A legislation, proposed and drafted by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) was billed as a way to uniformly enforce gun laws across different states and National Parks, which are under federal supervision. The law was said to extend the state’s guidelines concerning concealed carry into the federal National Park. If you had a permit for a concealed weapon in your own state and that right was recognized by the state hosting the National Park, then your permit would be recognized as well.
But the legislation, attached to a credit-card reform bill and signed by President Obama, reportedly goes beyond the concealed-carry recognition. Whether by design or accident, it removes concealed-carry provisions from the mix and basically allows state gun laws to take precedence in any National Park.
We suspect the end result will be a little more complicated. Wyoming does indeed have a concealed-carry law — you can see for yourself on the state’s website — and does indeed recognize concealed-carry permits from other states. (Websites specializing in explaining concealed-carry laws have come to the same conclusion.) However, Wyoming is one of the many states that allows citizens to openly carry a legally registered weapon. We looked at the law surrounding concealed carry in Wyoming and came to a slightly different conclusion after talking with experts. Indeed, Park Service officials in Washington, D.C. say they’re still reviewing appropriate statutes before coming up with gun guidelines for each National Park.
Still, the fact that Park Rangers must add gun enforcement to their list of duties is not the most desirable of outcomes. Generally speaking, the vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens. The problem, however, doesn’t lie with responsible gun owners; it lies with irresponsible gun owners, and they, too, exist; there were issues raised by gun owners openly brandishing their weapons during Obama speeches in Arizona and Minnesota this summer, as they went out of their way to openly carry legal semiautomatic weapons in large crowds waiting to see the President. Poaching, too, is still an issue in Yellowstone. And, quite bluntly, we can’t think of many instances in Yellowstone National Park where anyone would need a weapon; we’re not talking about an environment where animal attacks or human crime occurs with any degree of regularity.
In the Daily article, local attorney Kent Spence of Jackson’s Spence Law Firm says he would feel more comfortable camping in the Yellowstone backwoods carrying a weapon capable of taking down a bear, though he admitted pepper spray would be his first line of defense. We’re not so sure every other gun owner would be as comfortable or responsible should a bear attack.