Hunters, it’s long past time we stood up for gun control

Hunting isn’t under attack, but our freedom from violence is.

 

Greg Luther is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of NewTowncarShare News. He is a freelance writer in Missoula, Montana.


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 Wal-Mart in the Denver suburb of Thornton, Colorado, 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.

Hunters should not blindly follow party lines or corporate influence when it comes to gun control.

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 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.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of NewTowncarShare News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Borderlands Restoration, L3c is the founding organization of the Borderlands Restoration Network. Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) is both an independent public charity and a collaborative...
  • Assistant Editor, NewTowncarShare News, Telecommute. Edit, write and help shape digital strategy for one of the best magazines in the country. Committed to inclusivity....
  • Associate Editor, West-north Desk, NewTowncarShare News, Telecommute. Dream job. Write, edit and contribute to the vision and strategy of one of the best magazines...
  • Take over the reins of a dynamic grassroots social justice group that protects Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - Winter Wildlands Alliance seeks an experienced and highly motivated individual to lead and manage the organization as Executive Director. Visit https://winterwildlands.org/executive-director-search/ for...
  • Background: The Birds of Prey NCA Partnership is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Boise, Idaho, which was established in 2015 after in-depth stakeholder input...
  • Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor of Native Americans and the News Media The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is...
  • AWF seeks an energetic Marketing and Communications Director. Please see the full job description at https://azwildlife.org/jobs
  • The Southwest Communications Director will be responsible for working with field staff in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to develop and execute detailed communication plans...
  • An intentional community designed for aging in place. Green built with Pumice-crete construction (R32), bamboo flooring, pine doors, T&G ceiling with fans, and maintenance free...
  • (CFROG) is a Ventura County, CA based watch-dog and advocacy non-profit organization. cfrog.org
  • Take your journalism skills to the next level and deepen your understanding of environmental issues by applying for the 2019-2020 Ted Scripps Fellowships in Environmental...
  • The San Juan Mountains Association is seeking a visionary leader to spearhead its public lands stewardship program in southwest Colorado. For a detailed job description...
  • The Cascade Forest Conservancy seeks a passionate ED to lead our forest protection, conservation, education, and advocacy programs.
  • Mountain Pursuit is a new, bold, innovative, western states, hunting advocacy nonprofit headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming. We need a courageous, hard working, passionate Executive Director...
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for the Willis McDonald, IV...
  • Couple seeks quiet, private, off-grid acreage in area with no/low cell phone service and no/low snowfall. Conservation/bordering public lands a plus. CA, OR, WA, ID,...
  • Former northern Sierra winery, with 2208 sq.ft. commercial building, big lot, room to expand.
  • The dZi Foundation is seeking a FT Communications Associate with a passion for Nepal to join our team in Ridgway, Colorado. Visit dzi.org/careers.
  • Available now for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojaidigital.net.