How To Concealed Carry In National Parks
For those every day carriers who like to travel and see the sights, the subject may come up of concealed carry in national parks, as they are wildly popular vacation destinations. Since they are federal lands, carrying there involves different regulations than in other locations.
However, unlike many other federal installations, concealed carry - or open carry, for that matter - is legal in many national parks, but the legality of it varies from park to park. If you're going to carry in a national park, it's up to you to ensure you're in compliance with the law. That said, you may well be able to CCW in a national park and beat the summertime CCW blues.
Guns In National Parks
Guns in national parks, since the 1960s, were largely confined to vehicles passing through or to hunting. Unless you were stalking game, they had to be locked away unloaded. National forests, on the other hand, were another matter, but national parks were largely prohibited areas to carry firearms in.
That was the policy from the 1960s until 2009, when a rider was attached to a completely unrelated bill to allow for concealed carrying in parks. The law in question is the Credit CARD (or Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act) of 2009, which really had nothing to do with carrying in parks, but that's how the sausage is made, so to speak.
Anyway, Section 512, titled "Protecting Americans From Violent Crime," was inserted to override a previous federal court decision that held national parks, as federal land, were more or less "gun-free zones" outside of hunting activities in those national parks allowing hunting. To abrogate this prohibition, concerned lawmakers got the provision into the Credit CARD Act. Once it passed, Section 512 established the new law regarding carrying in parks.
The law establishes primacy of state law in national parks, since they are a different type of federal installation than say, prisons, military bases, courthouses and office buildings.
Concealed Carry In National Parks: Follow State Laws
The law established by Section 512 of the CARD Act lays out the rules for concealed carry in national parks. It's actually pretty simple, as one has to follow the laws of the state in which the national park is located.
There are some national parks that are located on the border of two states; in that case, it gets a bit more complicated. In that situation, you follow the applicable law for where you physically are.
For instance, a few parts of Yosemite National Park are located in Nevada, whereas most of if is located in California. If one wanted to concealed carry in Yosemite National Park, but only had a Nevada license or license recognized by the state of Nevada, you could only do so in the areas located inside Nevada. Otherwise, you could only do so if you had a California CCW license...if you could get one.
Be sure to likewise follow any and all applicable laws regarding shooting. Just because you're in the woods doesn't mean you have free reign. In this day and age, anti-gun advocates are looking for any and every excuse they can find to justify more gun control legislation - do not give it to them. Laws and regulations on shooting in national forests and parks exist for a reason, and they should be followed to ensure the safety of everyone there.
The only exception is with buildings for federal personnel that are located on national park land. Since these are federal buildings, concealed carrying is not allowed unless one is park ranger or federal agent that's there as part of the course of their duties.
However, any commercial buildings, on the other hand, are okay. So, to frame that a little more simply, the ranger stations at Yellowstone are off-limits. However, the gift shop by Old Faithful is okay. Unless there's legal signage posted to keep your guns out of the store.
If you are in a constitutional carry state, then you can open or concealed carry without a license in a national park, except in any national park buildings. These are federal buildings, which are gun free zones and the law must be adhered to.
Outside of that, that's how CCW in national parks is done. So long as you are following the laws of the state the park is located in, you're good to go.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests include camping, hunting, concealed carry, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible..