"Coloring the Conservation Conversation--One Word at a Time!"

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Plea for Conversation and Common Sense

A Plea for Conversation and Common Sense
It's a cold, foggy December morning here in the Up Country of South Carolina and my mind should be squarely fixed on a deer stand somewhere in the midst of  the rut. Somewhere out there the deer are moving--and I don't care. For today and maybe a few more I'll not be so intent on that pursuit. Instead my mind has filled with images of killing and carnage that won't leave anytime soon. The recent tragedy in Newtown Connecticut, where six and seven year old babies were terrorized and executed along with their Sandy Hook Elementary School administrator and school teacher caretakers has me thinking beyond any simple pleasure at the moment. The time has come for serious conversation and some common sense. 

I am a hunter and a gun owner. In fact I teach hunting ethic and conservation to students at Clemson University. In that role I try to teach --or at least have them open their minds--to the complexities of what hunting--and killing is. In that teaching we talk about the lives of non-human beings. It is an act of serious consequence to take any life and I want them to think seriously about what it is that they do. Whether it be in the flash of an instant when one must decide whether or not to pull the trigger on a fast flock of wheeling teal or to loose a broadhead on a wary whitetail buck, the intent is to end the life of something on the other end of that act--to kill. As a hunter I mostly clean my heart to the purpose and make peace with the act of securing meat in that manner.  I shoulder, aim and sometimes pull the trigger knowing the consequences of that action. But then I never, ever want to lose the respect for life--any life--such that I don't think about it.  I owe that respect to every fellow living being. But now, once again,  we are faced with the most heinous act; that of killing innocent fellow humans. Even more so,the sin of murdering our most precious ones--our children and those who we entrust with their care, has enraptured me--all of us --in a flurry of "what's" "why's"  and "how's".

So first my disclaimer. I am not an NRA supporter--never have been and never will be. I choose not to affiliate with an organization that has hijacked the hunting heritage to forward the claim that as a hunter I have a need--some misplaced and perverted constitutional right-- to own something that spews bullets at rates that make mass murder as easy as toggling a button on a video game (...and that is yet another discussion that needs to be held in my honest opinion) for hunting is absurd. Hiring actors or anyone else to proclaim some pious right to pry something from my "... cold, dead hands" while hundreds of innocent people die because of political stubbornness and ideological intransigence is beyond absurd. It is sinful. The concept of sin  requires no belief in any deity. Evil exists and increasingly it seems to stand comfortably and menacingly behind some automatic weapon with a high capacity magazine.  It's time for serious conversation and some common sense.

I treasure the opportunity to track the autumn and winter woods in pursuit of whitetail deer and do the same in the spring chasing wild turkey. It is a tradition that I treasure and will defend with vigor. But this is beyond any argument about hunting. It is about humanity and our humane treatment of one another. As a responsible gun owner I understand that all of my firearms are lethal weapons. However, none of them have been designed with the sole intent of killing multitudes of people with a single trigger pull. Bushmasters and other automatic weapons are not hunting tools. They are implements of destruction manufactured for the sole purpose of killing humans. We've seen now too often that blunt fact. And now we are pressed to the point of pondering again.Why? What will it take for it to end? That the demands for these conversations keep arising is testament to how far we really have to go as a nation to move forward into some sort of sensible light where our children and those that we entrust with their care are not being murdered at the feet of ignorance, cruelty and greed for political leverage. I don't think any of the children killed a few days ago cared about red or blue states. Their concerns were likely of the coming holidays; fanciful days with family and innocence. "What's going to be under the tree in a few days when I wake up on Christmas morning"--was the question I'm sure many of them were focused on early Friday morning--and then that all ended violently. We let that be taken away from them, forever.

Fear now reigns in places that all of us--regardless of ideology-- can agree are sacred--our schools. That children on this December morning are fearful of attending classes; that their teachers and administrators are likewise having to think more about murder and mayhem than about instruction and education is shameful. My own daughter is a second grade teacher and today I am sure her mind is probably wandering-maybe having to explain something so inexplicable to her kids whose minds should be on Christmas parties and cupcakes in the final week of class. As a father I am thinking of her safety. My heart skips beats even thinking of her being in that situation.  It is time for serious conversation and some common sense.

The time for implementing assault weapons bans (yes I said the  "B" word; ban) and high capacity magazine sales is long past due. Close the gun show loophole. Period. That will be a start. No, it will not prevent evil people from doing what they are intent to do but it will begin an earnest effort for us as a nation to do better. Unless we do we will share the sins of the perpetrators who exact their evil on even our purest souls.

So too do we need to sit around the national table as citizens concerned about our future and have serious conversations about a video gaming culture where wanton killing is rewarded. How much insensitivity is ramped up by sitting for hours in front of an HD screen mowing people down for some high score? We must also seriously consider the care and monitoring of those with mental health issues that might push them towards committing such horrific acts. A bit more caring and attention to those we see circling some drain of despair might save a life-or twenty. Yes, I know how complex the issues are. Yes, I know that there will be those who argue for their Second Amendment rights to not be trampled upon. They will argue that they must be armed against the coming revolution and the hordes of criminals waiting to assault them. Funny, looking at the stats the fear of the coming pandemonium ramped up on election day in 2008 and again this past November. With the fear the sales of automatic weapons have also gone through the roof. I wonder why?   I know that the arguments will be complex, loud and passionate. I also know that today, 26 people are no longer with us because we failed. Yes, we've failed to do better. Shame on us--all of us.

As a hunter and gun owner, I want to talk. As a parent and citizen, I need to talk. The time has come for common sense and serious conversation about the future--our children--our nation.

We must be willing to do this for the greater good- common sense and conversation is where it starts. Look at a child today. Maybe it will be your own or perhaps someone you don't even know--waiting on a school bus, playing on a playground or maybe shopping with his or her parent(s) for the holiday season in anticipation of all the good that is to come. Then think about that suddenly being taken away and you will have all the reason you need to sit and think and talk. Yes, the time is long past for serious conversation and common sense. It is time to act. Now.



  1. An excellent, thoughtful essay. I particularly appreciate it as coming from a sportsman. I look forward to sharing it with my friends.

    Peace to you and your,


  2. Very, very well said. Lately I have lived in areas where nearly everyone has a gun and the only recent misuse was the 16 y/o boy who shot a rabid dog that was on school property. I'll let that sink in for a moment!

    Thank you for making the distinction between hunting rifles and the giant clips that only SWAT teams and military personnel need. I hope to see this conversation continue, as well as the accessibility - and destigmatizing - of mental health care.


  3. Wonderfully put. I'm glad a friend sent me this way.

  4. Thank you. This really needed to be said.