A change in federal law that took effect in February 2010 allows visitors to legally bring firearms in to places such as Mount Rainier National Park. The law made possession of firearms in national parks and refuges subject to the firearms laws of the state and communities where the parks are located.
Before then, park rules required firearms to be temporarily inoperable or stowed so they weren’t easily accessible.
While guns can be carried while hiking and walking elsewhere in the park, they are prohibited in buildings where federal employees work. That means guns are not allowed in locales such as the Longmire Museum, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise or park headquarters in Tahoma Woods.
Proponents of the change, led by the National Rifle Association, argued that park visitors have the right to defend themselves, from wild animals encountered in the park and from other park visitors.
George Coulbourn was against the change and remains so today. He has volunteered 15 years as a backcountry ranger, but also is a hunting safety instructor, a member of the state’s master hunter program and a veteran of 60 years of hunting.
“If you’re not comfortable visiting the park because of animals, you don’t belong there,” he said.
But commenting on Sunday’s shooting death of park ranger Margaret Anderson, Coulbourn said the rules don’t apply in a case like this.
“If guns had been prohibited at the park, it doesn’t sound like that would have any effect on this,” he said. “This is murder.”
“I don’t think that has any bearing on this. When you have someone who would spontaneously kill someone, a prohibition of guns in the park wouldn’t stop someone like that,” Coulbourn added.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: firstname.lastname@example.org/adventure