Gun Digest

Shot Strings, No. 3

So I was cruising through my Facebook page looking for something interesting besides deer kills, and lo and behold, I came across a little gem someone had posted about hunters getting the heave-ho from public hunting grounds.

The headline in the post of a U.S. News & World Report link read, “Obama Pushing Shooters Off Public Lands.” We’ve all seen headlines of this type plenty of times before, but public lands and gun and hunting issues have never been at the top of Obama’s to-do list, so curiosity got the better of me and I clicked through.

Interesting read. Seems the Interior Department (most pointedly the Bureau of Land Management) is interested in closing down potentially millions of acres to outdoorsmen who traditionally use such public-access lands for general gun recreation and target practice. Again, not the first time any of us had heard about this kind of initiative from the corporate office. Face it, gun ranges, public hunting lands, and other shooting facilities are always under attack, thanks to the unchecked and ever-creeping ooze of suburbia. I’m sure everyone reading this is just as familiar as I am with the tired fist-shaking angst of the folks who complain about the resident deer eating their newly planted azaleas in their newly minted subdivisions and want them gone, just not by hunters. “You can’t shoot them, for cryin’ out loud!” they protest. “Shooting’s just so, so dangerous!” Yup, it was just that kind of factless-based emotional yammering I expected to come across when I opened the article up, so imagine my surprise when I read this:

Officials say the administration is concerned about the potential clash between gun owners and encroaching urban populations who like to use same land for hiking and dog walking.

“It's not so much a safety issue. It's a social conflict issue,” said Frank Jenks, a natural resource specialist with Interior's Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 245 million acres. He adds that urbanites “freak out” when they hear shooting on public lands.

I almost fell off my office chair. In fact, I was so conflicted in my feelings about these two little paragraphs, it took me a minute to figure out I better put something up on this blog.

At first I kind of wanted to find Mr. Jenks and shake his hand for (almost) saying we hunters weren’t a safety issue. But then I wanted to find him and slap him around for being more concerned about the “freak out” level of a bunch of dog walkers and hikers. Shooters should now go away because we’re a “social conflict” problem? Creative, but thanks, I’ll pass.

Over the years, outdoorsmen in general, and hunters in particular, have cooled their jets and toned down the rhetoric when it comes to the sports we love but that others find offensive. In my childhood, driving to my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I’d marvel at the Pennsylvania hunters who proudly strapped their whitetail bucks to the hoods of their cars after a successful day afield. Now they put their deer in the beds of their trucks and cover them with tarps. Others foraying on the edges of city life learn to keep a regular street coat in the SUV so that, when they drive into town for lunch, their camouflage doesn’t “offend” the locals. Too, we use “kinder, gentler” language, such as replacing “kill” with “harvest” (a move I find ridiculous and offensive to me), and we’ve been taught to argue with the rabid whinings of PETA and Brady Law constituents not with emotion, but with calmly stated facts (actually a good thing, this one). But now we’re supposed to give up acres of ever-dwindling—and well-posted—shooting lands because a dog walker might become alarmed at the noise of gun fire? The urge to be sarcastic here—“They’re wearing their iPods, how can they hear anything?” or “Weren’t they used to gun fire in the city?”—is strong, but I think I’ll follow the credo of keep it simple, and that is to advise we should say, simply, “We’ve given enough already. No. No more. This is our land, too.”

The author recommends: American Rifle—A Biography. She says, “This book seems a fitting partner to the editorial here. Beautiful guns and a long history with them. Let’s make sure neither disappear.”

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