“Roughing It” Could Mean Leaving Your Gun at Home
Gun owners in general and concealed carry permit holders in particular are generally vigilant people when it comes to personal and home defense planning, but those plans change radically when you decide that a family vacation in the back country is a good idea.
Any trip off the beaten path requires a different mindset than taking the family to the movies.
Although situational awareness is still paramount, the focal points are different. The likelihood of being confronted and robbed while in the great outdoors is slim.
An attack by any number of large animals that roam the more remote areas of national parks, forests, and Bureau of Land Management properties is more likely.
Unfortunately, firearm regulations in these areas can be tricky. A 2010 federal law makes it legal to carry firearms in national parks as long as it doesn’t infringe on local or state laws and although it may be legal to carry the weapon, likely isn’t legal to discharge it.
National park websites now have links to the applicable state firearm laws for their respective states. International borders such as the Boundary Waters area on the U.S.-Canada border create even more confusion as regulations can vary at different entry points.
The same is true to a lesser extent on U.S. federal lands, as author Tom Watson explains in his article “Backcountry Backup: Defending Your Life and Property” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“In the case where a portion of two or more states [lie] within a park boundary, it is up to each individual to check the status of laws in each of those particular states.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Although the passing of the 2010 law has generated considerable debate, there has been no indication of consequences in either direction. Between 2012 and 2013, minor criminal incidents in federal lands dropped from 113,000 to 105,000. Firearm use or lack thereof was not indicated in the reports.
There has been at least one incident of isolated campers being terrorized by gun-toting marauders. The incident occurred in 2007 before the federal law was passed and is still a topic of debate today whether the outcome would have been different if the campers had been armed.
Large carnivorous animals are a legitimate concern anytime you venture into their territory, but the chances of being killed by one are remote. For instance, in a 25-year period in Alaska, a total of 90 bears were killed either in self-defense or to protect property, amounting to less than 4 bears per year. However, 6 people were killed by bears from 1985 to 1996. Alaska regulations now require people to remain at least 50 yards from bears, although the bears are probably not familiar with the law.
For those who feel more comfortable carrying a firearm as a large animal deterrent, the recommended calibers are .40 handguns and .44 Magnum revolvers or shotguns. Bear spray is also extremely effective. Before you head to the outback with a weapon, make sure you are comfortable and skilled enough with it to potentially face off with a large man-eater looking for food or defending his territory.