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Can I Concealed Carry In A Zoo?

Can a person concealed carry at a zoo? Technically yes; there aren't too many laws that specifically prohibit carrying in a zoo. It's like any other business unless the zoo is considered a federal building.

The mere presence of animals and possibly children doesn't affect the legality of carrying in a zoo or almost any other animal sanctuary, including national parks. Bear in mind that this isn't legal advice, just a discussion for the purposes of sharing information and so on.

One Zoo Definitely Off Limits To CCW Is The National Zoo

national zoo ccw

Essentially, there's one zoo that on the face of it is definitely off limits to concealed carry: the National Zoological Park, often called the National Zoo. That's the zoo run by the Smithsonian. Since the Smithsonian Institute is part of the federal government, that makes any building that's part of the Smithsonian a federal building, which is a gun-free zone except for on-duty law enforcement and military.

That would also extend, ostensibly, to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, but there are two reasons no one would carry there. First, hardly anyone knows about it. Second, it's closed to the public so you can't get in anyway, except on visitor days.

Furthermore, the National Zoological Park is in Washington, D.C. The nation's capital is currently in limbo regarding concealed carry and no other permits are recognized there.

Carry Laws Affect Different Zoos Differently

zoo concealed carry laws

Outside of any zoos that are affected by federal regulations (such as the National Zoological Park), whether you can carry at a zoo or not depends on the carry laws of the state you are in when going to said zoological exhibit.

For instance, there aren't any federal regulations that affect concealed carry on campus; laws preventing college students from carrying are state laws. Therefore, legality of campus carry depends on the state. It's the same for zoos.

Zoos can be public, private or a mix of the two. For instance, the San Diego Zoo is privately administered by the Zoological Society of San Diego, but the land it sits on and the animals, equipment and other assets are owned by the city of San Diego. Thus, the zoo is run by a private non-profit, but it's a city park. (The safari park, however, is not.) This arrangement is not uncommon; some of the largest zoos in the nation operate in this fashion.

Zoo Boise, in Boise, Id., is part of the Julia Davis Park - which is public and therefore run by the Boise Parks and Recreation. Therefore, that zoo is wholly public, and actually is connected via walking bridge to Boise State University.

By contrast, the Dallas Zoo is - as of 2009 - wholly private though non-profit, owned and operated by the Dallas Zoological Society.

Why does this matter?

Zoos can be either private or public, and public zoos can be regulated by municipal or state law, either as their own entity or as a state or local park. Therefore, as a legal matter, whether one can carry or not depends on the zoo, state and city in question. If so, keep calm and carry on. If not...whether you leave it in the car or skip the zoo is up to the person carrying.

Carrying In Private Zoos A Matter Of Signage

zoo gun free zone

Private zoos, on the other hand, are a matter of signage. If the zoo or park itself forbids concealed or open carry on the premises, then - depending on the law of the state one is in - the law may mandate that the signage be obeyed.

If unsure, it may do to call the zoo one is interested in attending and finding out whether or not concealed carry is welcome on the grounds. If not, it's not a good idea to carry there even if signage doesn't carry the force of law - you can still be ejected or possibly liable for trespassing if carrying where it's not welcome.

Sam Hoober

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 and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.