As of Feb. 22, 2010, there are fewer restrictions on gun possession for nearly 1,000 units of the National Park and National Wildlife Refuge systems.
Educating your audience about the complicated new law will be a useful public service. It will also familiarize you with the people involved at your local facilities, what steps they are taking, and who you can contact if a shooting incident or other violation occurs.
The specific conditions under which it will be legal to carry a gun on these lands vary substantially, since the laws of each state or locality will apply, in conjunction with applicable federal laws. Many of these lands are dealing with added complexity because they span state or county boundaries. Although the rules on possession have changed, in many cases the rules on firing or brandishing guns have not.
To find out all the new angles — such as scenarios in which it will be legal to carry a gun on the federal land parcel, but not in certain public or private buildings on those lands — check with officials at the affected facility (whose Web site often will have a link to appropriate gun laws) and the state, county, and local agencies that have jurisdiction (typically a legal or law enforcement agency). In some cases, officials are still trying to figure out the details of how the new rules will apply.
- National parks, seashores, historic areas, etc. ("Find a Park"); Feb. 18, 2010, press release.
- National wildlife refuges ("Find Your Refuge"); Feb. 19, 2010, press release.
The new policy — approved in the last months of the Bush administration, and allowed to go into effect by the Obama administration despite a March 2009 court ruling against it — was signed into law in May 2009.
- Public Law 111-24, Section 512 (which is a very short amendment to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009; near the end).
The law was strongly supported by numerous gun organizations, and resisted by many organizations representing law enforcement personnel or people who advocate for these lands or work for these agencies.
- National Rifle Association: Institute for Legislative Action, "New Rule on Guns in Parks Takes Effect February 22," Feb. 9, 2010.
- Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, "America's National Parks Are Likely to See More Guns," Feb. 9, 2010.
- Association of National Park Rangers, "New Law Allows Loaded Guns in National Parks; Puts Park Visitors, Wildlife and America's Heritage at Risk," Feb. 19, 2010.
Two examples of media coverage include:
- "Guns Are Now Permitted — but Not Necessarily Welcomed — in National Parks," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 22, 2010, by Julie Cart.
- "Federal Government to Lift Restrictions on Guns in National Parks," Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2010, by Ed O'Keefe.
Thumbnail Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service