I was poking around the Internets the other day for some tips and general research on backpacking and the like. It’s a good way to uncover a useful packing strategy or two and uncover unique gear. There are a lot of innovative backpackers out there, especially in the light and fast crowd. Plus, in the same way most of us form political perspectives, it’s good to have what you espouse justified by complete strangers on the web.
Once on YouTube, I click across the video you can see here, posted by YokoWenis. (Embedding was not enabled, so you’ll need to head over there.)
Everything seems normal in the first few minutes as he displays and explains his gear choices. He’s clearly an experienced backpacker, buys everything Backpacker tells him to and seems to be someone with who you could talk trail. (Although I’m no fan of Mountain House meals, pocket showers or pack covers.) And then, at the 5:20 mark, the record scratches. His next piece of gear, which he calls “the fun stuff,” is a semi-automatic handgun. With two magazines.
The video description suggests this specific packing breakdown is for a trip to the Tetons, an area popular with brown and black bears. Although, the big ones are much more prevalent in the national park entity directly to the north of the videographer’s destination mountain range. Nevertheless, it appears that bear protection is why he’s carrying it. In the comments section, he also mentions “weirdoes” on the trail. I couldn’t agree more on that point.
Twenty seconds later it gets even better. “Oh, I’m going with six guys and we’re all packing guns.”
That’s seven handguns. S-E-V-E-N. On one trip.
Before you go getting all NRA on me, a disclaimer: I’m not anti-gun. I was raised by a cop and my brothers hunted. We had guns in the house for most of my youth. I believe firmly that if a gun was loaded, locked in a secret room and never interacted with by a human for 20 years, two decades later that gun would not be responsible for a single death.
What I am against is seven jackasses hunting bear in the same backcountry where I spend time. No, they’re not hunting? I can’t really think of any other reason to substitute a fucking phalanx of handguns for pepper spray and common sense unless someone in the group is hoping, even a little bit, that he gets the chance to unholster his sidearm. On second thought, I’ll acquiesce. Let’s call it, “hunting light.”
You could win me over with an argument for carrying one gun, especially if you were in Alaska, where man’s position on the food chain is somewhere between seal meat and dumpster pizza. I would have even less of a reason to ridicule if you were hiking alone in very remote areas of bear-heavy regions. What I will not do for a second is even attempt to comprehend reasoning for seven pistols in a single group of backpackers. Hey, Marshall Givens, you know the bears are un-armed, right?
Other than those pesky arguments for personal safety (you can’t tell me that a group carrying seven guns is not going to spend a significant amount of time discussing the merits of each, which will no doubt lead to a number of impromptu show-and-tell sessions), guns in bear country tend to coincide with a lack of concern for bear camping etiquette. On this I realize I may be wrong, perhaps these guys are master bear tacticians. Or, maybe they know shit about camping in bear country so they carry handguns. It could be that.
Lastly, handguns do little to protect you against charging bears. I know this because I read. Oh, and the Mormons did a little study on it.
Again, one gun is reasonable if you’re alone. I maintain it should remain a last resort though, as in, not until things reach threat-level Timothy Treadwell.
There is not one sound argument—not one—for every member of a seven-team backpacking excursion to have a gun. I get it though, it’s your right. Ultimately, that wins the argument every time. But get a grip fellas.
And lastly, the guns in national parks law can’t get over-turned fast enough. Have you seen some of the idiots who visit our national parks?