Guns are now permitted -- but not necessarily welcomed -- in national parks
As the controversial law takes effect Monday, critics argue it could increase wildlife poaching, violence between visitors and against rangers, and destruction of historic and cultural monuments.
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Mike Stollenwerk, co-founder of OpenCarry.org, which advocates legally carrying holstered handguns in public, said the law opens 85 million acres of the country where gun owners say they have felt unwelcome.
"Now it's a big sea of gun freedom," Stollenwerk said. "The idea is that the same rule that applies on Main Street will apply to the national park. We will have a uniform federal rule that will make it easier for everyone to know the rule."
Critics, however, say there are as many potential complications as there are state and local gun laws.
David Barna, a National Park Service spokesman, said park websites are providing some guidance to visitors, but it is the responsibility of each gun owner to understand the laws of the state they are visiting.
That could confuse visitors at the more than 30 national parks that span more than one state. The Appalachian Trail crosses 14 states. And though Yellowstone is mostly in Wyoming, parts of the world's first national park also straddle the borders of Montana and Idaho, each of which has different weapons laws.
Implementing the law will be particularly hard in California, which has more national park units than any other state and some of the nation's most restrictive firearms laws.
State law generally prohibits possession of concealed and loaded weapons, although local law enforcement agencies can issue concealed-carry permits, and carrying a loaded weapon may be allowed in some unincorporated areas.
Officials are scrambling to fully comprehend how the law will play out at national park units in California, from Redwood and Presidio, to Death Valley and Joshua Tree.
"Many of the details of the law are unknown at this time," said Deputy California Atty. Gen. Alison Merrilees. "It won't be crystal clear the day the law goes into effect."
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