Hunter safety education for all gun buyers

A program that will be politically palatable to everyone should be instituted across the United States to take aim at and reduce the number of mass shooting incidents marring the landscape of daily life.

It used to be when there was a mass shooting with a madman going berserk in an elementary school or a department store, we were aghast for days, horrified at the mere thought that anyone could do such a thing.

Big city, small town, grocery store, mall, anywhere. Ten dead, 10 wounded. Three dead, 15 wounded. Headline of the day on all news shows.

Until it became something that happened all of the time. Until the next murder spree 1,000 miles from home got a single mention and was replaced in the next news cycle, downgraded from you-must-see-this to oh-by-the-way-another-one.

Politicians expressed horror. Then they downgraded to dismay. Then they didn’t say anything at all.

For a time, each terrorizing incident brought forth demands, then suggestions, that this country, this great U.S. of A, just had to do something. Then nothing happened, a fear of “them,” the government apparently, taking away all of our guns, and the suggestions got stuffed back in the box.

Do we really want to live this way?

Since there are something on the order of 300 million guns on the street across America, it is obvious the genie was long ago let out of the bottle and just as obvious not everyone in possession of a gun is a good guy.

There is no single, all-encompassing way to halt all mass murders. There is no way to ensure that a purely evil, criminally intent individual, or one who is mentally ill yet determined, will be prevented from obtaining a gun to do harm. But perhaps there is a partial response that can maybe save some lives.

It is commonplace for states to require hunter education programs for those seeking licenses to pursue deer, turkey, elk and black bears in the woods. Prospective hunters sit through lectures that teach wise gun handling, proper habits in the wild, but all can be summarized as stressing safety. Safety, safety, safety.

Sitting through a two-day Indiana Department of Natural Resources hunter education program recently left me thinking that if Congress or state legislators in all 50 states passed laws requiring anyone who legally buys a gun, a pistol, a rifle or a shotgun take such a course, we would all be better off.

Hunters are often criticized by gun-hating members of the public, but hunters who provide meat for the table or who enjoy being out in nature are not the villains in the wide world of gun massacres.

Everyone who purchases a gun, for personal safety, for whatever reason, from a gun dealer or from a sporting goods shop should by law be forced to listen to experts in firearms teach intelligent gun handling, gun storage, gun use, safety. If you are a politician in Congress or a state representative or state senator, you should be front and center backing such a proposal.

Will this completely cure the mass shooting epidemic across the United States? No. Will it help cut down on them? We can only try. At the least, a program like this is a response to American outrage, to the sickening specter of more and more mass killings.

Instead of turning palms up in a gesture of helplessness, instead of a continuing pattern of being accused of doing nothing, politicians can say they are trying for a solution. And any official who refuses to back such a plan should be forced to explain why.

Lew Freedman is a reporter who covers sports and outdoor recreation for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected]