The short answer: no.
Before I get to the long answer I first want to ask a couple questions of my own:
Oh, you are going to Chicago for the weekend? Are you bringing a gun?
Congratulations. Your nephew got into Yale! Is he bringing a gun?
You're going shopping at Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon? Are you brining a gun?
It may seem like I am comparing apples to oranges. But in actuality, the idea of bringing a gun backpacking is as silly as bringing a gun into any of the above scenarios. It really is not necessary. And I cannot come up with one scenario in which I use a gun that doesn't end with me either 1) dead or 2) in jail. And rule #1 of thru-hiking for me is: "Don't end up dead or in jail."
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WILDLIFE?
Bears do not want to bother you. They just want your food. Plus, I'm pretty sure it is impossible to kill a bear with a 22 caliber pistol. That would probably just make a bear mad. In order to avoid any bear confrontations, I will be storing my food properly in bear territory with in bear vaults or in bear canisters.
Snakes do not want to bother you. They just want to sit in the sun and be left alone. Plus, I'm pretty sure it's near impossible to kill a snake with a gun. I did see a funny movie with Matthew Perry where a bunch of people shot at rattlesnakes with guns. And while it made for good cinema, I don't think it makes for good backpacking. To avoid confrontations with snakes, I will watch where I step in the desert and if necessary, use my trekking pole to give myself plenty of leeway.
In the highly improbable occurrence of a zombie apocalypse, I will not be using a gun. I've watched The Walking Dead and I know that the sound of gunshots merely attracts more zombies. It is much more prudent to use a phillips head screwdriver or trekking pole to the head. If necessary, I will pick up a machete in town.
BUT THERE ARE CRAZY SERIAL KILLERS ON THE TRAIL!
Think about it: if you were a crazy serial killer, where would you go to stalk your victims? In dark parking lots where you could jump into your Suspicious-Intent-Van with the Iron Maiden bumper sticker and drive away quickly? Or in a remote mountain pass where your van could not go and you had to hike 13 hours round trip while carrying your serial-killer tool kit (rope, duct tape, latex gloves, rubber apron,goggles, syringe of anesthetic, surgical tools, mallet, saw, vat of acid, shovel, portable DVD player and Dexter seasons 1-7) plus water and snacks? The truth is, the trail is much safer than town. To avoid confrontations with crazy serial killers, I will be utilizing the buddy system: checking in with fellow hiker trash and looking out for one another.
AREN'T YOU CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR SAFETY?
Yes. Yes, I am concerned about being safe. Right after "don't end up dead or in jail", my #2 rule for thru-hiking is: "be safe." Since there is significant amount of desert walking, and since the west coast is experiencing a drought this year, the biggest threat to my safety is dehydration. I will be carrying A LOT of water. And since water is heavy, I need to be quite picky about what I take with me in the backpack. Guns are heavy. You cannot drink a hand gun. But you can drink water.
To sum it up, I don't think the gun question is really about guns. It is about being safe on the trail. I will try my best to be safe by practicing smart food storage, being aware of my surroundings, making friends and looking out for one another, being aware of the water situation. So thanks for the concern.
Oh, yeah. I might bring a wooden stake. And garlic. Just in case.