Starting next week, your fellow national park enthusiasts may be armed. The long standing ban on guns in national parks and national wildlife refuges will be lifted on February 22nd, thanks to a rider attached to a credit card reform bill passed by Congress. The gun ban has long applied to 391 parks in every state but Delaware, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam the U.S. Virgin Islands. It will still be illegal to discharge weapons in these areas but, unbelievably, it appears that only fully automatic guns, pellet guns and BB guns are off limits.
Not only is lifting the ban a disastrous idea from a safety perspective, it also presents logistical nightmares. Every state has its own gun laws, as do the territories, and these still apply. It falls to the gun owners to make sure they are in compliance with the laws wherever they are carrying and this may mean being compliant with the laws of more than one state if the park straddles more than one – for instance, the vast majority of Yellowstone is in Wyoming but portions stretch into Idaho and Montana. Will gun owners be willing to take the time to be up to speed on the various laws that will apply to their destinations? Time will tell but for your sake and mine, I hope so.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.