Beach Access and Park Issues
February 22, 2010

Legal gun owners can now carry firearms into national parks

A change in federal law effective today allows firearms in many national parks. People who can legally possess firearms under federal and state law can now possess those firearms in the national parks in that state.

The new law was passed by Congress and signed last May by the President. It ends a Reagan-era law banning weapons in national parks and federal wildlife refuges.

Prior to Feb. 22, firearms have generally been prohibited in national parks – except in some Alaska parks and those parks that allow hunting.

The new law does not create a specific law for national parks but rather extends existing state and local laws onto federal lands.

State and local firearms laws vary. Visitors who would like to bring a firearm with them to a national park need to understand and comply with the applicable laws.

More than 30 national parks are located in more than one state, so visitors need to know where they are in those parks and which state’s law applies.

“For nearly 100 years, the mission of the National Park Service has been to protect and preserve the parks and to help all visitors enjoy them,” National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said. “We will administer this law as we do all others – fairly and consistently.”

Federal law continues to prohibit the possession of firearms in designated “federal facilities” in national parks -- for example, visitor centers, offices, or maintenance buildings. These places are posted with “firearms prohibited” signs at public entrances. The new law also does not change prohibitions on the use of firearms in national parks and does not change hunting regulations.

Park Web sites have been updated to include links to state firearms laws to help visitors understand the law and plan accordingly.

A guide to North Carolina firearms laws can be found at

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