Earlier this week, the law permitting loaded firearms in National Parks went into effect. In order to force it through, the bill had been attached as an amendment to the unrelated credit card reform bill. The new law repeals the Reagan-era practice of allowance of guns in parks, as long as they were unloaded and stored.
There are some obvious concerns about the enforcement of poaching laws and general safety.
But what concerns me most about guns in parks is the chilling effect it will have on visitor management.
If someone is packing heat, fellow visitors will be less likely to engage in friendly reminders or report when that person is damaging or stealing park resources.
Even more to the point, unarmed interpretative park rangers will be more reluctant to confront—or even make contact with—someone who is armed. I’ve personally seen this happen several times while doing ride-alongs with rangers in BLM-managed national monuments and have asked park service rangers about it too.
There’s no reason to need loaded guns in national parks, but there are many reasons to keep them out.