by Frank Miniter - Thursday, February 21, 2019
“We cannot but pity the boy who has never fired a gun; he is no more humane, while his education has been sadly neglected,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1854 in his classic "Walden." Today I’d say this is also true for girls, yet these days a lot of non-hunters think it’s not safe to take a youngster hunting.
This misinformation has been out there for a long time. Here is part of a debate that took place on what was then CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now” show on Dec. 1, 2005:
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Heidi, what, what do you think about this? What is an appropriate age [for hunting]?
HEIDI PRESCOTT, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES (HSUS): Well, obviously, we have laws in this country stopping children from driving cars. We believe it should at least be that minimum age.
O'BRIEN: Okay. And what, what happens at 16? I mean … the difference here, of course, is … we're talking about supervised activities, right?
PRESCOTT: Tragically, there are already five children dead this year. Obviously, we need to have laws in this country to stop children from being out in the woods under the age of 16.
O'BRIEN: Okay. But, you … say it’s unsafe. But, if you look at the statistics, the thing that is most unsafe for kids to participate in is football, by a long shot.
O'BRIEN: Look at the facts, injuries per 100,000 participants. It’s more than 3,000 for football. Down at the bottom, below ping-pong, as we said, is hunting. So, it really is safe, statistically.
The great Ted Nugent, who was also a guest on that show, then schooled HSUS’ Prescott on how safe and good hunting really is for kids. Looking back at this 2005 interview on CNN makes it seem like a quaint, bygone age when even CNN was willing to be a little honest.
The thing is, in the years since, hunting has continued to get even safer thanks to gun and hunting safety programs from the NRA as well as the National Shooting Sports Foundation and other groups. The NRA now even offers a free online hunter-safety course. Launched in August 2017, in step with International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) curriculum guidelines, the NRA course consists of 15 online chapters featuring the relatively new science of Instructional Design to present material. (For more information on this course and to learn how to help it be adopted in your state, call 800-492-4868 or email [email protected].)
The courses and more and have helped. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the injury rate for hunters is well below almost every other sport in America—including sports considered to be very safe. For example, if your daughter is in cheerleading, she’s about seven times more likely to get hurt than if she were hunting. What about “America’s favorite pastime?” Sorry, baseball is five times more dangerous than hunting. Even tennis is about twice as dangerous as hunting.
According to American Sports Data, Inc., people who play basketball have a 13.8 percent chance of injury, joggers have an 8.2 percent chance, golfers have a 1.4 percent chance of injury and hunters have a 1 percent chance of getting hurt.
So okay, hunting is statistically safer than other sports, but when someone gets hurt with a gun they can die, right? Yes, guns have the potential to kill and accidents do happen. All tragedies are heartbreaking and should be avoided with diligence and education; however, to be fair, you’re about twice as likely to die from choking on your food as you are from a “firearms discharge” in America today, and that’s counting all gun incidents. (Hunting accidents are a tiny fraction of that number).
The number of hunting injuries, especially to those 18 years old and younger, are so minuscule there aren’t actually a lot of statistics to use for comparisons. Some states do try to measure hunting fatalities and injuries. New York State, for example, recently reported that 13 people were injured in 2018 in hunting accidents involving guns (out of more than 600,000 hunters). Three of them were killed. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said the 13 recorded hunting-related incidents tied a record-low since the statistics began to be gathered in 1949. Six of the wounds were self-inflicted, including two of the three fatalities. In one instance, a 75-year-old man sustained a fatal wound when he broke all the rules of gun safety by trying to use his rifle to help himself up.
In New York the current five-year average is 3.1 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 hunters in the 1960s.
Hunting is so safe that most anti-hunting and anti-gun groups prefer to not even talk about hunting today; instead, they spin the numbers to make it seem like teaching someone under 21 years old to shoot is unsafe.
“We know fatal firearm accidents are down near historic lows,” says Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the NSSF. “We know there are drastic differences between firearm accidents involving young children and gang-related gun crime among teenagers and young adults. Combining the two and calling the result ‘child gun deaths’ is deliberately misleading at best. Other countries have far higher rates of firearm fatalities than the U.S.”
The New England Journal of Medicine “study” was really just a “Special Report.” There was no genuine analysis of the statistics. The authors simply presented public data in a certain way to frame their pre-determined narrative that America has a gun problem.
It doesn’t. Actually, America has a very safe and responsible gun culture even though the media does little to help spread awareness of hunting and gun-safety classes, safety rules for handling firearms and more.
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