We hear a lot of talk about gun safety these days, but have you stopped to think about the fact that the people who care most about gun safety are hunters? Hunters want everyone to learn about gun safety and to handle guns responsibly. That's why hunting is safe.
But hunting hasn't always been safe. This week's newspaper column compares the safety of hunting today to hunting more than 100 years ago. We've made a lot of progress.
Think about it. If everyone handled guns as safely as hunters do (and hunters handle guns more than anyone in the United States), America would be safer.
Photo caption: Young people today are safe in the woods with guns, thanks to hunter safety laws that include wearing fluorescent orange clothing. (Steve Sorensen photo.)
To access more of my writing on hunting topics, go to the home page of my blog, Mission: Hunter.
Progress in Gun Safety
“With a few counties still to hear from, the census of the state game commission shows that twenty-seven hunters were killed and 126 injured during the recent hunting season.” Such is a newspaper report from 1913. By the time all the news was in, only about 800 “buck deer” were killed in the state, and the total number of hunters killed that season reached the shocking and intolerable number of thirty.
In those days fatal accidents were common. Newspapers reported them routinely, often in more detail than necessary. Automobiles, trains, street cars, drownings, fires, farm animals, industrial machinery, all these everyday things took many victims and made sadness and sorrow a constant companion. If tragedy didn’t afflict every home, people in every home had firsthand knowledge of deep, heartbreaking loss suffered by someone close to them.
Fast forward 107 years to 2019 when Pennsylvania had just 26 “Hunting Related Shooting Incidents” (HRSIs), with only four fatalities. That’s a testament to the safety of hunting. The number of hunters much is higher now, and the shooting incidents much, much lower. That’s true in Pennsylvania, New York, and everywhere.
Commenting on the 2020 New York hunting season, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Last year, more than 600,000 New Yorkers and visitors enjoyed the abundant hunting opportunities available in New York as people headed afield in search of outdoor activities.” He went on to note that hunting is among the safest forms of outdoor recreation.
But, “How can hunting be safe? Doesn’t hunting involve guns? Aren’t guns one of the biggest problems in our society?”
The answer to the first two questions is “Yes.” Hunting is safe. And hunting does involve guns. The answer to the third question is a qualified “No.” Guns in the hands of people who want to obey the law, who are taught safe gun handling practices, and who care about their fellow man are not a problem. If guns were our problem, the opening day of deer season would be a disaster everywhere.
Between Pennsylvania and New York, not only are more than 1.4 million hunters carrying high-powered weapons in deer season (and most are much more powerful than the light caliber rifles anti-gun politicians and media crusaders wrongly insist are “weapons of war”), these hunters fire millions of rounds of ammunition preparing for hunting season and seldom see an accident. To these hunters “gun control” is a matter of an accurate firearm and skilled hand-eye coordination so that when they pull the trigger, the bullet will kill a deer quickly and cleanly.
The safety of hunting is a tribute to the state game agencies which study the issue in order to implement effective safety practices. Hunter safety is also a tribute to hunters themselves, who pay for the work of the state game agencies and who almost universally are good guys in the world of firearms.
Nationwide, states have made great strides in promoting gun safety. Hunter education classes are mandated, and highly visible clothing is often required. Those two steps by themselves have saved many lives and made the risks of hunting very low. Hunting accidents are extremely unlikely today, and hunting is statistically one of the safest activities we can engage in.
So if you’re a mother or father with a son or daughter who expresses an interest in hunting, have no fear. Putting a firearm in the hands of a teachable, responsible young person is not a recipe for an accident. It’s not a prescription for any reckless act. Hunters (young or not so young) do not factor into the profile of mass shootings. The more young people are exposed to firearms in a constructive, positive environment such as hunting, the less we’re likely to have the national tragedies that plague America today.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.