Law lets loaded guns into parks


POSTED: Saturday, February 20, 2010

WASHINGTON » Loaded guns will be allowed in Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the eight national parks located in Hawaii under a new law that takes effect Monday.

The law lets licensed gun owners bring firearms into national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by state law. Hawaii Revised Statutes allow people with valid permits to carry a concealed weapon and openly carry a weapon to and from hunting or target shooting.

“;The message from the park service is clear, and we're going to follow the law,”; said Bruce Applin, chief ranger of Haleakala National Park. “;We don't anticipate any problems. I don't think there are a huge amount of concealed-weapons permits issued in Hawaii.”;

Furthermore, all park rangers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers and carry multiple weapons “;for just about any situation,”; explained Applin.

Dave Stransky, chief ranger for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (USS Arizona), said the law will not be an issue because weapons are not allowed on the memorial or in any of the visitor buildings.

Talmadge Magno, chief ranger of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said “;use is still illegal in a national park, but possession is allowed.”; However, Volcanoes has always allowed people heading to hunting or target practice in adjacent areas to pass through the park on the road with weapons “;as long as they're in compliance with the state laws.”;

The new measure comes over the objections of gun control advocates who fear it will lead to increased violence in national parks.

The national parks law takes effect in a climate that favors advocates of gun rights. The debate shifted dramatically in 2008 when the Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and declared that individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms for self-defense and other purposes.

Gun control advocates are on the defensive, seeking to preserve some gun restrictions in the face of aggressive assertions of gun rights.





        A new law will allow loaded guns at these Hawaii national parks:

» World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (USS Arizona), Honolulu


» Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hilo


» Haleakala National Park, Kula, Maui


» Kalaupapa National Historic Park, Kalaupapa, Molokai


» Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, Honaunau, Hawaii


» Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kailua-Kona


» Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Kawaihae, Hawaii


» Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, Hawaii




As of Monday, guns will be allowed in all but about 20 of the park service's 392 locations, including some of its most iconic parks: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park. Guns will not be allowed in visitor centers or rangers' offices because firearms are banned in federal buildings, but they could be carried into private lodges or concession stands, depending on state laws.

Magno said he and his staff have spent a fair amount of time defining federal facilities in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and posting appropriate signage to notify visitors of the laws.

Haleakala National Park and others have methods to detect concealed weapons, should anyone violate the law by trying to bring one into a visitor center, for instance. “;We do have some other security measures in place,”; said Applin, though he declined to specify details.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said national parks are now among the safest places in America, but that could change under the new law. Current rules restrict guns in the national parks, generally requiring them to be locked or stored.

“;It really is sad that we've become such a paranoid society that people want to take guns pretty much everywhere—including national parks,”; he said yesterday.

“;When you are at a campfire and people are getting loud and boisterous next to you, you used to have to worry about them quieting down. Now you have to worry about when they will start shooting,”; Helmke said.

The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Katherine Nichols contributed to this report.