The National Park Service is giving bad legal advice to people who visit their web page and attempt 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. It is not something the park has any say over. It is ruled by state law, not park regulations. The Supreme Court has ruled that the carry of firearms for self defense is a constitutional right, in Heller v. District of Columbia.
For Yosemite National Park in California, they claim 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 gives you this inept “DRAFT – Do Not Distribute” pdf. From nps.gov:
As this document is only a “draft” from 2010, that was never supposed to be distributed to the public, I would suggest this modest addition:
Q. Why was the National Park Service allowed to ignore the Second Amendment for nearly a hundred years?
A. The ban on firearms was an administrative rule designed to reduce poaching in the parks. As the penalties were small compared to the costs of challenging an administrative rule on constitutional grounds, the National Park Service ignored the Second Amendment until the people pushed Congress to act.
There are numerous other FAQs that some imaginative and paranoid person at NPS put together in this DRAFT. It has stayed up at the site, never being updated, for the last six years. One of the most amusing is this:
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.
Have any refunds ever been given? Perhaps it could be determined with a FOIA request.
The NPS is not known for its high level of competence. I suspect a mundane case of bureaucratic inertia, compounded by the usual lack of “blood in the streets” following the incremental restoration of Second Rights. 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.
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