Welcome back to The Legal Brief, the show where we CRUSH the various legal myths and misinformation surrounding various areas of the gun world. I’m your host Adam Kraut and today we’re talking carrying a firearm in national parks.
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- Firearms carry in national parks.
This is a topic that was one I had to research for my own knowledge before I headed out to Grand Teton National to backpack the Teton Crest Trail for my birthday this past year.
Which by the way, if you ever get the chance, go hike it, it’s a gorgeous part of the country. So the question that arose is, can I legally carry a firearm in the backcountry?
I found conflicting information put out by the National Park Service in relation to my question.
In 2010, Congress passed public law 111-24, also known as the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which sounds like it has nothing to do with what we are talking about, however, Section 512 specifically pertains to the discussion.
On a side note, you have to love how we have a government that can make a bill related to one topic and pass other parts that have nothing to do with what it’s called right?
Section 512 recites some congressional findings, including that the Second Amendment to the Constitution provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” and that while the Bush administration implemented new regulations relating to carrying firearms in national parks that, Congress needs to weigh in on the new regulations to ensure that unelected bureaucrats and judges cannot again override the Second Amendment rights of law- abiding citizens on Eighty three million six hundred thousand acres of National Park System land and ninety million seven hundred ninety thousand acres of land under the jurisdiction of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal laws should make it clear that the second amendment rights of an individual at a unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System should not be infringed.
Specifically, subsection B states “The Secretary of the Interior shall not promulgate or enforce any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm including an assembled or functional firearm in any unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System if” two criteria are met. The first being the individual is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm and second the possession of the firearm is in compliance with the law of the State in which the unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System is located. As a result, since February 22, 2010, it has been legal to carry a firearm in national parks in accordance with all state and federal laws pertaining to such. If we look to the federal regulations, we can see in 36 CFR 2.4 that the language mirrors that of federal law. Because I know some of you are going to ask this, if the state in which the park is located prohibits the carrying of a firearm, you may NOT carry a firearm in the national park.
This is not a pass to override state law, but rather a prohibition on the federal government from banning the ability of citizens to carry firearms in national parks.
Now, there are a couple of important points that you need to be aware of.
Possession of a firearm inside a federal facility is prohibited under 18 USC 930. And just so we’re clear, federal facility is defined in section 930 as a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where Federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties. My advice, if it’s owned by the United States of America…stay out of it, even the bathroom. So carrying a firearm in the park is fine but the buildings are not.
You may also find that the materials provided by the National Park Service are not up to date or have conflicting information. I seemed to have misplaced my brochure I had found in my research leading up to my trip to Grand Teton National Park, but I specifically remember one of the brochures stating that firearms were prohibited in the backcountry, which as you can see by the law and regulations, simply is not true.
The last point that lacks guidance is whether it is legal to discharge a firearm inside a national park. For instance, those who head into the backcountry where bears are common may elect to carry a firearm for protection in addition to bear spray. If an individual discharges a firearm as a last resort to a bear encounter after exhausting other options in an effort not to be mauled or killed are they criminally liable? The answer appears to be a legal gray area. While the National Park Service seems to explicitly state that discharge is still prohibited in some materials, there are arguments that the Second Amendment and the decision in Heller would apply. Unfortunately, we don’t have any case law or a law explicitly stating that it is legal and as a result if you discharge a firearm in a National Park, it is very possible you could find yourself engaged in a legal battle. I’ve included an article in the description which documents several different instances of discharge in national parks and varying results.
Hopefully that gives you guys an overview of the legalities of carrying a firearm in a national park.
On a side note, I’d strongly encourage all of you to visit the national park system and if you can get into the backcountry to see some sights you may never otherwise see. If you guys liked this episode, you know what to do, hit that like button and share it around with your friends. Have a question you want answered on this show, head over to The Legal Brief section on theguncollective.com. Be sure to check out my website adamkraut.com for more information on my quest to serve YOU on the NRA Board of Directors. Don’t forget to like The Gun Collective on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Full 30, Snap Chat and wherever else you can catch us on social media.
And as always thanks for watching!
Links for this episode:
- Public Law 111-24 § 512 : https://www.nps.gov/policy/section512.pdf
- 36 CFR 2.4 – Weapons, traps and nets : https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/36/2.4
- 18 USC 930 : https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/930
- National Park Service Brochure – Guide to Firearm Regulations : https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/management/upload/imr_gunsparks_brochure_2-2010.pdf
- National Park Service – Firearms in Parks (Grand Teton National Park) : https://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/management/firearms.htm
- Article on Discharge of Firearm In National Parks : http://helenair.com/lifestyles/outdoors/spokesman-says-glacier-gun-incidents-an-anomaly-in-national-parks/article_5ab9e308-2dfc-5762-b42d-58e2c5077752.html
About The Gun Collective
The Gun Collective is dedicated to bringing you the highest quality, fast paced gun content possible. Started in June 2015 by Jon Patton, TGC has rapidly taken off to become a go-to source for the things you need to know without a bunch of BS. Please check out TheGunCollective.com to learn more and see what the hype is all about!