Personal protection is not just a city issue. There is a chance of being victimized while engaged in outdoor activities, just as there is a chance in urban settings. Several years ago, during the George W. Bush administration, high-profile crimes in National Parks resulted in a law that changed how we exercise the Second Amendment. In the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of grizzly bear attacks in the Northwestern states that highlights the importance of that law.
Speaking of grizzly bears, one thing I have observed when hunting season is over is that NRA Women do not retire to their “dens” and go into a state of “human hibernation.” The off-season is the time we improve upon our wing-shooting, archery and firearm accuracy, and scout new hunting areas. If you are fortunate enough, the best place for NRA Women to engage in these activities is on their own land. Often, when I talk to other women about getting outdoors, I hear, “I don’t own any property,” or “I can’t afford my own place.” Not everyone is lucky enough or at a position in life to own their piece of America.
What many people do not realize is that we all own land in the form of public lands, both state and federal. This land is for our use, as long as we follow the rules. As American citizens, we do have a constitutional Right to Bear Arms (as long as we meet the minimum criteria and are not disqualified under federal law and state law) in federal parks, national forests, federal wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management and other federal lands to open carry handguns, shotguns and/or rifles. This constitutional right was guaranteed by the CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTABILITY RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLOSURE ACT OF 2009, TITLE V MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS, Sec. 512: Protecting Americans from violent crime.
State Parks and State Wildlife Management Areas are examples of state lands, and each has its own set of rules regarding the exercise of our Second Amendment. Federal lands include Federal Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and Bureau of Land Management areas; all are covered by the same set of laws concerning the Second Amendment, regardless of the state in which it is located. Each type of public land has its own rules on what you can and cannot do. Some allow hunting; some do not. For example, there is no hunting in most national parks, but there is hunting in national forests and wildlife refuges.
To be certain, it can be confusing. In creating this article, I made many phone calls to the National Parks Service and the Department of the Interior; the individuals I talked to just referred me to the “Superintendent’s Compendium” of the park in question. The Superintendent’s Compendium is the rules governing each federal park and is updated each year. I decided to go straight to the source and speak to the folks enforcing these rules on the ground.
After interviewing multiple Rangers, both law enforcement and non-law enforcement, in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park, I got the impression that the idea of exercising your Right to Bear Arms in National Parks is strongly discouraged. When asked point blank if open carry is permitted, it was stated, “Yes, but … .” This does not mean you cannot open carry; it just means that National Park Service personnel do not openly endorse it.
There are some very important things to know about carrying firearms on federal lands. First, that aforementioned Bush-era law allows individuals to open carry if the firearm complies with the state laws in which the park is located. Second, if you are wanting to concealed carry, that is permitted if you have a concealed-carry license from a reciprocal state—meaning the state that the park is in has reciprocity with the state that issued your concealed-carry permit. If you’re open carrying, remember that putting on a jacket when it gets cold converts what you’re doing into concealed carry. Even if you’re an honorably retired state peace officer with the federally approved ID., the same restrictions apply to you.
Carry responsibly; do not draw attention to yourself. You will be among all types of people, not just other NRA members. Remember, you represent all of us who fight every day to make sure that everyone retains the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.