6 years, 10 months ago
When backpacking with one particular individual, I would usually get into a discussion about firearms in national parks. “It’s against the law,” said he. No, said I, there is no law per se. The Congress never voted on such a stipulation, so it isn’t law. Some lawyer working for the federal government wrote a section of the federal code that stipulated this, and it has been treated as “law” ever since. It may be regulation, but it isn’t law, and there is a distinct difference.
The debate never ended between us, but the Congress did indeed end the national debate by voting on this issue and they reversed the regulation, allowing national park visitors to carry firearms. This new law – and it is a law – has only been in effect for several months, and it has saved its first backpackers.
A backpacker shot and killed a grizzly bear in Denali National Park and Preserve on Friday after the animal charged toward his hiking companion. This is the first shooting incident since a change in federal law that allows firearms to be carried in many national parks and wildlife refuges went into effect in February.
This is also the first known shooting of a grizzly bear in the wilderness portion of the park by a visitor.
According to park spokeswoman Kris Fister, the backpackers were hiking in an area about 35 miles from park headquarters when they heard noise in nearby brush. The male hiker drew a .45-caliber pistol he was carrying, and when the bear emerged and charged toward his female hiking companion, he fired about nine rounds toward the grizzly.
The bear returned to the brush, at which point the hikers headed back the way they came, until meeting a park employee and reporting the incident.
Since it was unclear if the animal was killed or only wounded, the area was immediately closed to other hikers. The bear’s carcass was discovered Saturday evening by park rangers near where the shooting took place.
The names of the hikers have not been released, pending investigation into the justification of the shooting. According to the press release issued by Fister, it is legal to carry a firearm in the original Mt. McKinley portion of the park where the incident occurred, but it is not legal to discharge it.
Run that one by me again? It’s legal to carry it since Congress reversed the stupid policy, but it isn’t legal to discharge it in self defense? How have the lawyers taken a perfectly good law and screwed it up with additional obfuscatory regulations?
And actually, we don’t know if this is the first life saved by the new law. There may have been many others since criminals must now assumed that at least some percentage of their prey now pack heat. I would expect the same results in national parks we see everywhere else when people carry firearms. Crime will drop.