ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — A new state law allowing people to carry concealed handguns without a permit goes into effect in October but will not apply to Acadia National Park.
The law, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last month, directed the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to develop a list of locations in Maine where a concealed carry permit will continue to be required. That list, which the DPS has now published, includes Acadia.
Other places where it will still be illegal to carry concealed weapons without a state-issued permit include schools, courthouses, federal buildings, state parks, the state capitol area and establishments licensed to serve alcohol when a notice is posted.
It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon when intoxicated under any circumstances.
Under a federal law that went into effect in 2010, National Park Service units are subject to the firearm laws of the states in which they are located. A Maine law enacted in 2009 includes a specific provision for Acadia. It prohibits the open carry of weapons, which is allowed nearly everywhere else in Maine. But it does allow people to carry concealed loaded handguns in the park if they have a permit.
When the new concealed carry bill was introduced in the Legislature this spring, it was unclear whether it would apply to Acadia. Stuart West, Acadia’s chief ranger, said at the time that he needed to remain publicly neutral on the proposed law.
“Our job is to enforce whatever the state comes up with,” he said. “But it does seem to me that the 2009 state law was a logical and balanced approach.
David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia, said he was very concerned about the prospect of people being allowed to carry concealed handguns in Acadia without having to undergo the criminal and mental health background checks required to obtain a permit.
He said that, if the unfettered open carry law were to apply to Acadia, it would have “a negative impact on the terrific visitor experience … and the huge economic benefit that visitation brings to many Mainers.”
Although concealed weapons will continue to be allowed in Acadia with a permit, no firearms of any kind are permitted in park buildings that are regularly occupied by government employees. Those include the park headquarters buildings, museums and the Hulls Cove visitor center.
Except for concealed handguns carried with a permit, firearms are allowed in Acadia only in vehicles and only “as long as the firearm is rendered temporarily inoperable or is packed, cased or stored in a manner that prevents its ready use,” according to the 2009 law that remains in effect.
Hunting is illegal in the park.
Although permits no longer will be required to carry a concealed handgun in most places in Maine, permits will continue to be issued by the Maine State Police and local law enforcement agencies to those who wish to have them and who meet the eligibility requirements. The permits will allow concealed carry in Acadia and other places in the state where permits are still required, as well as in other states that require concealed carry permits and recognize permits issued in Maine.
The new law that lifts the concealed carry permit requirement for most places in Maine was supported by the Maine State Police, but opposed by the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. The law will go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which will be Oct. 14.