Parks—whether world-class giants like Yellowstone or the local park down the street from your house—are great places for both relaxation and recreation. Unfortunately, they are also prime locations to run up against violent predators, whether two-legged or four-legged.
Here are six instances where armed citizens in parks saved their own lives, or the lives of others.
A backpacking couple was hiking through the original boundaries of Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska’s Denali National Park when they happened across signs of bear activity. The male hiker drew his .45-caliber pistol as a brown bear appeared and charged the female hiker. The male hiker fired nine shots at the bear, which retreated into the brush and died. The couple backtracked through the woods to safety and found a forest ranger to report the incident. A recent change in federal law protects the right of National Park visitors to carry a firearm, as long as they are in compliance with state law. Prior to this change, Right-to-Carry was banned in the original boundaries of Mount McKinley National Park. (The Daily News Miner, Fairbanks, Ala., 5/30/10)
A man was eating his lunch on a bench in Wooster Square Park in New Haven, Conn., when a robber armed with a knife approached and ordered, “Give me all your money or I’ll stab you.” The man, a 65-year-old concealed-carry permit holder, drew his gun and shot the robber. The robber was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive. The concealed-carry permit holder was interviewed by police, then released. (The Hartford Courant, Hartford, Conn., 4/27/10)
Jim Hale was chatting with his friend, Tammy Arnold, in a park when he noticed some men eyeing Arnold’s motorcycle. Hale greeted the men, then, unbeknownst even to Arnold, opened his vehicle and holstered his handgun just in case. The hunch was well founded. Police say one of the men ran out of a nearby wooded area, stabbed Hale in the upper back and tried to throw Arnold off the motorcycle. Hale’s adrenaline pumped so hard he didn’t realize he’d been stabbed. He struggled with the larger assailant, then pulled his handgun as they wrestled on the ground. “Within just a matter of seconds, truly, I had him on the ground with a gun to his throat and just held him until police arrived,” Hale said. (The Dahlonega Nugget, Dahlonega, Ga., 5/21/08)
Retired utility worker Joe Mergerle was walking in a Kenton County, Ky., park one morning when a man approached him, drew a pistol and demanded money. Fortunately, Mergerle was one of 51,000 Kentucky residents who held a firearms carry permit under a three-year-old state law allowing concealed carry. The law, along with Mergerle’s .25-caliber pistol, may well have saved his life. Mergerle, fearing for his safety, drew the gun and shot his attacker twice, sending him to the hospital in critical condition. The would-be mugger is facing an attempted robbery charge and may also be charged with attempted murder. Sheriff Charles Korzenborn said of the incident, “People have not only a right but a responsibility to take care of themselves. (The Kentucky Post, Covington, Ky., 8/20/99)
Moving furniture for a friend in a U-Haul truck, 50-year-old John Carder had pulled over and was taking a nap in a Sun Valley, Calif., park when he was rudely awakened by an armed thug threatening to kill him. The highwayman robbed Carder of $140 and his wristwatch and left, only to return later searching for more valuables. Having had enough, Carder pulled a .380 semi-automatic pistol from beneath the seat and let his assailant have a few rounds. The wounded crook staggered off to his nearby house where he was later found dead. “Carder was nearly murdered. He probably would have been if he hadn’t defended himself,” said Det. Charles Uribe of the LAPD’s North Hollywood Division. (The Daily News, San Fernando Valley, Calif., 10/6/95)
Walking through the woods in a state park in Wenatchee, Wash., Michael Vanney was horrified to see a cougar pounce on his 5-year-old daughter Jessica. Armed only with a hunting knife, Vanney yelled for his wife to bring a handgun, then jumped on the cat, knocking it off the girl. When his wife arrived with the gun, Vanney fired two shots, treeing the cat, which was later captured and held in quarantine. Jessica suffered only minor scrapes in the attack, according to an Associated Press report. (The Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 6/24/92)