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Ending my silence

Hunters should disavow the NRA

The time has come for hunters to disavow the National Rifle Association.

Within hours of the killing of two dozen innocent people today in Newtown, Conn., by a crazed gunman, an editorial by Dan Agin from the Huffington Post spread across the Internet. In the editorial, “American Idyl: The Gun Lobby and the Killing of Children,” Agin attempts to make a connection between the NRA, and hunters, and the killing of children with the following excerpt:

“In the first place, we don’t need to put the lives of everyone, especially city and suburban people, at risk because of backwoods hunting. Making weapons available for backwood entertainment hunting results in the deaths of too many innocent people. The hell with hunting and buffoon “hunters” when hunting is now merely entertainment and not an economic necessity.”

To Mr. Agin I say, I vehemently disagree that hunters are responsible for the senseless deaths of those innocent children and adults; however, I thank you for bringing to light the opinion that many nonhunters share. That is, from the outside, all gun owners look alike.

I am a gun owner and a hunter and if you have never owned a gun and have never been exposed to hunting, trust me when I say that your grief and outrage at the murder of six adults and 20 children is no greater than mine, and you may be surprised to learn that I, along with many fellow hunters feel that this happened to a large degree, because we simply have too many guns in this country, and no thinking person, hunter, or nonhunter, would disagree that too many of these guns are in the hands of the wrong people.

I do not attempt to defend hunting here, neither do I represent the views of all sportsmen, however, there is an increasing view among gun owners that the National Rifle Association is responsible for the unchecked proliferation of guns in our country and especially guns that by design have no useful purpose other than to kill people. Because of its well funded legislative efforts to promote gun ownership and the dissemination of misinformation about absurd threats to our citizens, we now have one gun in America for every citizen. The nation with the second highest number of guns per capita is Yemen, which has half as many guns per capita.

Being a sportsman, I’m regularly exposed to publications and emails from the NRA and NRA supporters. I am continually amazed that there are people in this country who actually believe that we are about to be invaded by Blue Helmeted U.N. troops intent on taking over our nation or that the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is actually an attempt for our government to circumvent the Second Amendment and confiscate every gun in the country. And I am astounded that because of the NRA-sponsored Stand Your Ground Law, it is now possible in many states for two nitwits to have a perfectly legal shootout at the mall when each one feels threatened by the other.

The National Rifle Association has become a shill for powerful gun manufacturers. Sportsmen and sportswomen have unwittingly been recruited to support the proliferation of guns and pro-gun legislation that threatens the safety of our citizens to a greater degree than any foreign threat.

In the weeks and months ahead, the tragedy in Sandy Hook will undoubtedly lead us to search for common threads that connect recent acts of gun violence in our nation. If we follow the pattern of Virginia Tech or Columbine, there will be speeches and hand wringing in Washington, but nothing will be done. There will be warnings by the NRA that the government will use Sandy Hook as an excuse to impose unreasonable Second Amendment restrictions and gun sales will skyrocket ... and saddest of all, gun manufacturers will view the deaths of innocent children as an irresistible marketing opportunity.

It is time for hunters, target shooters, collectors, law enforcement and rural dwellers who use firearms to protect their property and livestock from varmints and predators, to acknowledge that the real blame for the senseless deaths of those innocent children is shared by the NRA with its symbiotic relationship with gun manufacturers, and our spineless politicians who put their political ambitions ahead of the interests of their nation, and the safety of its citizens.

To the hundreds of people whose lives have been altered by the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary and every person affected by gun violence in our country, please accept my apology. I have been silent for too long.

Nelson Shifflett lives in Conway.

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