Hunters try to get ’em young
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2001:
ALBANY, JUNEAU– Sixteen juveniles have used hunting weapons, primarily, to kill 27 people and wound 50 in 14 school shooting incidents since 1995, but state legislatures from New York to Alaska are still trying to put more guns in children’s hands.
Twelve-year-olds have been allowed to hunt “small game” with light-caliber weapons in New York since 1992, but first-time hunting license sales have since fallen by 29%. Governor George Pataki is therefore backing two budget bills, A-2000 and S-1148, which would cut the minimum age for deer and bear hunting from 16 to 14. Deer and bear hunters typically use rifles and ammunition which can kill at a range of up to two miles.
[Fund for Animals representative Marian Stark urges New York residents to contact Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, c/o Michael Boxley, Legislative Office Bldg., Albany, NY 12248; <email@example.com>; and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Legislative Office Bldg., Albany, NY 12247; <firstname.lastname@example.org>.]
In Alaska, 10 of the 20 state senators are co-sponsoring SB-72, introduced by Pete Kelly, to create youth seasons for big game other than bison and musk ox before the start of the school year. Although total numbers of hunting accidents appear to be declining parallel to the hunting population, accidents involving young hunters appear to be up, coinciding with recent expansion of hunter recruitment programs– largely funded by the National Rifle Association. The NRA has issued about $24 million in grants to youth hunting programs since 1993.
ANIMAL PEOPLE found in a review of 150 hunting accidents reported by news media during the past two years that 26 of the 98 hunters known to have shot a person were under age 18 (27%) and 42 were 21 or younger (43%). Among the 157 accident victims, 39 (18%) were under 18 and 50 (32%) were 21 or younger. In this age range, most hunters would fall within the two to four percent of the total hunting population (estimated from various
state reports) who have been hunting for five years or less.
Among the youngest children taken to hunt who were involved in accidents were:
* David Cohen Jr., 3, killed while walking out of the woods holding his father David Cohen’s hand at dusk on January 24, 2001, near Fairhope, Alabama. Family friend Ralph Slate allegedly mistook him for a deer.
* Gage Wayment, 2. His father, Paul Wayment, left the boy asleep in his pickup truck on October 26 while hunting in rural Summit County, Utah. Waking, the boy tried to follow his father. Gage Wayment’s frozen body was found five days later. Paul Wayment is fighting a charge of negligent homicide.
* Dalton Gaskins, 2, injured by a shotgun blast fired by a stranger on October 15, 2000, while hunting squirrels at Buck Creek, Pennsylvania, with his father Mike Gaskins, 31, and
brother Anthony, 5.
The youngest who were actually using weapons included:
* Matthew Hunt, 8, shot in the face on October 7 while hunting deer with his father, William Hunt, 42, and two younger brothers including a four-year-old. The Hunts wandered into an
unauthorized marijuana patch on family property near Georgetown, Calif-ornia, and were fired upon by two men who were charged with attempted murder and being an accessory to attempted murder.
* Nicholas Ross, 12, who killed his father Wayne Ross, 37, while bird hunting on October 21 near Hastings, Minnesota.
* Chad Garrison, 10, killed on November 5 near Clinton, Oklahoma, when his father Michael Garrison, 33, accidentally discharged a black powder rifle.
* Kain Moore, 11, killed on December 3 near Prestonville, Kentucky, when his nine-year-old brother fell and unintentionally fired his shotgun. The Moore boys were rabbit hunting with their father and a pack of dogs.
ANIMAL PEOPLE found a much greater number and percentage of very young hunters involved in accidents than earlier studies, but others have also shown a rise. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, for instance, reported after the 1999 hunting season that 23% of the hunters involved in shooting accidents were juveniles, as were 30% of the victims. Both numbers were far higher than had been supposed. The National Safety Council has not issued age-specific hunting accident data in recent years, but noted seven accidents involving hunters under age 10 in 1997, among 1,019 total, up from five accidents involving hunters under 10 in 1996, among 1,048 total.
Constitutional amendments guaranteeing a “right to hunt” are now under consideration in the state legislatures of Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin. Similar measures are already in effect in Alabama, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Virginia. The Oklahoma version, introduced by Frank Sherden (D-Henryetta) would also protect rodeo.