More young men with guns go berserk; Illinois hunter harassment law struck down

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1998:

EUGENE––Kipland P. Kinkel, 15,
was arraigned on June 16 in Eugene, Oregon,
on four counts of aggravated murder, 26
counts of attempted aggravated murder, six
counts of first-degree assault, 18 counts of
second degree assault, and unlawful possession
of a firearm.
Kinkel, who boasted often to classmates
of torturing and killing animals, was
arrested on May 20 at Thurston High School in
Springfield, a Eugene suburb, for alleged illegal
possession of a gun.
Released to custody of his parents,
who both taught at the school, Kinkel allegedly
shot both to death with hunting weapons the
following morning, then massacred classmates
in the school cafeteria.

Pointed out Heidi Prescott, national
director of the Fund for Animals, “The six
states where school shootings have taken place
since October 1997––Mississippi, Kentucky,
Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and
Oregon––are all major sport hunting states.
When a tragedy like this happens once, it is a
fluke. When it happens six times in eight
months, and becomes a pattern, we must seriously
re-evaluate the core values that we are
teaching our nation’s young people. Oregon,”
she noted, “is one of 42 states that hold special
youth recruitment hunts to teach young
people about hunting and to increase the sale
of state hunting licenses.”
Kinkel apparently used a claim of
interest in youth hunting programs as a pretext
for acquiring firearms.

Project Respect
Trying to teach healthier core values,
the Fund on June 1 applied for a U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service grant of $142,368 to fund
Project Respect: An Educational Program for
Young People, which is intended to discourage
Said Fund spokesperson Norm
Phelps, “The Fund applied for a similar grant
last year. USFWS denied the proposal, claiming
it ‘was not consistent with the mission or
the intent of the Federal Aid in Wildlife
Restoration Act.’”
But USFWS has in recent years
awarded two grants totalling $330,000 under
the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act to
the Council for Wildlife Conservation and
Education, an arm of the National Shooting
Sports Foundation, to fund distribution of prohunting
videos to public schools.
Kinkel opened fire on his classmates
one day after Hank Carr, 33, of Tampa,
Florida, alias Joseph Lee Bennett, escaped
from police custody while being questioned
about the point-blank shooting death earlier
that day of his four-year-old son. Carr killed
Tampa police officers Randy Bell, 44, and
Rick Childers, 46, with a pistol he took from
one of them; carjacked a pickup truck; killed
Florida Highway Patrol officer James Crooks,
23, during a hot pursuit; took a gas station
clerk hostage in Brooksville, 30 miles north,
whom he released four hours later; and shot
himself as 150 police stormed the gas station.
Carr claimed his son accidentally
killed himself while dragging a hunting rifle,
but the dead officers were apparently skeptical.
Another evidently short-fused
hunter, Matthew Smith, 35, of Parma
Heights, Ohio, pleaded not guilty on June 20
to allegedly assaulting Mary Brown, 70, also
of Parma Heights, because she had a bumper
sticker on her car that read, “I Oppose Deer
Hunting in the Parks.”
The sticker, from In Defense of
Deer, refers to a plan to introduce deer hunting
into the Cleveland Metroparks and the
Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.
Police say Smith yelled an obscenity
at Brown from his car as both were stopped at
a traffic light. She followed him into a parking
lot, whereupon he parked, ran over, and
allegedly attacked her through the open driver’s
side window.

Freedom of speech
Despite hunters’ frequent pretense to
being super-patriots, who keep guns in obedience
to their interpretation of the Second
Amendment, they haven’t shown much regard
for the First Amendment, as evidenced by the
passage of so-called hunter harassment laws in
all 50 states during the past 15 years.
The laws have proved great vote-getters
for pro-gun politicians and great fundraisers
for the NRA, et al, but have rarely withstood
court tests. The most recent failure came
on June 19, when the Illinois Supreme Court
struck down much of the Illinois hunter harassment
Wrote Justice Mary Ann McMorrow
in the majority opinion, “Subjecting to criminal
liability expression which is made with an
intent to dissuade, while failing to threaten
punishment for expressions intended to
encourage or persuade, constitutes an illegal
legislative censure of opinion.”
Under the law, passed in 1984 and
amended in 1994, activists may still be
charged with a misdemeanor if they “interfere”
with hunters or “disturb wild animals…to prevent
their lawful taking.”
The court held that Robert Sanders
of Highland Park was wrongly charged in
1996 for arguing with and photographing cityhired
veterinarian Elizabeth Surge as she
assisted a deer cull near a golf course.
In a minority dissent, Justice Moses
W. Harrison II argued that the whole law
should be invalidated, as while hunters have a
right to hunt, “they do not have the right to do
so free from annoyance, harassment, and confrontation.”
Justice Michael Bilandic, however,
argued for upholding the entire law.

Equal protection
The Fund for Animals and several
individual Kentucky residents raised another
constitutional issue in a June 9 federal lawsuit
challenging the legislatively prescribed
method of selecting the Kentucky Department
of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission.
Under Kentucky law, similar to the
laws setting up parallel bodies in many other
states, commission members must have held a
resident hunting or fishing license for the previous
two years. The plaintiffs argue that this
requirement violates the constitutional guarantee
that all citizens shall enjoy equal protection
under the law.
“This selection method prevents the
majority of Kentucky’s non-hunting citizens
from participating in the decision-making
process of one of their state government
departments,” said Fund mid-central coordinator
Pam Rogers. “This is not just an issue of
wildlife stewardship and protection. It
involves the inherent right of every citizen of
Kentucky to join in the democratic process.”

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