Gun-control advocates predicted more folks packing would result in more gun-related incidents in the Park, with irresponsible gun owners willing to settle things at gunpoint at a moment’s notice. Gun-rights advocates predicted the ability to pack would give them a better chance to defend against marauding wildlife and criminals lurking in the Yellowstone backcountry.
Turns out both sides were wrong and indulging in stereotypes. We asked Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis about any impact of the gun-carrying changes, and she responded as follows:
Our law enforcement rangers have not observed any unusual trends in firearm-related incidents since the new law was implemented. With over five months left in the calendar year, a definitive analysis will occur when our 2010 law enforcement statistics are compiled in mid-winter of 2011.
That gibes with the anecdotal evidence we’ve heard from rangers on the ground: packing is still relatively rare in the Park, as it’s really more of a pain that it’s worth, as the National Park Service and both Park concessionaires (Xanterra and Delaware North) prohibit packing in their buildings. The crime rate in Yellowstone is fairly marginal considering the high number of visitors. And despite the ability to pack, it’s still against the law in Yellowstone National Park to discharge a weapon; there’s no exception for self-defense, and the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens. True, there are some gun advocates who argue they have an absolute right to discharge a weapon no matter what Park regulations say (we know they’re out there: for some reason or another we’ve been receiving haranguing phone calls and edgy emails from them the past few weeks), but the Park has an absolute no-discharge policy, with violators detained and then referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
We’re pretty pleased to see little impact made by the so-called Coburn Amendment; it’s a nice tribute to the vast majority of America’s law-abiding gun owners.