Guns to be allowed in national parks

February 21, 2010 6:14:39 PM PST
A major change in U.S. gun law takes effect on Monday. Guns will no longer be off limits in national parks across the country.

This will impact San Francisco's Crissy field and Precidio, Muir Woods in Marin and basically national parks and recreation areas around the bay and the country. However, whether the change in law will actually make much of a difference remains to be seen.

From Alcatraz to Yosemite to Mt. Rushmore, national parks are some of the country's most iconic landmarks and starting Monday, it will be legal to carry a gun in almost all of them.

"I'm an avid handgun user and I have been for 30 years. I'm a lawful handgun user and I don't see any bad ramifications that can come from it," says John Zufi, a lifetime NRA member.

Gun advocates like Zuffi applaud Congress' move last spring to overturn the longtime ban. The NRA says it comes down to self-defense rights.

However, gun control advocates like state Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, disagree.

"If you take that logic to a conclusion, a rational conclusion, it would suggest that we all need to be armed at all times because if we're at risk to our safety in a national park, then what about every place else?" says Leno.

People with concealed weapons permits will be allowed to carry their guns onto national park property. Registered gun owners can also carry their weapons under the state's open carry law as long as they are unloaded.

However, U.S. park officials concede the new law is difficult to interpret.

A spokesman for Point Reyes National Seashore says you can bring a gun into the park, but you cannot actually fire it.

"The last thing we would want so for the public to be concerned that there are a number of people running around the national parks with firearms," says John Dell'Osso with the National Park Service.

Firearms are banned in federal buildings, so carrying a gun inside visitor centers or a ranger station is off limits and hunting remains illegal in almost all national parks.

The prospect of seeing another park goer packing a gun at places like the precidio or Crissy Field seems foreign to many, but it may soon become reality.

"It depends on what national park you're talking about. I think if guys are going to be walking around Fort Mason with handguns, then it'd be pretty weird," said Dante Mandrigal from San Francisco.

The National Park Service says major crime is actually down in its parks system, but it does not say how many of those crimes involved firearms.