after he was attacked by a bear.

After all, if we can save just one life…

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    • i am always thinking bout all those who are in my car that why i always carry
      not trying to be macho but try to keep YOU from thinking you ARE macho

  1. Factc, facts, facts. You and your statistics and facts. How can you keep saying the gun-grabbers are wrong just because all the facts prove as much? After all, they put selectively-cut crying children on biased news networks, and that trumps facts.

  2. Gun control advocates don’t want civilians to have ANY weapons at all, but most western National Parks trails are teeming with well-armed hikers. A minority carry a gun, but ALL of them carry huge cans of extra-strength OC spray, the size of small fire extinguishers.

    Where’s the crime wave of Bear Spray assaults? Doesn’t the presence of all that chemical weaponry make hikers less safe? Aren’t we encouraging an Arms Race on our trails?

    Apparently, um, no. Suck that, Brady Bunch.

    • I had the same thought the other day Chris. I was in Yellowstone and wondering why there was more concern over me responsibly concealing a firearm then there was for some touron running around and playing with a big ass can of bear spray in a crowded gift shop or visitor center

  3. What might have the graphs make more sense is to get the total number of visitors per year, and then graph the offenses as per 100, per 1,000, or per 10,000 visitors (depending on the agregate # of visitors). It would level the numbers out a bit, and make the trends more recognizable.

    Personally, I want to be able to carry in a national park, where help is likely to be an hour away (*if* you can get a cell signal) and I need immediate protection against all attackers – four legged *and* two.

  4. In 2008, there were 3,760 reported major crimes in National Parks, including five homicides and 37 rapes. All of those victims were defenseless against two-legged predators. If it was their choice to be defenseless, that’s fine. But for a certain percentage of those people, the choice was made for them by the ruling class in Washington and their messenger boys at the various anti-American organizations like the Brady Campaign Against America.

    Carrying in the National Parks isn’t just about statistics. For me, it’s about who gets to decide whether I can defend myself.

  5. I actually decided to go with the bear spray instead of my heavy. 45 Colt handloads in Glacier, mostly because of the weight penalty of a Ruger Blackhawk, ammo and gun fanny pack.

    I forgot to snap a picture of it, but the Park Service has posted signs at all trailheads warning that only the ‘most powerful’ handguns can stop a bear attack. Unlike Joe Matafome, my lowly. 45 Colt +P delivers much less than 2000 lb-ft of energy so I decided to save myself nearly three pounds and leave it home.

    Sometimes a ‘sensor kill’ (blind and disoriented bear, running away into the bush like a gutshot cat) is better than a ‘kinetic kill’ (ventilated bear, eventually bleeding out with a stomach full of hiker) and sometimes a gun is not the best tool for the job.

  6. Okay. I’ll apologize for this in advance. This is a NSFW joke. And if you’re easily-offended, you can stop reading now. For those who are a little less sensitive, read on…

    A city boy gets the idea he’d like to take up hunting. He goes to his local sporting goods emporium and buys a rifle. Nothing special. Just your typical “I don’t know what I want so sell me something kinda cheap” weapon. He stocks up on woodland camo gear, and all the other paraphernalia a salesman on commission can sell him. Bright and early one Saturday morning, he heads out for the woods. He climbs a tree and waits there, as stealthily as possible, waiting for some unsuspecting woodland creature to happen by.

    As luck would have it, what should come lumbering down the trail but a rather large bear. Brown, he thinks. Maybe black. But no worries, he shoulders his new bang-stick, squeezes the trigger ever so gently and BAM! as the smoke clears, he’s surprised to NOT see the carcass of a bear on the trail. In fact, he sees nothing. But he feels a tap on his shoulder. He turns, and is startled to see the bear, sitting on the branch next to him.

    “You trying to shoot me, there, Nimrod?” the bear inquires.

    The guy is paralyzed with fear. He thinks, “TALKING BEAR!” but stammers out, “Um…no uh, mister Bear…I…uh, was, well I just got this gun…and I um, well, I was just trying it out and I…um…NO! I didn’t mean to aim it at you!”

    “I don’t believe you,” sez the bear, and with that, he throws the guy over the branch of the tree and rogers him.

    Afterwards, the guy, sore and pride wounded, climbs down and heads straight for the sporting goods store. “I want a gun that will take out a bear. A BIG bear!” he declares. He loads up on a hi-powered rifle, ammo, a scope – the works. The next weekend, he heads back out to the woods to get revenge. As luck would have it, it wasn’t long before a bear (looking very much like the one that assaulted him) comes lumbering down the trail. The guy brings his new rifle up, and gets the bear in the crosshairs. The bear doesn’t see him. The guy pulls the trigger. BAMMM!!! But as the smoke clears – no bear. Sure enough, he feels a tap on his shoulder.

    “Now I know this time you were trying to kill me,” offers the bear.

    “Ohhh, NO, Mister Bear! See, I just bought this new gun…and…and…an it just sorta went off by itself!” the guy replies.

    “I don’t believe you,” says the bear, and with that, he throws the guy over the branch and rogers him.

    Sore and angry, the guy gets down from the tree and limps into the sporting goods store. “Screw it. I want an elephant gun. I want a rhino gun. Gimme the biggest thing you’ve got!” says our intrepid hunter. He buys a .50 cal heavy enough to need a hoist to get it up the tree. Before dawn the following Saturday, he’s in the tree, with the .50 cal, night vision goggles, a GPS unit, and every other bit of gear he could buy. Just after sunrise, the bear comes strolling down the path.

    “I’ve got you this time, you S.O.B.!” thinks the guy. He puts a red dot right between the bear’s eyes, and prepares to help him assume room temperature. Ever so slowly, he squeezes the trigger. BAAAAMMMMM!!! The bloody thing nearly takes his arm off, and causes him to momentarily lose his balance. The sound is deafening. As the smoke clears, he eagerly looks for whatever’s left of the bear’s carcass. But he sees nothing. Not one shred of bear left. Just as he begins to feel like he can claim “mission accomplished,” he feels a tap on his shoulder and his heart sinks.

    The bear looks at him quizzically. “You um, don’t come here for the hunting, do you?”


    Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here through Thursday. Try the veal.

    • ROFL….! You owe me a large mouthful of cheap gin… and how do I get lime pulp out from under the keys of my computer…

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