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Firearms now allowed in most national parks and wildlife refuges

February 22, 2010 | 10:45 am

A Smith & Wesson .357 is shown with various caliber handgun ammunition.

A change in federal law goes into effect Monday that will allow firearms to be carried in many national parks and wildlife refuges.

The legislation, enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama in May, allows individuals with "carry" permits who can legally possess guns under federal, state and local laws to tote the weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges. Every state except Illinois and the District of Columbia have concealed and or open carry laws of some kind.

"For nearly 100 years, the mission of the National Park Service has been to protect and preserve the parks and to help all visitors enjoy them," National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said in a news release. "We will administer this law as we do all others -- fairly and consistently."

Firearms have been prohibited in most national parks and wildlife refuges, with the exception of some parks in Alaska and those that allow hunting.

The new law will not change hunting regulations, nor the use of firearms in these areas. Guns will also continue to be prohibited in designated federal facilities within national parks and wildlife refuges, such as visitor centers, ranger stations and offices.

Firearms will be allowed in 373 of the 392 national parks. Since more than 30 of these parks are located in more than one state, visitors need to know where they are when in these parks and which state's law applies, as state and local firearms laws vary.

To help visitors understand the laws and plan accordingly, park websites have been updated to include links to state firearms laws.

Many will probably decry this change, stating it could lead to more accidental shootings and/or crimes in our national parks and wildlife refuges. I'm curious as to what readers think -- is it a good idea, so that people can protect themselves if necessary, or will it lead to more problems than it might prevent?

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A Smith & Wesson .357 is shown with various caliber handgun ammunition. Credit: Judi Bottoni / Associated Press

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