Loaded for politics, not bears or criminals. Guns in the national parks

“Wild Bill” has a good opinion piece on this.  As I said earlier, this was an issue created for the election. It is not from the grassroots . . . . “This amendment and, it seems, most other gun legislation, isn’t about guns or the Second Amendment. It’s all about politics, and the gun lobby is panicked about who might be living in The White House next year.”

More Guns in National Parks. By Bill Schneider. New West.



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  1. Monte Avatar

    Politics or not, it’s a good idea and a right of US citizens. Who are the “grassroots” anyway Ralph? Am I not entitled to be in the “grassroots” club?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I guess you not familiar with this common political term.

    “A grassroots political movement is one driven by the constituents of a community. The term implies that the genesis of the described political movement is natural yet spontaneous and imposes a dichotomy between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.”

    # The involvement of common citizens in an issue or campaign.

    # is any activity driven by the constituents of a community, as opposed to being organised by central power structures.

    # People or society at a local level, rather than at the center of major political activity.

  3. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    I’m sure I will be attacked for this…
    First off I own guns, hunt, shoot etc. I had one of my muzzleloaders with me for most of the time that I worked as a ranger in YNP, for the sole reason that I liked to go shooting on weekends with a friend just outside the park. Everyone knew i had it & I kept it as the rules clearly state “not in firing condition”.

    However I guess I just don’t see how this is anything other than pure politics and frankly an absolute waste of our tax money & elected officials time. I really could care less if people are allowed to have guns in the parks, and I don’t see why gun rights are such an important issue for so many people. To me there are a bunch of issues that our government could work on that might provide REAL solutions for REAL people.

    This type of thing is rampant in our government. Our senate actually voted to condemn a political attack ad! Did that make anyone’s life better? Doesn’t everyone know that political attack ads aren’t exactly known for their accuracy?

    Everyone that argues for guns being allowed to be carried inside National Parks seems to use the argument that it is their “right to protect themselves & their family.” I fully agree with the idea that you have the right to protect yourself, but honestly… does anyone feel like their safety is in question in Yellowstone?? I mean of course unless you’re one of those people that want to pet a bison.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yet it is not an issue people have been talking about on either side in the last several years. It has not been a topic of public discussion.

    As I said, it has all the markings of an issue manufactured specifically for the election.

  5. JB Avatar


    Not sure why you thought you’d get flamed. I’m with you 100%. I support hunting, though I don’t hunt; I support gun rights, though I don’t own a gun. And I agree with you…it doesn’t really bother me either way.

    Actually, this brings up an interesting question that perhaps Ralph or Robert could answer: how do they get around the “no guns” rule in the national parks when they allow hunting (as was discussed in the earlier thread)?

  6. mikarooni Avatar

    This article first appeared on the NewWest site and has received an extensive response in the form of posted comments. I have nothing in particular against sportsmanlike hunting or guns designed for sportsmanlike hunting; but, anyone who would be effected by this issue, which would be anyone who ever intends to visit a national park in the future, needs to read the comments posted on NewWest in response to this article (www.newwest.net/topic/article/more_guns_in_national_parks/C41/L41/) and to several other recent articles (www.newwest.net/topic/article/feds_delist_gray_wolf_in_northern_rockies/C38/L38/), (www.newwest.net/topic/article/yellowstone_bison_slaughter_a_sham/C38/L38/), and judge for yourself whether you want to see some of the people posting these comments packing heat in the same campground with you.

  7. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    I just assume anytime that the gun issue gets raised people will react strongly.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    They (the Park Service at Grand Teton) used to make all the hunters special temporary, deputy Park Rangers.

    Robert could tell us more and add some history for sure.

  9. Jeff Avatar

    Ralph is correct, I’ve hunted in GTNP numerous times. You sign an affadavit of sorts that makes you a ranger in the park, then you participate in the “management” of the herd. Elk hunting is only allowed in GTNP north of the Gros Ventre Road and East of the Snake River. Elk hunting, grazing, and a few other traditional uses were grandfatherd into existence when the park was expanded East of the Snake River. I believe most of the grazing leases are now retired, though a few dude ranches still run their horses on a couple of allotments within GTNP. It is also the only place that I know of that requires pepper spray for hunters. Pack trip that go up Slough Creek into the Wilderness north of YNP have to have their rifles dismantled. For most bolt action hunting rifles this simply means removing the bolt, which can be replaced in about 2 seconds…

  10. JB Avatar

    Ralph, Jeff:

    Thanks for the info! Temporary Ranger? This is very interesting indeed!

  11. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    “Does anyone feel like their safety is in question in Yellowstone?”

    Yep. During the summer, Old Faithful, Lake, Canyon, and Mammoth each have an overnight population of several thousand people. They’re small towns. Like any small town, there’s bound to be a few bad apples.

    People who say bear spray is a good alternative to a firearm for self-protection need to remember that bear spray can be used as an offensive weapon against people and bears. A guy on Kodiak has been in the news recently for (allegedly) spraying bar patrons–on two seperate occassions. If I was sitting in a bar at Lake and got sprayed, my contacts would be welded to my eyeballs. Yesterday, the Associated Press ran this story; “WESTMINSTER, Calif.—Police say a 50-year-old Westminster woman who suffered a stroke following an attempted purse snatching in which she was pepper sprayed has died.” Should the NPS ban bear spray in developed areas?

    In Yellowstone and Glacier, unethical photographers with faith in the stopping power of bear spray will search for bears in the backcountry, and when they spot a bear, or come upon fresh bear sign, they pull out their bear spray, remove the safety, and move in for photos. Should the NPS ban bear spray in the backcountry to protect bears from people?

  12. JB Avatar


    No; the NPS should not ban bear spray. However, comparing bear/pepper spray to a loaded firearm is hardly fair. Nearly anything can be used as a weapon (e.g. rock, baseball bat, tent pole, rope, etc), but very few are as deadly as a gun. This is the same old “guns don’t kill, people kill” argument. By that logic, why not allow people to carry bombs in the park?

  13. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    JB–Try stopping a charging grizzly with a rock, baseball bat, or tent pole. Bear spray is potent stuff. Granted, it doesn’t kill people or harm people as often as firearms do. But it’s all a matter of where you draw the line.

    I suspect that a lot of people who aren’t competent with firearms, aren’t willing to spend the money for a firearm, and aren’t comfortable with the responsibility of using deadly force for self-defense, think bear spray is great deal because it doesn’t cost much, or take much skill, or (usually) kill people.

    Maybe bear spray in Yellowstone’s backcountry does more harm than good. Ban bear spray from the backcountry of Yellowstone (and other national parks) and I’ll venture a guess that there would be fewer bear-human confrontations. Some people just wouldn’t go hiking. Those that did would be motivated to avoid dangerous situations. Photographers would think twice before harassing bears for pictures. I’m CONCERNED that some people are more CONCERNED about selling Counter Assault bear spray than the welfare of bears.

    A 10-year old kid going to school in Mammoth could buy a can of bear spray, carry it in s/he’s backpack, then settle a playground dispute with their bear spray. Maybe Congress needs to regulate bear spray.

  14. JB Avatar

    “Maybe Congress needs to regulate bear spray.”

    Perhaps. But that’s a different question altogether. My point, simply put, is that guns are quite different from bear/pepper spray.

    I have a friend who works as a volunteer sheriff. As part of their training, they get pepper sprayed (in the face)–notably, they do not shoot them as part of their training.

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Dave and JB,

    I don’t think anything needs to be done.

    I’m serious about my point that this is a manufactured issue designed to create arguments and dissension prior to the election.

    We had an earlier long thread on pepper spray versus guns.

  16. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    I still think that your safety in YNP is not really a question. Sure there are the inherent risks that life presents, but come on. We are talking about YNP in the USA. We’re not talking Fallujah here.
    Also realize that I said I don’t care how it goes one way or the other. My point was and remains that this IS a political dog & pony show about a subject that makes for polarizing arguments. All that aside however, explain to me why our elected representatives are improving our lives by allowing guns into national parks? I can think of several larger, more important issues that I would rather see addressed than this. I’m talking about issues that effect people in their day to day lives.
    For example:
    -health care
    -Islamic terrorism
    -sustainable energy
    -growing national debt
    -higher quality jobs going overseas
    -slow disappearance of the middle class

    In my opinion, let’s attempt to fix this stuff first!

  17. vicki Avatar

    You are so right. Politics are at play, and this will inevitabley be some one’s trump card down the road. They’ll use this caca to line good people on opposites sides of one another, simply to sell something else.
    In general, guns or bear spray could both be lethal one way or another, but it takes a criminal to make that possible. If I were okay with being a victim I wouldn’t own either. I own both.
    My worry is that some word twisting politician will use this law as an attempt to segway to something else.
    We’ll see who drags this into their campain. A wise voter will see this for the waste it is, and question the intellegence of whom ever brings it up.

  18. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    Wild Bill is arguing that we shouldn’t discuss the 2nd amendment issues this legislation addresses–it’s all about politics. Without pesky 2nd amendment issues “how would the gun lobby raise money?”

    Sound familiar? It’s not about wolves or bears, it’s them thar environmental groups using wolves and grizzly bears to raise money.

    I’m glad people are passionate about their national parks. I know gun control is a hot button issue. I don’t think that should preclude honest, open debate about the guns in national parks issue.

    I’m for gun rights, but I sure as heck don’t want to allow hikers in Yellowstone Park to arm themselves with .375 H&H magnums. I’m not the least bit worried about someone with a concealed weapons permit blowing my head off in the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn.

    Why discuss sticky issues like gun control or the re-introduction of wolves when it’s so much easier to say it’s all about fundraising for the NRA or the Sierra Club.

  19. vicki Avatar

    That should’ve went to final wolf delising rule, I am sorry I typed it in the wrong string.

  20. Bill Horn Avatar
    Bill Horn

    I am against guns in national parks and detest hunting of anykind whether ‘ethical’ or not. Killing is killing and those that like to do it are sick in my opinion.

  21. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Bill Horn, are you a vegetarian or a vegan? If you are, good for you. If you’re not, you’re killing by proxy.

    I hunt; I fish.

    Boycott beef.

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own


  22. JB Avatar

    Gee Mack, you took the words write out of my…er…keyboard!

  23. Layton Avatar

    Hey Mack,

    OK if I agree with you????—– Just once??


  24. Monte Avatar

    Ralph, I know what “grassroots” means, what I meant was I am tired of people who dislike something or disagree using this as an excuse. Must everything come from the grassroots? I would like to challenge the idea that good ideas must originate in the grassroots to be legitimate. A good idea is a good idea, period. Where it originates is not important.

  25. Larry Z Avatar
    Larry Z

    When I lived at the Great Sand Dunes National Park (then a National Monument), this rule kept the National Park Service lands from being a staging area for lazy hunters who wanted to kill elk, deer, bears, and bighorn sheep along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the Rio Grande National Forest along the NPS-FS boundary. Without the law, the NPS campgrounds and parking areas would have become low-rent hunting camps. The animals there did not know the boundary line between sanctuary and the fair hunt. This proposed political change in the regulations will fit great with state management of wolves and bighorn sheep on Federal lands and may allow visitors to Yellowstone, Glacier, and Teton NPS to “enjoy” the killing fields. Just what some families want to view when they come out West to try to enjoy nature on their vacations.


    Larry Zuckerman, Central Idaho Director
    Western Watersheds Project
    Salmon, Idaho


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan