WASHINGTON — Loaded guns will be allowed in Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and other national parks under a new law that takes effect Monday.
The law lets licensed gun owners bring firearms into national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by state law. It comes over the objections of gun-control advocates who fear it will lead to increased violence in national parks.
The national parks law takes effect in a climate that favors advocates of gun rights. The debate shifted dramatically in 2008, when the Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and declared that individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms for self-defense and other purposes.
Gun owners have rushed in record numbers to get concealed weapons permits, saying they worry President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress may impose stricter gun laws. The National Rifle Association lobbied hard to allow guns in parks and has spent millions to challenge its opponents.
As of Monday, guns will be allowed in all but about 20 of the park service’s 392 locations, including some of its most iconic parks: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park. Guns will not be allowed in visitor centers or rangers’ offices, because firearms are banned in federal buildings, but they could be carried into private lodges or concession stands, depending on state laws.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said national parks are now among the safest places in America, but that could change under the new law.