Why do snowmobiliers carry a gun in the backcountry?
Patrick Garbutt | On 07, Jan 2017
Feature image courtesy of aliengearholsters.com
The question of carrying a gun in the backcountry while snowmobiling is a hot topic at the moment.
Gun ownership and the provisions to carry them have always been touchy subjects for those south of the 49th parallel, or at least since the day all those bags of tea went overboard in Boston Harbor. For Canadian sledders, it’s a little bit harder to understand both sides of the issue.
Here’s my opinion
Full disclosure: I am Canadian. North vs South of the border cultural differences certainly season my opinion on the matter. Our laws are different, and they don’t make it easy for just anyone to pack heat around all day up here if they feel like it. But let’s not get off topic. I’m not saying people shouldn’t have the right to carry a gun with them if they want to in the USA.
The question is, why on earth would you want to carry a gun while snowmobiling?
Up here at least, we’re concerned about carrying less weight around all day, not more. I carry things that I might actually require. Equipment like avalanche rescue gear, first-aid kit, tools, etc. I want to carry as little weight as possible, so I bring only what’s absolutely necessary to help me if I get into the kind of trouble that has a realistic chance of happening.
What I’m saying is—in my opinion—there’s no point in carrying a gun while sledding in the backcountry.
I’ve read all kinds of arguments for why gun lovers think it’s super important to take a piece sledding with them. Here are a few.
Wildlife is gonna gitcha
This argument is ridiculous. As if some animal is—of it’s own accord—going to approach a large, super loud, fast moving alien-shaped form. Hell, no. And it’s not like you can’t get away if something comes at you anyway. I’ll tell you what, my snowmobile moves way faster than any animal I’ve ever seen, especially through deep snow.
Furthermore, when was the last time that you, personally, actually encountered some wildlife while you were riding that made an attempt to hurt you for no reason? The answer for me is never.
Then there’s this video that has resurfaced once again:
This video makes me sick. I almost can’t watch it. The guy badgers the moose to the point that it feels the need to defends itself. He’s CLEARLY badgering it with the revving of the engine, the bird calls or whatever that is, and steadily inching closer to the animal. Then he pulls out his trusty “Hero” brand sidearm, pumps it full of lead and then takes off like nothing happened. WTF?? That interaction did not need to happen. I don’t care what anyone says about “his son was with him” or “the Department of Wildlife deemed it self-defense”. I”ll say it here—if he didn’t have his gun with him, he would not have antagonized that moose to the point where it felt the need to defend itself, and the whole situation would have been different.
There’s bad guys in them hills
Some people figure that they’ve heard about stolen jerry cans and gloves out there, so they need to protect themselves from the bad guys. First of all, people that steal things in the backcountry are cowards, not violent psychopaths. They do their dirty work while no one is around to catch them. And secondly, say you do catch someone taking off with a can of gas. What are you going to do? Murder him with your gun? For real? If you’re pulling out a gun with the intention of using it, then the situation just got way more unsafe for everyone around—bystanders included—and the guy holding the piece is the one that made it that way.
It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it
Is it? Is it really? Like, is everyone sporting a pistol a super deadly accurate shooter with a license to kill? Or, is there actually a staggering number of instances when people have actually shot themselves or others by accident with their own gun? I wonder how many cases there REALLY are of someone pulling out their piece and using it to safely defuse a dangerous situation. In the backcountry, I suspect the answer is zero.
And this is an important point—to not forget the situation we’re talking about here. We’re talking about going out and tootling around the backcountry on your sled, not walking through the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan.
It can be used as a signalling device
What’s your plan there? You’re just going to shoot at random and hope someone hears it? It can be hard to tell which direction a gunshot is coming from. And I don’t generally make it a habit of walking towards unknown gunfire, so you better hope it’s not me coming to rescue you. Ever heard of a signal flare? They are highly visible, cost a hell of a lot less than a Glock, and are small and lightweight to carry.
The take home message
Be honest. When is the last time that your certain death was prevented while snowmobiling in the backcountry because you had a handgun with you? I’d be amazed if one person could honestly answer yes to that question.
I don’t buy any of these arguments for reasons why you MIGHT need to carry. There’s only one argument that I will listen to, and it is this—You carry a gun while snowmobiling in the backcountry because you WANT to.
And if that’s the case, then fill your boots. That’s your prerogative where laws permit, and it’s not my place to say otherwise. But there’s no need to fluff up a bunch of weak arguments that don’t make sense. Go ahead and own it. Just say you want to.
— Patrick Garbutt