Here's my view: Well all come from different parts of the country, or from other countries altogether. People from different places have differing views on weapons, especially a kind as politically charged as firearms. Behavior, ethics, & attitudes regarding their use are not shared by all, and since this is not a gun-specific forum, there will be a cross-section of opinions on the issue.

You may call me "gun nut" if you wish, but I do think guns have a place in ultralight hiking forums. A handgun is as much a part of my gear as a cook set or first aid kit: it has several functions (protection, emergency food procurement) and I make a decision of what I carry based on its weight vs. the level of power it needs to provide. I weigh it and its associated items along with the rest of my gear. I carry it because that's what people do in the place that I grew up; I'm not particularly fascinated by guns, yet I'd feel irresponsible if I didn't have one with me.

Bear spray is what you should carry if it will make you feel safe. It takes a lot less training and practice to use it effectively than a gun, and it's lighter. But you do need to practice using it, and it needs to be easily accessible, not in your pack or in the tent. I read a story in Backpacker magazine (Oct. '06) of a girl who couldn't figure out how to use it while a grizzly mauled her dad. That stuff will do more than sting if it gets in your face, too; I heard about some hikers who tried to use it on a blackbear that was hanging outside their tent at night, but they sprayed themselves while in the tent & ended up barfing all over the place. Bear spray does also has the advantage that it's legal in more areas than guns.

There are no "accidental discharges", only negligent discharges and intentional discharges. If that pilot's gun went off because it caught on something in his luggage, then he's at fault for not using a proper holster that would control his weapon within; there are products designed for this. Owning a gun means having it under your control 24/7. People in positions of authority have to be every bit as responsible about their weapons as the average citizen.