ONLINE POLL:
46% NO |
54% YES

The Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” One may not expect combat on our state or national forest trails, but clearly the Second Amendment protects our right to bear arms or other protective weapons while on those trails. Remember, a walking stick may be used as protective weaponry. During fall bow season I startled a black bear only six feet ahead in a berry thicket. I was glad I had my canister of bear spray, a bowie knife, my 9mm pistol loaded with hollow point bullets, and the sharp arrows of my compound bow. Call it overkill if you may, but the bear left in a hurry and I’m here to talk about it.
<em> —Ray Keys, Rocky Mount, Va.</em>
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I carry a 9mm pistol with me because I do almost everything solo. The reasons vary but my ultimate goal is to be safe. I do not like dogs threatening me—that is my number one reason for carrying a gun. I’ve also had a few strangers approach me that sent my instincts through the roof. Curious bears sometimes need a shot in the air. I go to the hills for soul cleansing and fun, and I want to return safely to my family. I never ever let friendly folks know that I am packing heat. It is only pulled out as a last resort.
<em> —Dwayne Hamm, South Carolina</em>
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Yes, I carry a small handgun in my backpack. I have my concealed weapon permit and went through a hunter safety training course. —Melisa Coates, Barnardsville, N.C. Any wild animal or human predator attacking me will be shot. People who are not ready to defend themselves win Darwin Awards.
<em>—David Steber, Floyd, Va.</em>
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I carry a handgun when I am on the trail. I have been trained in how to use this weapon and have a license to carry it concealed. I take every precaution when outdoors, and I often go with someone else or in a group, but as a petite female, I feel that it is my right to protect myself from potential predators.
<em> —Chrissy, Marietta, Ga.</em>
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We wish that all outdoor enthusiasts had everyone’s best interests at heart. Unfortunately, there are a few individuals that wish to do others harm. Law-abiding citizens have a duty to protect themselves and those around them. The police and park rangers cannot be everywhere at once. When you are on the trail, chances are that you are miles from help. This is why I take protection when in the wild.
<em>—J.D., Greensboro, N.C.</em>
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Carrying a weapon only adds more danger to you and those around you while hiking. The tragic incidents that have befallen the hiking community recently are sad but rare occasions. Bringing a weapon to the trail is like bringing your mom to a strip joint. Some things just don’t mix.
<em> —Jerry Span, Robbinsville, N.C.</em>
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No. Why? Because I’m not ready to kill someone. Even if confronted by bad motives in the forest, you better be ready to use your weapon or it’s a waste of space. Are you really ready to end a life? It’s easy to sound brave when answering that question, but making it happen is another issue. Another problem is that if you stash your weapon in a pack or under your coat it’s not handy. I don’t know the circumstances of Mr. Creepy, the guy responsible for the recent tragedies in the Southeast forests, but my guess is that he befriended his victims and took them by surprise. The way to avoid this would be to have that weapon out and pointed at anyone coming down the trail. Yes, it would be a deterrent but not really an option. There is danger everywhere. Forests are still the least likely place to find trouble. Paranoia is not a path I choose to follow.
<em> —Dwight Shuler, Asheville, N.C.</em>
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I choose not to. Not that I could throw down on any enemy (human or animal) that approached me with malice, but I think of it like flying in a plane. It’s statistically safer to fly than drive a car. To me, it’s just as safe to be out in the woods armed with the knowledge of certain skills and the area around me. In the world today, you have more need for a weapon jogging through your neighborhood late in the evening.
<em>—Brian Bain, Easley, S.C.</em>
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The woods are too peaceful to plan for mayhem.
<em> —Amy Scheer, Columbia, S.C.</em>
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With the media attention recently being given to the hiker murders committed in the Blue Ridge area by Gary Michael Hilton, this topic is certainly on my mind, since I hike in the same areas that he frequented. I may have even passed him on the trail, which is quite a terrifying thought. Still, I do not carry a weapon (other than a small utility knife) and do not plan on starting now. I have never felt threatened on the trail, but I do try to be aware of my surroundings and carry a cell phone at all times despite the fact that coverage is far from complete. Apparently, the couple murdered near Brevard had tried to make a 911 call on their cell phone that did not connect. Even so, a cell phone gives me somewhat of a sense of security, although, maybe a false sense of security.
<em>—Michael Moncrief, Flat Rock, N.C.</em>