Following the tragic shootings in Connecticut, it is a time for moderation and common sense. Everyone who hunts knows the concerns over gun control and how it could affect their sport. Everyone who hunts also knows that there are reasons to be concerned for human safety and tolerance of other people.
Everything I do involves the outdoors and my passion for natural resources, which is centered around hunting. But we as hunters also need to realize that we are a minority of the population. The citizenry allows us to hunt, because they realize it is a traditional method of recreation and gathering food sources, as long as it is done ethically and within restraints of natural resources agencies to ensure that wildlife populations continue and flourish.
Thus it is not surprising that the steps by legislators to try to open hunting in all state parks in Wisconsin were likely to draw backlash from the general citizenry. It would likewise not be surprising to find the citizenry upset at knowing that hunters can use bait, perceived by many as unethical, or want to open hunting seasons on numerous species once considered to be non-game.
And although hunters have every right to purchase and use firearms, it is time to realize that there is no good reason to own firearms that are made to look to the general public like they are assault weapons and to own clips that fire 25 or 50 rounds. The semi-automatic shotgun or rifle limited to three to five shells is adequate for hunting purposes and sport shooting.
Hunters use firearms, terrorists and murderers use weapons, but the nonhunter now sees both as the same.
People should debate the pros and cons but people are also afraid of the massive influence of the National Rifle Association. It is a group that has turned from noble purposes of teaching gun safety and hunting skills to a political organization working to defeat anyone who campaigns for gun control or common sense prohibitions.
I see the NRA as solely wanting anything that can be seen as opening the rolls of gun ownership without regard to the consequences. I have heard their spokespeople downgrade state wildlife agencies because of restrictive hunting regulations, when it seems to me that states need to manage wildlife populations based on science and those are the principles that need to be primary in establishing hunting regulations.
Perception is reality to many people, and it is time for those of us who hunt and fish to realize that how nonhunters view us is important, and if common sense steps can be taken to keep firearms out of the hands of people with mental disabilities or prohibit the sale of automatic weapons that serve no use for hunting, then we need to stand up and tell elected officials that we support that.
This country was formed by people who wanted to be armed in order to keep their freedom. There is a right to own a firearm, but people need to accept that there are also some reasonable actions that need to be taken to keep the population safe.
Ethics differ for everyone; it’s hard to say that something that is ethical behavior for me will also be ethical behavior for you. But we need to be willing to make changes that just might help to prevent more tragedies, and let the general citizenry know that not all people who hunt and enjoy the outdoors follow in lock step behind the NRA. Unfortunately, politicians are fearful of being on the opposite side of the NRA.
Although hunters have been the best friends of conservation over the years, it has always been my belief that some hunters are sometimes their own worst enemies. Hunters need to be aware of what they ask for, how they appear in public, how they treat wildlife, how they display harvested game, how they pursue wildlife with dogs and put dogs in a situation where they can be injured, and what steps they are willing to take to help reduce the chances of gun violence tragedies. It is important that the average hunter speaks up and lets his or her voice be known.
Tim Eisele is a Madison resident.