President Obama signed a bill last May to allow licensed gun owners to bring firearms into national parks, if state law allows it. Fort Sumter National Monument Superintendent Bob Dodson says for the past 80 years the National Park Service has had a “blanket approach” to weapons in parks where guns were not allowed unless they were stored away and locked. Dodson says the time has come to change the laws.
“It basically means that any visitor to a national park unit applies their rules on holding a weapon based on local state law. Here for South Carolina, that means they can come in to federal national parks if they have a proper permit,” says Dodson.
Dodson explains why the change in law: “We did not want to take the chance of people basically carrying out illegal hunting activities. Needless to say the rules begin to change, and that is in conjunction with state laws and permits to have weapons. There were many people who felt if they had a permit by the state authorizing them to carry the weapon legally, that that would also be good in federal law, and so that’s why the rule was changed,” says Dodson.
However, there are a couple of limits on the new gun laws.
“They still would not be allowed in any of the facilities, and by that we mean you still can’t carry it into a federal working building. Let’s say you’re going out to Fort Sumter, you still can’t carry it into the fort. The only other exception is in our case where we have a contracted concessioner who provides the tour boat service to Fort Sumter because that’s a private entity and not federal,” says Dodson.
There are signs posted on each national park facility stating if firearms are allowed.
For Dodson, he doesn’t expect a dramatic change.
“We see it kind of as business as usual. To be honest, what happened in the past was if somebody came up to say the visitor center at Liberty Square and identified that they had a concealed weapon, they had two choices: they could return the weapon to their vehicle and secure it, or we would hold it for them as they toured around. Now, we don’t have to handle the weapon, they can come in an enjoy the facilities,” says Dodson.
Dodson says he sees this as a evolution of laws, and keeping up with the change of time.