On Monday, firearms will be legal on monument

New rules that go into effect Monday at Colorado National Monument will allow visitors to carry firearms on its trails and overlooks for the first time in 94 years.

The change is the result of a new law passed by Congress in May that ended the ability of the National Park Service to set its own gun-carry restrictions. The new law makes each park, monument or wildlife refuge administered by the National Park Service subject to the gun laws of the state in which it’s located.

In Colorado, the law allows open and concealed carry, and rangers have been briefed on how to deal with visitors who are bearing firearms, Colorado National Monument spokeswoman Michelle Wheatley said.

The onus is on firearms owners to know and obey those laws, even if they are in parks or monuments that cross state boundaries, she said.

One thing visitors to Colorado National Monument will note is new signs informing visitors that guns are prohibited in the visitor center, offices, maintenance buildings and other areas where employees and visitors gather, Wheatley said.

Overall, however, “We don’t anticipate any big changes,” Wheatley said.

Officials at the monument have long been familiar with firearms because hunters often travel through on their way to hunting areas outside the monument boundaries. Hunting, however, remains prohibited in the monument and in national parks.

It’s unlikely that most visitors will even be aware that other visitors are armed, said Linn Armstrong, a Grand Junction firearms instructor and supporter of the Second Amendment.

“It’s not going to be a big difference,” Armstrong said. Monument officials “will find out that it’s no big deal. It will just go unnoticed.”

Although Colorado law has open-carry provisions, people who own concealed-carry permits will likely keep their firearms out of sight.

“It’s way better for the firearm and way better for the person, and it’s not too good for any perpetrators,” Armstrong said.

While the law will allow firearms to be carried in the park, “It doesn’t give them the right to use firearms in national parks,” Wheatley said.

In the event that a visitor discharges a firearm, she said, “It will be investigated and evaluated individually to determine if it was for self-defense or not.”

Armstrong said he is pleased that the ban on firearms has been lifted.

“I’m just surprised it took so long,” he said. “The Second Amendment is pretty old, and it’s amazing how people ignore it.”


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