It's that time of the year again. In my neck of the woods, hunters are preparing themselves to be out in the woods with their hunting guns going after grouse, pheasant, bear and deer. We all know that there are hunting accidents. Most hunters are very safe and love the sport enough to know how to be safe. Hunting is a great tradition enjoyed by millions of people and is often a family event involving generations of people for whom hunting is a tradition. Such is the case in my family where my maternal grandfather was an avid hunter, as were his son and sons-in-law who then shared their love of the sport with their own sons and daughters. But every year we hear about incidents such as this recent one in South Carolina, where a hunter shot himself accidentally:
This bears repeating: "Always treat a gun like it's loaded. Always treat a gun like it can hurt you." Good advice. Why is it not followed? According to this site:"The accident occurred as David Young was walking on Stiffmire Road near St. Matthews, authorities say. He was apparently retrieving his shotgun while talking to his fiancee when the cellphone went silent.His fiancee “could not get any response from him on the cellphone and she alerted authorities to the location,” Calhoun County Coroner Donnie Porth said.The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office responded, Porth said. They found the 59-year-old Gaston man, “with no signs of life and with an apparent gunshot wound to the chest.”Porth said it appears Young was by himself and that the gun may have accidentally discharged.He said he has seen a number of hunting accidents in his 16 years as coroner. This, however, is his first case where the fatal accident occurred while the deceased was on a phone.S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesman Robert McCullough said the investigation is ongoing, but it appears Young tripped and fell, suffering a shotgun blast to the chest.McCullough advises hunters to always make sure their guns are pointed in a safe direction and that the safety is on.“Always treat a gun like it’s loaded. Always treat a gun like it can hurt you,” he said."
According to the International Hunter Education Association, approximately 1,000 people in the US and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters every year, and just under a hundred of those accidents are fatalities. Most victims are hunters, but non-hunters are also sometimes killed or injured. Although some other forms of recreation cause more fatalities, hunting is one of the few activities that endangers the entire community, and not just the willing participants.You may not agree with the statement made at the end of the above quote but the fact is that it is not only the hunter him or herself who could be at risk but because bullets travel long distances, sometimes innocent people not involved in the sport get injured or killed by a stray bullet. (disclaimer- I am not an animal rights advocate, but found that this site had a good list of hunting accidents) There is also a summary of hunting accident incidents by year from 1995-2007 for your perusal, here. This is just one example of stray hunting bullets hitting someone ( in 2004) who was not involved in the sport:
And in my own state, there has already been one hunting accident. This one happened when two brothers were duck hunting from a canoe in northern Minnesota:Loved ones of a pregnant woman injured in a shooting, apparently by a hunter's stray bullet, believe she is lucky to be alive, but they want new hunting regulations that will give greater protection to suburban homes and businesses.Casey Burns, 18, remains hospitalized as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head. She was shot while sitting in her car outside her North Whitehall Township, Pa., home on Nov. 30. Burns, who is seven months pregnant, was preparing to follow her fiancé to his mother's house at the time.
First of all, anyone who doesn't know that you can't stand up in a canoe shouldn't be in one. Secondly, you shouldn't be in a canoe with a gun if you don't know that principle rule of canoeing. This is a situation designed for trouble. Who taught these boys how to hunt? Who taught these boys canoe safety? If you live in or near any one of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, there are rules of boating and safety. We always taught our children to grab both sides of the canoe when getting in or out and keeping their feet in the middle of the canoe. We even had them practice turning the canoe over to see how it would be survive if that ever happened. It was a cardinal rule to never make any quick moves while sitting in a canoe and that you could never, ever, stand up in a canoe unless you were on the shore and ready to get in or out. Adding a hunting gun to that mix makes it all the more important to abide by the safety rules. This was stupid and dangerous and shouldn't have happened.The Mesabi Daily News of Virginia reports that 16-year-old Baker Felix was hunting Saturday in a canoe on Elbow Lake in Iron with his brother, 18-year-old Bryten Felix, also of rural Eveleth, and 18-year-old Olaf Walkky, of Britt.A flock of ducks flew over and the teens stood up to shoot, resulting in the canoe rolling and taking water. The St. Louis County sheriff's office says Bryten Felix fell backward and tried to catch himself. The shotgun he was holding discharged, and the blast hit his brother, Baker Felix, in the knee.Baker Felix was taken by ambulance to a Duluth hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. The incident is under investigation.
There are the occasional purposeful shootings by a hunter that result in intentional homicide deaths. The case of the Wisconsin hunter who killed 5 people in a mass shooting in 2004 is the most infamous example of a dispute over something like a hunting stand, mixed with alleged racism:
Also in Wisconsin, a white hunter was convicted of murdering a Hmong hunter in 2007:The shooting took place in a small township near the borders of four rural, wooded counties. During deer season the woods are crawling with people in blaze orange, and it's not unusual to hear of small disputes, over property lines or who owns what deer stand. But nothing has ever happened of this magnitude.According to Sawyer County Sheriff Jim Meier, Chai Vang, 36, is accused of opening fire on a hunting party, killing six people and seriously wounding two others.The dead include Robert Crotteau, 42; his son Joey, 20; Al Laski, 43; Mark Roidt, 28; and Jessica Willers, 27. Dennis Drew died of his wounds Monday night. Still hospitalized are Terry Willers, who was listed in critical condition, and Lauren Hesebeck, listed in fair condition.Sheriff Meier say that the suspect was lost in the woods, and apparently wandered onto private property. There, he found and climbed into a deer stand. One of the property owners came by, spotted Vang in the stand and radioed back to his hunting party in a shack about a quarter of a mile away, asking who should be there. (...)"This wasn't really about hunting," the governor said. "Who would think that a little whatever happened out there ... a little dispute about who should be in a tree stand. This is the sort of thing that happens all the time, and the response was beyond what anybody could ever have imagined."While authorities do not know why Vang allegedly opened fire, there have been previous clashes between Southeast Asian and white hunters in the region.Locals have complained that the Hmong, refugees from Laos, do not understand the concept of private property and hunt wherever they see fit. In Minnesota, a fistfight once broke out after Hmong hunters crossed onto private land, said Ilean Her, director of the St. Paul-based Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.
Can felons own hunting guns and actually hunt with them? If not, why did this man have access to a gun in the first place? From the linked article:A white hunter convicted of killing a Hmong man while both stalked squirrels in woods near Peshtigo was sentenced Wednesday to the maximum 69 years in prison.James Nichols, 28, of Peshtigo, Wis., was convicted last month of second-degree intentional homicide, hiding a corpse and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the death of Cha Vang of Green Bay. The slaying rekindled racial tension in northern Wisconsin, where a Hmong deer hunter fatally shot six white hunters three years ago.Vang, a 30-year-old father of five, was found Jan. 6 in a wildlife refuge where Nichols had also been hunting squirrels. Vang had a 3- to 4-inch wooden stick in his clenched teeth, and his body was hidden in a depression covered with a log and other debris. An autopsy indicated he was hit by a shotgun blast and stabbed five times.Vang was born in Laos, fled to a refugee camp in Thailand and immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 2004. (...) Nichols previously served time in prison for burglary and was freed in 2002 and placed on parole.
This article spells out the facts. Ex felons cannot own guns or be near guns. Raise your hand if you think it's a good idea for ex-felons to own and be able to shoot guns.But little attention has been paid to the effect that the court's decision could have on regulations defining which groups of people can be excluded from gun ownership."The Court might decide there are some classes of felons that ought to be treated differently from other classes of felons," a former solicitor general, Theodore Olson, said in an interview on Thursday about the prospect that the Supreme Court may eventually permit felons to own guns.Crimes ranging from murder to writing a hot check can count as felonies. The felon-in-possession law applies to people convicted of state crimes as well as federal crimes.At the end of 2001 there were 5.6 million adult felons living in this country who either had been to prison or were still behind bars, according to Justice Department figures. But the number of felons is actually much higher because many felons are sentenced to probation and never do any time.The only felons who can lawfully retain a gun, according to exceptions written into the statute, are those convicted of anti-trust violations or crimes involving unfair trading practices.In interviews, several legal experts say that lower court judges should interpret the Supreme Court's decision in Heller to permit non-violent felons to own weapons.
Here are some good suggestions for hunting safety:
Guns go bang. That's what they do. They are used safely millions upon millions of times every year, but the potential for injury and death is always there. For this reason, we need to follow basic safety rules at all times when handling firearms, including handguns like revolvers and pistols, rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, airguns, etc.This opening statement is followed by ten common sense hunting gun safety rules. We can only hope that most hunters follow these hunting safety suggestions and understood rules for a safe hunting experience. Every year there are a number of injuries and even deaths during the firearms hunting season. Guns do go bang. Guns are dangerous and need to be treated as such at all times. This site keeps track of hunting accidents and has already listed a number of them for 2012. You can click for the incidents of accidental discharges with hunting guns that have resulted in injury or death. Some of the incidents do not include firearms injuries but other hunting accidents such as drowning, falls from hunting stands resulting in broken bones, and even a lightning strike during a hunting trip. But if you take a look at the incidents listed, most of them are injuries or death sustained while hunting with a gun.
I wish everyone happy hunting. Enjoy your time in the woods, the prairies or on the lakes. Practice common sense and come home alive.
One of my commenters wrote this in response to felons getting gun rights restored: " There is a process for felons to request to have their civil rights restored. It has to go through the same level of court that convicted them. And it isnt (sic) easy." I feel compelled to disabuse him of that notion. Several articles discuss this issue. The first recent one is this one from the New York Times:
And the Violence Policy has an article about this topic as well:For years, Mr. Zettergren had been barred from possessing firearms because of two felony convictions. He had a history of mental health problems and friends said he was dangerous. Yet Mr. Zettergren’s gun rights were restored without even a hearing, under a state law that gave the judge no leeway to deny the application as long as certain basic requirements had been met. Mr. Zettergren, then 36, wasted no time retrieving several guns he had given to a friend for safekeeping.“If he hadn’t had his rights restored, in this particular instance, it probably would have saved the life of the other person,” said Denis Tracy, the prosecutor in Whitman County, who handled the murder case.Under federal law, people with felony convictions forfeit their right to bear arms. Yet every year, thousands of felons across the country have those rights reinstated, often with little or no review. In several states, they include people convicted of violent crimes, including first-degree murder and manslaughter, an examination by The New York Times has found.While previously a small number of felons were able to reclaim their gun rights, the process became commonplace in many states in the late 1980s, after Congress started allowing state laws to dictate these reinstatements — part of an overhaul of federal gun laws orchestrated by the National Rifle Association. The restoration movement has gathered force in recent years, as gun rights advocates have sought to capitalize on the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms.
Though this was an older article, it confirms the New York Times 2011 article, above. Surely we are better than this.The current status of the "relief from disability" program is already resulting in the expenditure of significant judicial resources to make determinations as to whether individual felons are entitled to restoration of firearms privileges—resources that might better be spent hearing gun prosecution cases. This result was clearly not the intent of Congress when it zero-funded the "relief" program. Having courts making determinations regarding a felon's fitness for restoration of firearms privileges may actually cost taxpayers more than the ATF "relief" program since litigation is very expensive. As the Fifth Circuit observed in United States v. McGill5, "We cannot conceive that Congress intended to transfer the burden and responsibility of investigating the applicant's fitness to possess firearms from the ATF to the federal courts, which do not have the manpower or expertise to investigate or evaluate these applications."The history of the guns-for-felons program proves the blatant hypocrisy of the National Rifle Association. The NRA calls for tougher enforcement of gun laws and swift, sure, and final punishment for criminals. But the NRA has worked harder to re-arm convicted felons than it ever has to keep guns out of criminals' hands. Congress should eliminate the "relief from disability" program once and for all.