Going to Prison If Firearm used in Yellowstone NP in Self-Defense

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Jun 16, 2009
Fort Mill, SC
Hi, I am reading an article that I am thinking is a scare article meant to deter gun owners from executing their 2nd amendment rights.. However, I was hoping some of the legal experts or those who are more knowledgeable in the gun laws of National Parks here can tell me if the author of this article is spewing anti-gun propaganda or if, in fact, the person is saying the truth of the situation. The article claims that even though you carry a gun in Yellowstone NP, if you use it, you will be looking at prison time for killing wildlife, even if it is in self-defense. I would think this would go against the very virtue of our constitution and 2nd Amendment rights. I also never knew an animal had the right to kill a human and a human could not find any means necessary to subdue the threat. Something seems very fishy about this article and I'd be interested to hear what people have to say. I am considering going to Yellowstone at the end of this summer and would like to know about this issue. Considering, there was a fatal bear attack just recently in the park, I will be packing my S&W 460 or S&W 629 on a chest holster, along with bear spray. I also know in Wyoming you can carry rifles with you, but I am thinking these are still off-limits in National Parks.

The article:

Also, Xanterra, supposedly will ban firearms from their hotels/campsites. How can one company have jurisdiction to rule over our National Parks? Do they really have any legal weight to prevent you from carrying a firearm with you? What are Wyoming's gun laws like compared to Oregon's? I am told in Oregon, the worst they can do is tell you to leave. They cannot prosecute for simply carrying a gun onto their property, unless you refuse to leave.
While I may agree with the writer about the state laws(I don't know the laws in those 3 states), and I may agree with the writer about the anti-poaching laws(I don't know those laws, but they sound reasonable), I do know an anti-NRA statement when I see one, and that one is clearly anti NRA.

Makes the writer and the whole article suspect.
As I understand it, it is also illegal to shoot someone while in a National Park. Scary, isn't it?

Yes, I suspect that recreational shooting, hunting, and even murder are illegal in national parks. And that if you shoot someone in self-defense, you may be arrested until it is clear you acted in self-defense...or until the jury acquits you.

Just like everywhere else. What a shocking exposé--real, hard journalism, that!

I think the article was meant to discourage folks from taking potshots at wildlife that wanders near their campsite "because I was in fear for my life!" (as if anyone needed that warning; there are so many assumptions that gun carriers are stupid and trigger-happy). If you shoot a grizzly in the park, you will have a lot to answer for--maybe make sure you've got teeth marks.

Please be aware, too, that while you can carry into National Parks (if you abide by state law), you cannot carry into any federal buildings in that park (outhouses excluded). IANAL
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I live in Missouri, so I have a MO CCL - which is accepted in all 3 states.....so I'm covered there.

Now, if I'm hiking in Yellowstone I would have bear spray and a .44. If anyone in their right mind thinks that I would be torn between breaking the law or pulling the trigger on a mauling bear, well............

Lawmakers make America dumber by the hour it seems.
Woah, wait. There are numerous threads on the subject of wild-animal defense which have covered this issue, and Loosedhorse has this exactly right in post 3.

You are NOT allowed to shoot wildlife out of season, without a license, and/or in protected areas.

However, self-defense trumps those laws -- just like a successful self-defense claim trumps the laws against shooting a human being, assault, firing a gun within city limits, and other laws that would normally apply.

If you shoot a wild animal in self-defense you must notify the rangers about the incident and follow their rules on handling the carcass -- and will be subject to their investigation into the matter. Expect to be dealing with that for several days.

They do not put anything like the kind of investigative pressure into the matter that your local District Attorney's office would put into investigating your claim of self-defense in shooting another person -- but they ARE going to try to establish whether you were legitimately threatened and felt you needed to defend yourself, or if you were just plinking targets of opportunity like a jerk.

No, if a bear charges you and you shoot and kill it, you aren't going to jail.

BUT, if you're shooting wildlife just for kicks, they're going to prosecute you for that -- and rightly so.
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Note that many reporters who write for newspapers know very little about guns in general, and very little about gun-control laws. What they write is written from their own point of view about guns and from their own very limited understanding.

Sure, verify as best you can when you read something "weird", but don't get overly excited about it.
That article is from some time ago. I think the hysteria has largely died down. I know that last summer (2010) in I was asked about firearms while getting a backcountry permit in North Cascades NP, and there was no hassle at all - just a friendly reminder that target shooting wasn't allowed, along with the 47 other regs about camping near streams, campfires, yadda, yadda.

No, if a bear charges you and you shoot and kill it, you aren't going to jail.

BUT, if you're shooting wildlife just for kicks, they're going to prosecute you for that -- and rightly so.

Spot on, I'd say. Remember, in Yellowstone, even if the WY federal attorney charged you, you'd have a WY jury. A legit defensive shooting is not going to raise eyebrows. OTOH, if you're from Joisey and trying to explain you shot the fawn in self defense ...
OP, I've been to YNP a couple times. Had bears come through my camp multiple times the last time I was out there. A blackbear and a grizzly both with no incident. Just study up on bear and wildlife safety both in your campsite and on the trail. Stop at any sporting goods store and get a can of bear spray (kind of expensive, but if unused, can be returned after the trip for a refund.) You can legally have firearms in the park, but a gun and/or spray should both be last resorts. The bear needs to be on top of you to use either. Just follow all the safety procedures, make noise, keep 100yds distance if possible, keep food in locked cars or bear boxes, etc. and you will be fine. I feel safer surrounded by wildlife than I do around people. But if a bear does come into your site, keep your spray on you, and keep the nearest ranger's station stored in your phone and alert them of a bear sighting in a camp.
You can legally have firearms in the park, but a gun and/or spray should both be last resorts. The bear needs to be on top of you to use either.

HORSE FEATHERS!! That's absurd beyond belief!! What you need is a REASONABLE belief the bear is going to attack.
Just left Yellowstone today after a 3-day visit. No problems at all. The Visitor Centers are posted for firearms, of course, but I didn't notice signs at the other couple of shops I entered. I didn't see anyone open carrying, but I'd be surprised if there weren't a lot of folks carrying concealed.

The numbers of elk, bison, bear, deer, etc. we saw was simply amazing. By all means visit the park. Just follow the rules about your firearm and you won't have any problems.
Anything that resembles poaching is going to be looked at very closely, and they do not want plinking or target shooting in the park. Well and good. But the article is just off base in so many ways. I read the comments, and one of the unintended consequences of this kind of propaganda is that if there is a legitimate self defense against a bear, apparently people who believe they'll be going to jail for firing in self defense are saying they will not report the incident.
Anything that resembles poaching is going to be looked at very closely, ...


And poachers don't contact the rangers to report that they just shot a bear in self defense.

It's very unlikely someone will need to kill an animal to ward off an attack, but it does happen once in a blue moon. If it does, report it immediately and be truthful about the circumstances.

Then write an article about it for the Yellowstone Insider and see if they'll print the truth. :)
Summary: Concealed carry is legal. Use in an obviously true and factual self-defense situation will result only in the usual post-shooting hassle which occurs everywhere.

Casual shooting is begging for trouble.
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