New Federal Firearms Law Takes Effect Monday, February 22

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Date: February 19, 2010
Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406-888-5838
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406-888-7895

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – A change in federal law effective February 22, allows people who can legally possess firearms under federal and Montana law to possess those firearms in Glacier National Park. The new federal law makes possession of firearms in national parks also subject to the firearms laws of the state and communities where the parks are located.

“We have been working closely with local, state, and federal officials to ensure that we clearly understand the provisions of the laws that will now apply to our visitors when they are in the park,” said Chas Cartwright Superintendent at Glacier. We encourage every visitor who may wish to bring firearms to the park to do their research ahead of time and ensure that they are aware of and abide by the laws that apply. Our goal is to provide safe, enjoyable park visits for everyone, and to preserve this very special place for people today and future generations.”

The new federal law has no effect on existing laws and regulations regarding the use of firearms in national parks or hunting. Hunting and recreational use of firearms are still NOT allowed within Glacier National Park. Federal law continues to prohibit firearms in certain facilities, such as park visitor centers; these facilities are posted with appropriate notices at public entrances.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said, “We will administer this law as we do all others – fairly. For nearly 100 years, the mission of the National Park Service has been to protect and preserve the parks and to help all visitors enjoy them. The parks belong to all Americans, and our commitment to the American people is to ensure the safety of our visitors and the special places that have been entrusted to our care.”

Cartwright stated, “It is important to note that Glacier National Park is in the heart of grizzly country. That is one of the reasons many people visit the park each year. We encourage park visitors to carry, and know how to properly use, bear pepper spray as a deterrent for a charging grizzly bear.” No single deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved.

Between 2005 and 2009, park visitation totaled 9,835,188. During that timeframe, three visitors were injured by grizzly bears in Glacier. Bear spray was not used by any of those three individuals. Glacier managers agree with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ statement: "If you are armed, use a firearm only as a last resort. Wounding a bear, even with a large caliber gun, can put you in far greater danger."

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffered injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.

Other researchers have come to the same conclusions. According to the USFWS, Canadian bear biologist / bear conflict expert Dr. Stephen Herrero, a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used. Also, in a study published in the April 2008 Journal of Wildlife Management, Tom Smith examined "The Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska." The study showed that in 72 cases where people used bear pepper spray to defend themselves from bears, the spray stopped bears 92 percent of the time and 98 percent of the people involved were uninjured.

Web site links of interest:

For more information about firearms laws that apply to Glacier National Park, please visit the following sites:

Anyone with additional questions is urged to submit the question to the National Park Service, Intermountain Regional Office at e-mail us.

For more information about Glacier National Park

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Last updated: February 24, 2015

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West Glacier, MT 59936


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