Wow, this was actually kind of civil for a few pages. Starting to heat up just slightly, now.
I gotta put this out here- I am exactly the guy that the American public should WANT wandering quietly among them with a concealed handgun. I grew up in a gun family so I'm certainly not a hoplophobe. I am well trained on handling and firing a handgun. I can certainly hit what I shoot at, even in the stress-fire scenarios I've done. Needless to say, I have never failed to qualify "expert" on the joke of a test the U.S. Army uses. I have a CCW for the state of Colorado, and I understand gun law. I have proven good judgement. I fret about what it means to actually have to use a handgun for its intended purpose, and especially about where a bullet might go after passing through it's target. I would rather die myself than harm an innocent bystander. I obsess about my family's safety with guns in the house. So, frankly, you all should feel SAFER knowing that I might be standing next to you in the mini-mart the day a crew of tweakers open up. If nothing else I will draw their fire away from YOU.
And that's kinda funny. A lot of people on this thread have mentioned how useless a gun is if you aren't intensely trained, and how poorly people shoot in stressful situations, etc. (I, too, have chuckled at any number of police officers who I have seen shooting VERY poorly on ranges I have visited. Most of them would rather have a nice pen than a nice gun, y'know? They use it much more.) Well, I am the guy who is well trained, and I will certainly do a better job than the tweaker...
But I almost never carry a gun. Ever. City or wilderness. I simply don't need it. The biggest reason I even own a handgun is in case some ba$tard breaks into my house and threatens my family, which is probably the only thing that would push me to egregious violence. Though I am a rational man with a great respect for human life, I'm certainly no pacifist.
Mind you, I find most of the arguments against carrying a gun on this thread to be spurious:
"You're carrying a gun 'cause you're SCARED!" What? I'm not scared at all. I'm evaluating risk. A gun is kind of like parachute- you'll probably never need it, but if you do you'll need it VERY BADLY. That's why it is obvious to me that a lot of people here don't understand risk. Risk is NOT equivalent to likelihood. Risk is likelihood x severity. If the likelihood is low but the impact is catastrophic, well, that's a significant risk. Certainly likelihood can be so low as to effectively nullify the risk, but I don't think it is a given that this is one of those cases. It is arguable.
"Someone else will kill you before you can use it!" Again- what?!? I'll take 2 to 1 odds against a tweaker any day. And I'm certainly not going looking for a fight. Those who look for fights find them. I'm talking my way out if I can.
"If the pot growers have guns they'll still kill you!" Wow. That's far from a true statement. And even if one makes that general assumption- are you claiming that you shouldn't even TRY to defend yourself?!? That's kind of nihilistic, isn't it?
"The drive to the trail-head is more dangerous!" Granted. So you drive carefully and buckle up, don't you? You have evaluated risk and taken measures, which is all that the people who are asking about carrying a gun are doing, too.
Nonetheless, despite my thoughts on all of that, I rarely carry a gun- because when I evaluate the risk I find it to be so very low. Bear spray IS probably more effective for bears, unless you carry a high-powered rifle or shotgun slugs or something, and those are simply too heavy. (I did carry a .45-70 on my Alaska trip a while ago- because all of the locals warned me that I should. And I didn't see a single grizzly.) No HANDGUN is going to be remotely reliable in stopping a charging grizzly- I don't care what magnum round you're considering- because shot placement is just too difficult. Even PEOPLE who are shot almost never drop dead immediately, contrary to Hollywood. Frankly, if you MUST use a handgun against a bear a high-capacity automatic might be better than the magnum- that's what the rangers often end up using on the bears when they must put one down and a rifle isn't available. More shots = better chance of hitting something vital. I've seen footage of a grizzly being shot behind the shoulder TWICE by a .300 Weatherby Magnum and still fighting, so do you really think your .44 magnum is going to stop one? For that matter, we don't have grizzlies in Colorado. We also don't have the pot-grower problems in Colorado that you all have in California, nor do we have the coyote and Mexican mafia problems of the border states, all of which I think is just a tad overblown, anyway.
So, when I EVALUATE THE RISK it seems to come down on the side of not carrying a gun. Not worth the weight. But do your own assessment. If I do carry one I keep it light, carry it in a SafePacker, and it isn't for bear protection. Most of the human threats you might encounter are not courageou, and will back down when it becomes obvious that you might kill them back. On the very rare occasion that I carry a gun it is because I'm worried about aggressive rednecks or ranchers with delusions about property rights or rural mafiosi or perhaps the occasional tweaker trying to steal stuff in crowded areas, and then I carry a Ruger LCR because it's light. In general, I am willing to take much greater risks with my own life, but when my wife and/or daughter are with me I'm more likely to carry the LCR. The argument that this makes me a greater threat to my family than anyone else is spurious- I OBSESS about gun safety. If it ever gets back from the gunsmith I'll probably change to my S&W Model 19 because I'm having a MagnaTrigger installed for safety reasons, and then the LCR will only get used for those extremely occasions when I want to carry it while solo hiking.
Frankly I'll agree that armed untrained people are more of a threat to themselves and their friends than to anyone else, and most people who walk around armed are macho frightening people. Hey, I'm a "gun guy"- I know these people, and they are macho and frightening.
If you EXPECT to get in a fight, heck, carry a rifle. If you don't expect to get in a fight but want to be prepared, carry a handgun. For people who are extremely unlikely to get into a fight (which is nearly all of us, including me) and who aren't "gun people" I like to recommend small double-action revolvers. And if you aren't "gun people" don't shoot at any range longer than across a desk. They will fire every time you pull the trigger- for all practical purposes they do not jam, no matter how poorly treated. You can leave them loaded in your nightstand for YEARS and they will function when you pull the trigger- which is not something an automatic you can be relied upon to do. There is no safety to fumble under stress. You can just jam them into your target and pull the trigger if you must- many automatics will go out of battery if you do this. Small ones like J-frame S&Ws or the LCR are very light. Five (lead) rounds really isn't that heavy.
But, wow, it is an extremely odd circumstance in which I even consider taking a gun.