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National parks now subject to state, local firearms laws

A change in federal law allows firearms in many U.S. national parks.

Under the new regulation, which takes effect today, individuals are allowed to carry a concealed firearm in a national park or wildlife refuge if: 1) they are legally authorized to carry a concealed weapon in the state in which the park or refuge is located and 2) if the state where the park or refuge is located allows guns in parks.

This provision was included in the “Miscellaneous Provision” section at the end of the credit card reform bill — the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009. The bill was signed by President Obama in May 209. It allows owners of licensed firearms to bring them into national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed to do so by state law.

Prior to February 22, firearms have generally been prohibited in national parks — except in some Alaska parks and those parks that allow hunting.

Firearms regulations vary by state. More than 30 national parks are located in more than one state; those possessing firearms are responsible for knowing which state they are in, and are subject to the laws of that state. 

Yellowstone National Park, for example, spans portions of the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. All three states allow open carry of handguns and rifles on one’s person or in a vehicle. They all also allow concealed carry of firearms with a permit.

In Yellowstone, state boundary lines are posted along park roadways, but they are not posted along trails or in the backcountry.

“For nearly 100 years, the mission of the National Park Service has been to protect and preserve the parks and to help all visitors enjoy them,” said Jon Jarvis, National Park Service director. “We will administer this law as we do all others — fairly and consistently.”

Federal law continues to prohibit firearms in certain facilities, such as park visitor centers and federal office buildings.  These facilities are posted with appropriate notices at public entrances.   

The new provision has no effect on existing laws and regulations regarding the use of firearms in national parks and does not change hunting regulations.

Visitors who want to bring firearms to a national park or wildlife refuge are encouraged to do their research ahead of time to ensure that they abide by the laws that apply.  For more information, check www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/lawsandpolicies.htm as well as individual park Web sites.

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