Angeles Volunteer Association

SOURCE:  Federal Register, December 10, 2008


National Park Service & Fish and Wildlife Service

General Regulations for Areas Administered by the National Park

Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: This final rulemaking amends regulations codified in 36 CFR

part 2 and 50 CFR part 27, which pertain to the possession and

transportation of firearms in national park areas and national wildlife

refuges. The final rule updates these regulations to reflect state laws

authorizing the possession of concealed firearms, while leaving

unchanged the existing regulatory provisions that ensure visitor safety

and resource protection such as the prohibitions on poaching and

limitations on hunting and target practice.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on January 9, 2009.


I. Background

America's parks and wildlife refuges are an important part of our

shared national heritage, and a source of inspiration and enjoyment for

visitors from around the world. For nearly 100 years, Congress has

vested the Secretary of the Interior with the responsibility for

managing these lands and resources in a manner that ensures their

preservation and seeks to provide for the safety of visitors and

employees. In administering these lands, Congress has enacted various

statutes authorizing the Secretary to work closely with respective

State and local governments in the management of these areas. In the

following decades, the Department has worked closely with its State,

local government and Tribal neighbors, and has adopted regulations in

appropriate circumstances that look to the laws of the state in which

that unit is located. This final rule is intended to extend similar

treatment to non-conflicting state laws pertaining to carrying of

concealed weapons.

Forty-eight States currently authorize law-abiding citizens to

carry concealed firearms. However, existing Federal regulations

governing firearms in national parks and national wildlife refuges,

promulgated before the vast majority of these state laws were in

effect, unnecessarily preclude law-abiding citizens from possessing,

carrying, or transporting a concealed firearm that is otherwise legal

in that state…

The Department agrees … that the regulations should be

amended to reflect developments in state law, particularly

where, as in this case, the deference can be achieved

without impacting the visitors or resources the regulations are

designed to protect. Accordingly, on April 30, 2008, the Department

chose to address this issue proactively through the development of a

proposed regulation, which it published in the Federal Register with a

request for public comment. See 73 FR 23388 (April 30, 2008). The

Department initially provided a sixty-day comment period and

subsequently provided an additional 30-day comment period. The

Department received more than 125,000 comments during the comment

period and thereafter formed a working group to carefully review and

analyze the submissions.

We believe that in managing parks and refuges we should, as

appropriate, make every effort to give the greatest respect to the

democratic judgments of State legislatures with respect to concealed

firearms. As stated in the proposed rule, Federal agencies have a

responsibility to recognize the expertise of the States in this area,

and Federal regulations should be developed and implemented in a manner

that respects ``state prerogatives and authority.'' See Executive Order

13132 of August 10, 1999 (``Federalism''). As explained herein, the

Department believes that this rule more appropriately gives effect to

these federalism concepts as called for in the Executive Order, while

simultaneously maintaining protection of visitors and the values for

which these parks and refuges were established. We discuss these

considerations more fully below.

II. Discussion

A. Summary of the Final Rule

The regulations being amended by this rule are intended by the NPS

and the FWS to protect the natural and cultural resources of park areas

and refuges, and to protect visitors, employees and property within

those lands. In their previous form, these regulations generally

prohibited visitors from possessing an operable and loaded firearm in

areas administered by these bureaus unless the firearm is used for

lawful hunting activities, target practice in areas designated by

special regulations, or other purposes related to the administration of

Federal lands in Alaska. The previous regulations also allowed visitors

to transport firearms through parks and refuges subject to limitations

that generally required the firearm to be unloaded and rendered

inoperable or inaccessible. See 48 FR 30282 (June 30, 1983); 49 FR

18444 (April 30, 1984).

The previous FWS and NPS regulations were last substantively

updated in 1981 and 1983, respectively. The overwhelming majority of

States now provide for the possession of concealed firearms by their

citizens. In many States, the authority to carry loaded and operable

concealed firearms extends to State park and refuge lands, whether

expressly or by operation of law.

1. The Department's Purpose

The Department's intent in adopting this final rule is to better

reflect the decisions of the States in which parks and refuge units are

located to determine who may lawfully possess a firearm within their

borders, while preserving the Federal government's authority to manage

its lands, buildings, and other facilities. Mindful of that objective,

the Department's final rule amends the regulations to allow individuals

to carry concealed, loaded, and operable firearms in Federal park units

and refuges to the extent that they could lawfully do so under non-

conflicting state law. By adopting state law in this manner, this rule

is similar in approach to that already taken by NPS and FWS in various

regulations pertaining to hunting, fishing, motor vehicles and boating.

Additionally, the final rule treats state law in a similar manner to

regulations adopted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the

United States Forest Service (USFS), both of which allow visitors to

carry weapons consistent with applicable Federal and state laws. See 36

CFR 261.8 (a)-(c); 43 CFR 8365.1-7.

Under the final rule, individuals must have actual authority to

possess those loaded and concealed firearms under state law in order to

carry those loaded concealed firearms in Federal park areas and

refuges. This means that the State in which the park or refuge unit is

located must have laws that authorize the individual to possess those

concealed and loaded firearms, and the individual must be so

authorized. Additionally, to the extent that a State's law recognizes

licenses issued by other States, including the applicability of

reciprocity agreements, the final rule would similarly recognize such

reciprocal authorities. Finally, individuals authorized to carry

firearms under this rule will continue to be subject to all other

applicable state and Federal laws. Accordingly, as stated in the

preamble to the proposed rule, this rule does not authorize visitors to

use firearms, or to otherwise possess or carry concealed firearms in

Federal facilities in national parks and wildlife refuges as such

possession is proscribed by 18 U.S.C. 930.

We also note that national park areas and wildlife refuges are

often located in close proximity to state parks or wildlife management

areas, National Forests, or public lands managed by the BLM. Visitors

to these sites may frequently travel through a combination of Federal

and state lands during the course of a trip or vacation. In these

circumstances, the Department believes that adopting for these Federal

lands the applicable state standards for the possession of firearms

will promote uniformity of application and better visitor understanding

and compliance with the requirements.

[Webmaster's comment:  see Federal Register for complete announcement]
[To view a statement opposed to the regulation change, see Association of
National Park


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