The Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with other park service units will be allowing some park visitors to carry a gun as part of the credit card reform bill starting February 22nd 2010.
Will it be legal or illegal for you to carry a gun in the GSMNP or in other national parks? Here is the official park statement so you can decide for yourself:
Concealed Firearms Regulations
Additional Information for North Carolina permit holders:
The permit holder must have the permit together with valid identification whenever carrying a concealed handgun, and must disclose to any law enforcement officer that they have a valid permit and are in possession of a concealed handgun when contacted. The permit and proper identification must be presented to a law enforcement officer upon request.
Carry of Shotguns and Rifles
The list of states granting such reciprocity is constantly changing. Out-of-state permittees should refer to the North Carolina Department of Justice’s website at www.ncdoj.gov for a current listing of those states which are allowed to carry, pursuant to their concealed carry permits in North Carolina.
To possess a concealed handgun in North Carolina, out-of-state holders must:
Additional Information for Tennessee permit holders:
Carry of Shotguns and Rifles
This means that the state of Tennessee will recognize any state’s valid permit or license, even if Tennessee does not have a written reciprocity agreement with that state, and even if that state does not recognize a Tennessee permit.
Individuals must be in possession of the permit or license at all times while in possession of a handgun in Tennessee.
Until the new regulations take effect on February 22, 2010, carrying concealed firearms is not allowed and all possession of firearms within National Park Service lands must be in accordance with 36 CFR 2.4, which states firearms must be "rendered temporarily inoperable or are packed, cased or stored in a manner that prevents their ready use."
...End Of GSMNP Statement on Firearms in the Park
Please be advised I am not a lawyer or offering legal advice. The last time the law about guns and firearms in national parks was revoked and they were made illegal again, the national park service did not make any public announcement of the change therefore anyone who is accessing this information should check with the national park service and state authorities to see if it is still valid.
States with NC and/or TN
I was personally under the impression that only concealed carry with a valid permit was what was going to be legal in the Great Smoky Mountains national park staring on February 22nd 2010.
Unlike the last time that firearms were legal in the GSMNP for a few weeks in 2009, apparently now there will be open carry in some national parks including rifles and shotguns as they are specifically listed in the park statement above.
I cannot answer how having very visible shotguns and rifles will play out in the Great Smoky Mountains national park at this time. I can say that for many people who have come to the GSM national park in the past, seeing highly visible firearms may not only be disconcerting, it will also lead to a rangers potential confusion as to a visitor's intent in the park.
Do out of state visitors without concealed weapons permits have to right to open carry long guns in the Great Smoky Mountains national park? What about handguns? If not, can concealed weapons permit holders from a state with reciprocity agreements open carry long guns and or handguns in the Great Smoky Mountains national park?
Some other questions remain such as do you have to announce that you have a concealed weapon if you just pass by a ranger on a trail or one walks up and greets you? Do you have to only announce concealment to a Protection Ranger or do interpretive rangers along with other uniformed park staff count as well?
Since the Great Smoky Mountains national park is in both NC and TN - 2 states with different weapon laws and these borders are not at all clearly defined except at Newfound Gap, will each part of the park have different laws based upon the location of a visitor and his state of residence? Obviously from the chart of Concealed Weapons Reciprocity Agreements above there are huge difference between North Carolina and Tennessee.
Other very interesting questions about how this new law will effect visitors to national parks and staff around the country is presented here.
Even if and when it is legal for you to have a gun in a national park, there are some places where firearms are prohibited such as visitor centers, ranger stations and office buildings. This is not a complete list of where guns are prohibited in a national park (which will also vary by state) so please check with the park service first. In the past, the national park service did have signs at these locations showing that firearms are illegal.
Remember even though some guns will be legal to carry in some parts of the Great Smoky Mountains national park, hunting is not.
Lastly if you want to protect yourself against a black bear attack in the GSMNP you should not use a gun but use bear pepper spray which is legal for use in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and is much more effective and safer to use as well.
Related New Stories on Guns in National Parks:
- Guns now legal in Great Smoky Mountains national park as of 02-22-10
- Guns are still not allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains national park
- Guns stay out of the Great Smoky Mountains national park but may soon enter TN State parks
- Guns No Longer Allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Again
- Bear Spray is now legal in the Great Smoky Mountains national park
Comments are welcome and encouraged. When it comes to gun laws and/or restrictions, tempers on both sides of the issue often flare but lets keep it civil or they will not be posted.