WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Lyle Laverty today announced that the Department of the Interior has finalized updated regulations governing the possession of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges. The final rule, which updates existing regulations, would allow an individual to carry a concealed weapon in national parks and wildlife refuges if, and only if, the individual is authorized to carry a concealed weapon under state law in the state in which the national park or refuge is located. The update has been submitted to the Federal Register for publication and is available to the public on www.doi.gov.
Existing regulations regarding the carrying of firearms remain otherwise unchanged, particularly limitations on poaching and target practice and prohibitions on carrying firearms in federal buildings.
“America was founded on the idea that the federal and state governments work together to serve the public and preserve our natural resources,” Laverty said. “The Department’s final regulation respects this tradition by allowing individuals to carry concealed firearms in federal park units and refuges to the extent that they could lawfully do so under state law. This is the same basic approach 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.”
On February 22, 2008, Interior Secretary Kempthorne responded to letters from 51 Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, as well as from the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, urging him to update existing regulations that prohibit the carrying of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges. In his response, the Secretary directed Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Lyle Laverty “to develop and propose for public comment by April 30 Federal regulations that will update firearms policies on these lands to reflect existing Federal laws (such as those prohibiting weapons in Federal buildings) and the laws by which the host states govern transporting and carrying of firearms on their analogous public lands.”
Changes in the final regulations from those originally proposed in April were developed as the result of public comments. In particular, comments expressed concern about the feasibility of implementing regulations which directly linked the carrying of concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges to the ability of an individual to carry a concealed firearm on analogous state lands. The final regulations remove that potential logistical hurdle.
The existing regulations, as currently in effect, were adopted in 1981 for national wildlife refuges and in 1983 for national parks. Since that time many states have enacted new firearms policies. Currently, 48 states have passed legislation allowing for the lawful possession of concealed weapons.
“The Department believes 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,” said Laverty. “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.”