Hiking With A Gun

by Woodsbum

It seems that one of the quickest ways to start an argument in any hiking/backpacking/camping community is to bring up whether to carry a gun while out in the woods. It is even quicker if you start discussing guns around people who don’t leave the urban sprawl. There are many perspectives about it and many people get quite heated during this discussion. The reason I decided to bring this up was due to two reasons:

  1. My daughter’s mother in law freaked out this weekend over a picture we took of my new grandson and his Savage Badger .22 birth gift. (disclaimer: part of this is a rant)
  2. I ran across this article while surfing this morning. The article was linked and posted in a forum that I frequent. The article talks about the carry of guns while out backpacking.

Here is the offending picture we took to get things started. As a side note, isn’t he so cute?

Picture in terrible taste according to my son in law's mother.

Picture in terrible taste according to my son in law’s mother.

She absolutely went off the deep end and had no rational reason for objecting to the picture. Between the little socks on this hands, my ball cap and the look that he was giving the rifle I thought made it a very cute picture. Her arguments against this picture were all over the place and were hard to follow. She first said that this was highly illegal to have a child holding a gun. She then said something about age and guns, basically that only adults should ever be able to touch guns and that we had put the baby in a dangerous situation by taking this picture.

Now to be perfectly candid: the firearm was taken directly from the manufacturer’s box it was sold in (brand new), it was checked by 3 adults, pointed in a safe direction, all 3 adults were within arms distance of the gun, there wasn’t a single bit of ammunition for any gun (except my .45 in my truck) within 50 yards of this rifle, and this is a child sized gun purchased for this child to learn with. Of course you treat all firearms as if they were loaded, but considering all the safety measures we took before taking this picture it is hard to argue that we were anything but diligent in keeping this little guy safe. Come on….  HE HAS SOCKS ON HIS HANDS!!!!

The whole argument based around “the poor child is in danger because they don’t know anything about guns and can probably kill themselves by holding it” is as stupid as saying that a 16 year old who got their first car “should not drive it, ride in it, or have pictures taken with it because they might drink and drive which is illegal.” Seriously taking that jump? How about “you shouldn’t fish in a boat because there is a book about a huge whale that attacks people and whaling is illegal.” See? I can do it, too…….

NOW back to the article and subject at hand:

As for the article there are some interesting points that were brought up. Although the author seems to take the anti-gun stance from the comments, there is an honest attempt to be unbiased. It is fairly easy to see where the author falls in on the 6 question poll.

These were the 6 questions:

Yes, Always. 5  8.93%
Yes, When it is legal.   1  1.79%
Yes, When it is appropriate to the area. 17 30.36%
No, I have never felt the need. 13 23.21%
No, I don’t like guns. 1  1.79%
No, I think the idea is stupid. 19  33.93%

There are only about 41% of the people polled in the Yahoo BackpackingLight Group that said that they carry a firearm in the backcountry. I find this interesting because any poll makes me wonder what type of audience was being asked the question. Many backpackers, especially the ultralight crowd, are very liberal types that are against many different outdoors activities. Then again, many bushcrafter types are very into hunting, fishing, trapping, and the sort. There is a huge possibility that the sampling used in the poll was already biased in one way or another. I have always been skeptical of polls and statistics due to just these reasons. During a college class we purposely skewed our statistics for a class just to prove how inaccurate polls can be. It was quite enlightening and made me an instant skeptic.

Another interesting thing is that only 56 people responded in this poll taken by members of a Yahoo group. First off, I am not sure how many people actually use Yahoo groups as their main source of online social interaction, but it is very reminiscent of the archaic format used by such gems as Democratic Underground. Not to bash his sources too badly, but using a poll of 56 people that just found their way out of AOL is not a viable note on a bibliography let alone a basis for any article/post. So where am I advocating that a poll be posted and used as a cross sampling of American’s views on the subject? No where…..  I see it as a very personal choice that each one of us must make on their own based upon personal experience and training: so how can one person’s background and experiences be used to make up my mind on a subject? If this is used as the basis for the argument then no poll would matter anyway.

Back to the article: The author states that there are two polar opposite viewpoints on the gun carrying subject. One is based upon the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing my rights to carry. The author says that the other “side vehemently declares that you must NEVER carry a weapon of any kind, and to do so is simply stupid.”

No matter which camp you are discussing it is important to remember that these are the two extremes. Most people fall into the middle ground that are just trying to figure it all out. So if we discount these two extremes, the numbers change dramatically.

Yes, When it is legal.   1  3.12%
Yes, When it is appropriate to the area. 17 53.12%
No, I have never felt the need. 13 40.62%
No, I don’t like guns. 1  3.12%

This leaves us with 32 replies and a much larger percentage of those polled that feel guns are important tools in the backcountry. According to these new results 56.24% think that guns are valuable tools that should be considered when out in the woods.

The author does make a few comments regarding use of a firearm in certain situations. A scenario about using a gun when your fellow backpacker is mauled by a bear is one that I was a little uncomfortable with. The author’s rebuttal against a gun being the best tool if a hiking partner is being mauled really bothers me. The response is, “Spray them both if you have pepper spray. If that fails, crack the bear with a hiking pole or stick to disengage him from the person being mauled. Don’t try to shoot a bear in the process of mauling someone. You aren’t that good. I’m not that good either. There are probably less then ten people on the planet who are.” My response to this is quite simple: Count again. You obviously have never been around too many gun people because I could easily shoot a moving bear in and around another person to disengage them from mauling. I could do it with either hand or even a pistol in each hand. If you are discussing the use of tools of any kind there has to be an assumption that practice and competency be a major facto. If someone isn’t practiced or competent in the use of a gun, then they might need a pointy stick. Assuming that there are only 10 people in the world that could “shoot a bear while they are mauling someone” is merely a slip behind the curtain at the author’s bias.

Overall, I do appreciate how the author does leave the article with the idea that the reader must make up their own mind based upon the situation. Although the article provides the reader with the impression that the author doesn’t condone the carry of guns, the author’s final comments are definitely true. The individual must look at the gear required for the areas that they are going to be in. Some areas are more wild than others. This includes the human element as well as animal element. Certain areas are high crime and hikers would be remiss if they did not pack accordingly.

Ultimately, it does come down to the individual’s personal beliefs and experience. Some people grew up with guns and would feel almost naked without one. Others are having a hard time differentiating the urban jungle from the real jungle. 911 doesn’t always respond when you are 20 miles back into a wilderness area.

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