Hunters, sportsmen must speak up now on gun control - Albuquerque Journal

Hunters, sportsmen must speak up now on gun control

Greg Luther

I’m a hunter, and I want gun control

It’s general deer and elk season in Montana, or open rifle, as it’s sometimes called. I spent the weekend miles from cell and internet reception, walking through the mountains in search of deer and elk, a rifle strapped to my shoulder. Part of the appeal of hunting is the idea that you’ve escaped from civilization, but that notion can be dangerous if you forget you’re still part of the world.

I got into town late Sunday night and didn’t learn until morning that a man with a rifle had killed 26 people at a church in Texas. And it’s been little more than a month since the slaughter in Las Vegas. There was also a mass shooting at a Walmart in the Denver suburb of Thornton, Colo., and probably others I didn’t read about.

As a sportsman, I have to say that it’s long past time for us to stand up in support of stricter gun control laws. It’s not just about mass slaughter. Here in the West, we suffer from high rates of death by firearm because we live in a so-called “suicide belt,” with death by firearm the primary cause. In the United States, more people kill themselves with guns than by all other intentional methods combined. Even when you control for factors like mental illness, higher rates of gun ownership mean higher rates of suicide.

Let’s be frank: Hunters know that high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles are unnecessary for our sport. These guns are weapons of war, designed to kill human beings. You could say the same about handguns. My dad often talks about bringing a sidearm for protection while hunting in serious grizzly bear country, but I tell him not to bother. Studies have shown that bear spray is more effective, anyway, and there’s a good deal less collateral damage likely to be caused.

The National Rifle Association would have it that gun owners vote in unison. They speak with a single voice and think with a hive mind, all ginned up on fears of home invasions and government overreach. Any threat to the right to bear arms incurs the organization’s political wrath and the career of any weak-kneed legislator who dares support gun control is likely to be brief.

The NRA may be powerful, but it’s not invincible. There’s a growing body of hunters who live by a different ethic, wilderness hunters who want to explore and protect our country’s wildest places, and harvest lean, organic meat. We’re capable of drawing finer distinctions on the issue of gun control and supporting regulations that produce measurable results.

Let’s not, in our silence, allow ourselves to be painted over with the NRA’s broad, blood-soaked brush. In doing so, we lend our voices to a lobby that is more interested in protecting its bottom line than in saving innocent lives.

The evidence is clear on both of those counts. First, gun control does save lives. In 2016, the Epidemiologic Review undertook a meta-analysis that looked at data from 130 gun control studies. It didn’t look at single kinds of restriction, but at a variety of measures, including licensing and buyback programs. Its findings were clear: “The simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with a reduction in firearms deaths.” Fewer people, then, will die if we restrict guns.

Second, the NRA, an organization that used to receive the vast majority of its funding from sportsmen, relies more and more on donations from the firearms industry. The estimates vary, but from 2005 to 2011, the firearms industry donated somewhere between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to the NRA. In exchange, the NRA lobbies, markets and handles much of the public relations for the gun industry, peddling the kind of misinformation that stokes fear and drives gun sales.

Gun control faces many obstacles, whether it’s our political paralysis in the face of deep social problems or the influence of the firearms industry and its ability to manipulate us through advertising and misinformation. But we still have our voices, if only we have the courage to find them and speak up. We can’t be cowed by party lines or corporate influence.

We hunters pride ourselves on self-sufficiency, so let’s work from the ground up. That means looking at the facts, talking about it around the campfire, voting for candidates that aren’t in the NRA’s pocket and donating dollars to organizations that help protect the things that actually are under threat – like our public lands.

Despite what the NRA might have us believe, hunting is not under attack, but our freedom from violence is.

Greg Luther is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is a freelance writer in Missoula, Mont.

Home » Journal North » Journal North Recent News » Hunters, sportsmen must speak up now on gun control


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
The wisdom of forests? Leave them alone and they ...
From the newspaper
More and more of us understand ... More and more of us understand that forests are not places where individual trees are locked in comp ...
2
How many more will suffer at Forest Service's hands?
From the newspaper
Just in case you have a ... Just in case you have a short memory or haven't lived in fabulous New Mexico for very long, he ...
3
When your employees can't afford to live here
From the newspaper
It's no surprise every hospitality business ... It's no surprise every hospitality business in and around Santa Fe is hiring. But according to ...
4
Editorial: Forest Service must take its missteps and health ...
Editorials
An 85-page U.S. Forest Service review ... An 85-page U.S. Forest Service review of the origins of the Hermits Peak Fire suggests the biggest w ...
5
Thieves take so much more than your cash
Columnists
Being victimized can cause trauma, and ... Being victimized can cause trauma, and has nothing to do with your 'intelligence or common sense'
6
Tips for keeping you and your energy bills cool ...
Columnists
It is hot outside. According to ... It is hot outside. According to PNM, demand for electricity is highest during the summer cooling sea ...
7
Fear-mongering narratives on the border situation show ignorance
From the newspaper
Calls for enforcement fail to recognize ... Calls for enforcement fail to recognize the real challenges
8
Miss O'Keeffe's home sweet home
Arts
Beautiful Chama River Valley drew artist ... Beautiful Chama River Valley drew artist to Abiquiú
9
Roe v. Wade reversal could have ripple effect on ...
ABQnews Seeker
Providers worry an influx of out-of-state ... Providers worry an influx of out-of-state patients could strain state's system