Just over four years ago, the United States made it legal to carry loaded firearms in national parks.

Gun control advocates complained about a climate of paranoia and warned of violence to come. “It really is sad that we’ve become such a paranoid society that people want to take guns pretty much everywhere – including national parks,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Gun rights supporters loudly proclaimed that it was about time and said the issue was overblown.


“This common-sense measure will enhance the self-defense rights of law-abiding Americans and also ensure uniformity of firearm laws within a state,” said Chris W. Cox, the top lobbyist for the NRA

So, what’s happened over the last four years with citizens carrying guns in parks? A whole lot of not much. Although disagreement over guns and gun control remains virulently binary and intractable, even after numerous high-profile massacres, the stormy waters of firearms in parks have calmed.

But that doesn’t mean that guns aren’t there. A surprising number of people I contacted – surprising to me, anyway – carry weapons with them in their packs or even on their hips when they leave the trailhead. Reasons range from the vague (it’s comforting) to the specific (bears). What about you?

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.

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