A bridge not far enough
In the understandable urgency to reduce gun violence, it is unfortunate our president agreed that it is a reasonable use of guns to shoot wildlife to death for sport.
Accepting the recreational killing of other sentient beings is incongruent with any rational examination of ways to reduce gun violence by and among the supposedly more intelligent of them.
To shield hunting from any responsibility for our gun-obsessed culture implies a timid surrender to a disturbing notion. Namely, that to cajole the gun-obsessed to accept mild – and Constitutional - restraints in the name of public safety, they must be assured they can use their guns to kill something – anything – while waiting to defend hearth and home against a mythical tyrannical government or marauding criminals. Else, what’s a gun for?
We have been ransomed – and animals have been sacrificed – to gun extremists, most of whom (we are assured) are law-abiding, rational and/or competent. Until suddenly they aren’t, which happens over 30,000 times a year.
The object of hunting is to shoot living creatures to death, yet we ignore its insidious influence on our culture of guns and gun violence. Consider this: When children kill animals for pleasure, psychologists worry it may signal an anti-social personality disorder or a precursor of abusive or violent behavior in adulthood. When grown-ups kill animals for entertainment, it’s called a “manly American tradition.”
If wise parents shield youngsters from violent video games, what do they say about the beautiful lifeless creature in the back of Dad’s pick-up? The head over the fireplace? How to explain the disturbing rush of pride Dad feels having shot them to death?
In 2013, no parent or teacher should have to try. With markets full of agricultural meat, wildlife is no longer needed for food. They are not “game,” but fellow beings, as critical to life on the planet as we. Henry Beston, in “The Outermost House,” captured this well:
“The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”
If we can’t quit shooting them to death for sport, what hope is there we will stop shooting each other? Each wild creature shot by hunters shames our species as ruthless predators, killing not for survival or defense but for thrills. What other creatures do such a thing?
The Constitution indeed guarantees a right to “keep and bear” arms but, interestingly, not a right to use them. Like murder, hunting can be banned, and public and private land is frequently posted to prohibit it. It is time to post the whole country.
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Bob Edwards is a resident of Sonoma.