Now you can take your gun camping

New legislation repeals prohibition of firearms in national parks
By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Captain John Rogers is concerned about the new gun allowance in national parks. He regularly takes tours into Katmai, and believes if a person holds a gun he or she may be to quick to use it.

Captain John Rogers is concerned about the new gun allowance in national parks. He regularly takes tours into Katmai, and believes if a person holds a gun he or she may be to quick to use it.

In Katmai National Park and Preserve, Denali National Park and other areas of the state, visitors bring cameras to shoot bears. This summer, they may bring something much more deadly.
On May 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 into law. Tacked onto that piece of legislation is an unrelated amendment that repeals a National Park Service rule prohibiting the possession of firearms in national parks and reverting regulation to individual states. As of Feb. 22, the effective date of the legislation, credit card holders no longer have to fear their interest rates will increase without warning, or that they’ll have to visit a national park without a gun for self-protection.
“I’ve never had any desire to visit Denali Park as a backpacker or a hiker because of that restriction,” said Bob Bird, of Nikiski, one of the organizers of a Second Amendment/Constitutional Task Force Rally scheduled for Thursday in Kenai. “I live in a rural area and I’m constantly watching my backside. I know the one time I don’t bring my gun I’m going see a bear. So if I’m thinking about going somewhere like Denali and I can’t protect myself, I just don’t go.”
Bears, however, may be well-advised to cultivate more fear of tourists packing heat, say tour and photo guides operating in Katmai National Park.
“I think it’s a recipe for trouble,” said John Rogers, owner of Katmai Coastal Bear Tours out of Homer. “A gun in somebody’s hand that, one, doesn’t understand guns very well but is wanting to carry one because they can. And, two, don’t understand bears very well. You’re in a park with lots of bears. It’s a recipe for a disaster for somebody — especially the bears.”
In Alaska, the reversal of the gun ban only affects five national parks — those established prior to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980 — Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Skagway, the Sitka National Historic Park and the old sections of Denali, Glacier Bay and Katmai national parks. The 10 national parks in Alaska established by ANILCA conformed to state law on the possession of firearms.
The distinction doesn’t owe to a debate regarding the safety or sense of allowing firearms for protection in parks, it was simply a matter of timing, said Chris Pergiel, regional chief ranger for the National Parks Service Alaska region.
“When ANILCA established newer parks in 1980, they had a different enabling legislation which took into account the Alaska circumstance that people typically hunted and carried firearms up here. It was just the timing of when those parks came into the system,” he said.
As a result, the gun ban reversal will have less of an overall impact in Alaska as in other states.
“Part of the intent was to make the laws more consistent throughout the National Park Service and understandable for the public, which is a little ironic because now we’re going to each individual state law,” Pergiel said. “There are parks in the country, like Yellowstone, that are located in three or four different states within one park. That may be confusing for people. Up here it will be pretty straightforward.”
Though the law liberalizes the possession of firearms for self-defense, it does not change the allowed use of firearms in national parks in the state. Prior restrictions on target practice and hunting still stand, and firearms are still not allowed in federal buildings or facilities, including national park offices or visitor centers.
Pergiel said it’s difficult to estimate how many Alaska park visitors may take advantage of the rule change.
“I think some folks will feel safer being able to possess firearms for protection from wildlife, and other folks may feel less safe knowing there are people out there with firearms. It’s hard to say,” he said. “We certainly encourage people not to put themselves in a situation where they need to use a firearm, but from time to time there are bear-human encounters.”
Whether to bring a firearm will be a case-by-case decision up to each visitor who’s eligible to possess firearms. If it were up to Pergiel, he said he recommends pepper spray as bear protection over firearms. He said he doesn’t anticipate the rule change to cause any problems.
“Hopefully not,” he said. “We’ve allowed the carry of firearms in national parks here in Alaska for going on 30 years now, for most of them, and we have not had a lot of significant problems.”
Bird said he is in favor of the rule change.
“I’m all in favor of your right to self-defense, whether it’s against a human being or a wild animal,” he said. “To say that you give up your right to self-defense just because you’re in a national park sounds a little silly.”
Some Katmai guides are not so sure the change is a good idea.
Rogers, for one, anticipates the rule change will cause problems, for the simple reason that allowing guns allows for the potential of them to be fired. He said he won’t allow clients to bring guns onto his vessels.
“I think if you’re sitting there with a loaded gun you’re far more likely to react unnecessarily than you are if don’t have a gun. If you don’t have a gun you learn how to deal with people and you learn how to deal with bears and you don’t put yourself in a predicament where you’re apt to shoot something,” he said.
Rogers has been running his tour business in Katmai for about 20 years now. From mid-June through mid-September clients fly out from Homer and stay in one of his vessels, the 70-foot R/V Waters or the 100-foot Kittiwake anchored along Shelikof Strait. For four days clients travel ashore by skiff and take guided photo expeditions along the intertidal zone of Katmai, led by former biologists, naturalists and other bear experts.
In all that time, Rogers said he’s never had a situation that needed to be solved by a gun.
“How many years has the park been there and we’ve only had one fatality that I know of — (Timothy) Treadwell. So why would somebody need to carry a gun in the park?” Rogers said. “That’s still not to say you don’t have the potential to get into trouble if you push bears or surprise bears. It’s not that you can’t get into trouble, but it would take some effort.”

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Posted by on Mar 10th, 2010 and filed under More News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

13 Responses for “Now you can take your gun camping”

  1. Tammy says:

    Boy I agree with Rogers here. I hope that people don’t exchange their common sense for a gun. When you are outdoors anywhere and use your senses and practice good judgement…you don’t ever need a gun. The only time I pack is when I’m worried about two leggeds. That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever ran into out in the woods…..seriously. Please people be careful and still take time to know what the heck you are doing.

  2. jerry jones says:

    “I think it’s a recipe for trouble,” said John Rogers, owner of Katmai Coastal Bear Tours out of Homer. “A gun in somebody’s hand that, one, doesn’t understand guns very well but is wanting to carry one because they can. And, two, don’t understand bears very well. You’re in a park with lots of bears. It’s a recipe for a disaster for somebody — especially the bears.”
    ~Who is this bed wetter, and how did he get into Alaska?

  3. Blunderbuss says:

    This is some of the only good news coming from the feds for many years. Of course, the Constitution barred them from prohibiting firearms in the first place, but we are the only ones who are expected to abide by the law – not them. So now we are back to having a legal gun situation in the parks (except for in the buildings).
    Anti-gun arguments tend to stem from from emotion. People have been conditioned to see that weapon as a great evil. This has resulted from years of indoctrination by an elite who hopes to one day disarm the people. If you don’t believe me, study the time of America’s founding. Every man and able boy was expected to own and be able to use a firearm if possible. That is how we should view it today. If you are concerned about people not knowing how to use firearms, perhaps you should support gun education in the schools. In the old days young boys could use guns. They were taught by their Fathers. It should be so today as well. Gun rights are one of the greatest aspects of freedom.
    I recognize every individual’s right to lay down the rules on their own property, but I’ll just say that I now know of one tour guide I can never support.
    “I think it’s a recipe for trouble,” said John Rogers.
    That is what we are always told whenever freedom and law returns in some form (e.g. concealed carry in Florida). The truth that has been proven countless times is that the greater trouble was the restricted conditions we were living under before. May we never become so blind as to see this precious right that men have died to secure for us as an evil thing. And when the Constitution says the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed” it means just that – it shall not be infringed – no where – ever – period.

  4. Straight Shooter says:

    Jenny –

    Thanks for the typical “whatever you do don’t take responsibility for protecting your own life” piece . . . seen about a million of these scare pieces before. However, I suggest you should repeat “composition for journalists’ class 101” . . . where did you learn the English language? From a Rosetta Stone CD? “Rogers . . . believes if a person holds a gun he or she may be to quick to use it.” . . . besides the stupidity of the forgone conclusion you make . . . the correct words are “TOO quick,” not “to quick.” For you pansies who abhor the thought of a well heeled camper in bear infested country . . . do us all a favor . . . stay safely within the confines of your own home and everyone will feel just fine.

  5. Sane Person says:

    Wait a minute… Shooting a bear with anything smaller then an elephant gun isn’t likely to save you so the whole “self protection” thing is total bull unless you are going to take a high powered rifle whenever you’re in the woods.

    And talk about scare pieces, the only reason to cary a weapon is fear, I’m not WIMP enough to be afraid to go anywhere without a gun.

    I also 100% agree with Rogers… and BTW not everyone in Alaska is a Sara Palin worshiping redneck with peanuts for brains… Just saying

  6. R. Moore says:

    Sane Person?
    What you know about guns could be fit into a peanut.
    People use hand guns to hunt bears, look it up.
    Peolple get eaten by bears whether or not they are WIMPs and afraid.
    What does your hatered of Strong Women have to do with the most basic of human rights to self defense?(And why even bring up the subject of your mother complex in the first place?)

  7. More brains, less guns says:

    Without question, this spells disaster for the wildlife living in these parks. People will no longer ‘avoid’ trouble, or use their wits…they’ll shoot first and ask questions later. Also, seems like this allowance could put the areas protected from hunting on a slippery slope, no? I mean, if you’re allowed to take guns in, shouldn’t take but another little push to allow hunters to blaze in and shoot a bear that’s habituated to humans…you know, the kind of bear that looks at the human, then ignores it. ‘Cause it’s gotta be “real sporting” to take an animal in that kind of situation!

  8. Wes Cannon says:

    Ahh, another seer predicts disaster for the wildlife and people will no longer avoid trouble. Game management in Alaska, i.e., areas open to hunting, are well regulated. It would not be a “slippery slope” to change hunting areas but a reasoned process. For example, the closed area by Skilak Lake,along the hiway – been closed for 20 years now and not likely to open. The Cooper Landing area closed to Dall sheep hunting is another and not likely to slide down a “slippery slope”. I understand you’re entitled to your opinion but at least form a reasonable one.

    • More brains, less guns says:

      Mr. Cannon,

      If you don’t open yourself to receiving new ideas and schools of thought, you are in fact, “shooting first, and asking questions later”. It’s unreasonable to think that a person who is carrying a gun, and someone who is not, will have completely different reactions to scary situations? I must say, that in itself is a bit scary! Hopefully if you are ever visiting rural Texas, you will pop in and scare me, not my neighbor! Thank you for the esoteric advice to “form a reasonable” opinion. I found it to further the debate in a healthy way, offer me new information for consideration, and to soundly support your opinion. More brains, less guns? WHAT was I thinking!

  9. Blunderbuss says:

    Sane Person-
    A firearm is a tool – like a crescent wrench or a pocket knife. Many people carry pocket knives for the plethora of uses they represent. You can also lose your temper and kill someone with one. Same with a wrench, a hammer, etc. Most tools can be dangerous. A firearm is the best tool for defense, as it is the only usable tool in some circumstances.

    Fear is not the reason for carrying a gun, unless you would say fear is the only reason to have a fire extinguisher in your house. The motive is the same. You take a precaution. I’m sure you would not ask for people to brave up and kick out their extinguishers, though you would be inconsistent if you didn’t.

    People carry guns because they recognize that they, and NOT the government or any other entity, are responsible for the defense of their life and property. That is the opposite of being a “wimp”. I don’t know anyone who is too wimp to go anywhere without a gun. Those who take a gun with them are the ones taking responsibility for what is theirs. They will also be the ones to place themselves in harms way for others, should an emergency situation arise, unlike unarmed people, who have to take cover and hope that the bear veers off, the police arrive, or whatever the saving factor would be depending on the defense situation.

    The true wimps are those who call for disarming. They are pushing off one of the highest responsibilities they have onto others (generally government), and wishing that everyone else be forced to give up that responsibility. They are not free – they live in a box built by an elite who despises freedom and individual responsibility.

    Another layer of tyranny was torn down. You are not now being ALLOWED to carry in parks again. That was a right you had all along. Government is simply recognizing that right again.

    The only people who oppose are those indoctrinated by the elite who are happy to hear them repeating what they have been carefully taught. You’re right Wes, that everyone has a right to voice their opinion, but isn’t it sad when their opinion runs counter to what gives them the ability to voice it – American freedom?

  10. buck jerrimaiah says:

    Well said blunder. The gun control peeps ignore the facts. Criminals get and use guns wrongly no matter what the laws are and if there were no guns they would use whatever tools are around. Shall we outlaw rocks? not!

  11. eddie j says:

    If Mr Rogers could see over the stacks of money that he is making off of our (the people) bears, maybe he would realize that not every park is like his and not every bear in national parks are habituated like the ones that he makes his money off. As for the argument that there has only been one human death caused by his bears, Tredwell was there best friend and protector and they ate him and his girlfriend, how do you think they are going to treat a stranger they meet on the trail, of course that would never happen with Mr Rogers around because he understands bears, they make me lots of money. If somebody shoots one that would cut into my profit margin.
    Stop exploiting our wild animals to line your pockets with money. I just don’t understand ,you cant harass a whale or a moose but if you pay Mr Rogers you can go stand five feet from a bear as he eats his dinner.

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