And this is why folks like me lobbied our federal government to respect our individual rights to self-defense inside of arbitrarily-defined invisible borders:
Authorities say a woman was stabbed and sexually assaulted Friday afternoon on a trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The suspect fled the scene.
The incident was reported to park officials at 2:43 p.m. The 44-year-old victim was stabbed multiple times while she was on the Gatlinburg Trail. She made her way from the trail to Highway 441 and flagged down a visitor, who reported the incident.
Up until a few years ago, National Parks were victim disarmament zones… er… "gun-free zones", but, to my knowledge, they have never been "knife-free zones" or "penis-free zones", and even if they were, do you really think such signs or legislation would stop the kind of person who would repeatedly stab and sexually assault a woman on a park trail?
Even worse, this was not some backwoods trace in the middle of nowhere – this was a mostly (entirely?) paved, heavily-trafficked trail between the main Smoky Mountains visitor center at Sugarlands and Gatlinburg itself, the trail is never more than a few hundred yards from the primary road through the Park, and the attack took place in the middle of the afternoon in broad daylight. This may or may not have been an "isolated incident", as the authorities are trying to make it out to be, but it sure as hell did not take place in an isolated area – there are trails where the distance to the nearest road is measured in miles, and the number of people traveling them a day could be counted without having to take off your shoes; how long do you think it would take help to come there?
Now, am I trying to say that if this woman was carrying a firearm, she would have emerged from this incident unscathed, or in better shape than she is in today? Of course not. I have no way of knowing how the situation went down, if there was any way to alter its course of events, or if the introduction of a weapon of any type would have been sufficient to defuse it. But the possibility that a lawfully-carried firearm could have helped her remain safe and unmolested unquestionably exists, and to coin a phrase, "if it saves one life…"
Already folks are gearing up with pepper spray before heading off into the wilderness, and while that will deter some criminals, I would stress that it is not 100% effective, and would strongly suggest considering a more-proven tool for ensuring your safety, especially if you are hiking alone.
I sincerely wish we lived in a world where such precautions were unnecessary, but the honest truth is that we do not – criminals exist amongst us every day, and will prey upon us if we given them so much as a glimmer of opportunity. Take whatever measures you feel are necessary to keep you and yours safe, but understand that you and only you are responsible for your own safety, and should something befall you that you were not prepared for, "crawling to a nearby roadway for help" might almost be considered a best-case scenario.
(And this is all without even mentioning the threats and hazards of the four-legged predators who also make the Great Smoky Mountains their homes…)