Veep Gives Our Sport A Black Eye

I had intended to blog about the SHOT Show in Vegas this past week…but with the incredible news of Vice President Cheney accidentally shooting one of his hunting comrades on Saturday…how can I pass up mentioning this timely event?   After all, and as far as I am concerned, one would have to dig pretty deep to find anything newsworthy coming out of the 28th Annual SHOT Show anyway.   But more on that during the days to come.

Nope, today we’re going to deal with the black eye that has once again been delivered to our sport.   A black eye that certainly proves that hunting accidents CAN and WILL happen to anyone.   Doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned veteran of the woods and fields, doesn’t matter if you think you’re being careful just because you teach hunter safety, heck, it doesn’t even matter if you’re the Vice President of the Free World and the eyes of the world watch your every action.

Certainly I’m not going to defend the actions of the V.P. or the other individuals in his hunting group.   Simply put…they messed up.   The scenario, however it actually played out, likely was a series of poor judgments compounded by some rotten luck.   Being in the wrong place at the wrong time could excuse a lot of hunting accidents…but in almost EVERY situation where an injury or fatality occurs, the real culprit lies in the poor mental synapse action taking place between the ears of the shooter.   In other words, at the very moment when the mind sends a message to the trigger finger to release the hunting load…this is where blame has to squarely lie.   From most accounts…Cheney screwed up and did not follow one of the basic principles of hunting safety by knowing your shooting lanes as well as what lies beyond your target.

Hey, as anyone who knows me will tell you…I am about as big of a Bush/Cheney supporter as you can be…but that doesn’t mean this time around I will stick up for the VP.   He erred in judgment…and those of us in his fellow hunting community can take some lessons from the fact he has proven that misfortune and lack of good judgment can have some serious consequences.   This time, in fact, it appears all will turn out fine with little more than some superficial wounds and embarrassment to the parties involved.

Still, I’m more concerned about what this incident does to the current image of our sport.   Forget the fact that this is the first time in over 200 years since then Vice President Aaron Burr shot and injured another person…that time on purpose during a duel.   Forget that even the official accident report on the incident concludes it was merely an accident with no further investigation warranted.   Instead, focus on the fact this little occurrence will most certainly add fuel to the fire for the anti-gunners and a political system where the parties are so polarized just waiting to pounce on and exploit another person’s mistake to accomplish strides for their own cause.

Case in point…consider these excerpts from a news release by the Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep And Bear Arms:

When Jim and Sarah Brady, the figurehead leaders of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, tried to make political hay from a hunting accident involving Vice President Dick Cheney over the weekend, they once again demonstrated their propensity for dancing in blood to push their anti-gun agenda.

That was the assessment from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) today. Jim Brady was quoted in a Sunday news release quipping, “Now I understand why Dick Cheney keeps asking me to go hunting with him.” Sarah Brady cheerily added, “I’ve thought Cheney was scary for a long time. Now I know I was right to be nervous….”

[according to CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron]   “…We can’t imagine how badly Cheney must feel about this accident. On the other hand, we no longer have to imagine just how low Jim and Sarah Brady can sink. They have raised dancing in blood to a fine art.”

And so it goes.   I spent the better portion of today listening to talk radio and I could not believe how the announcers and many of the callers were using this unfortunate occurrence to make a mockery of the VP and our sport of hunting.    It is truly frustrating.   Within our ranks we have people who devote their entire lives toward making the outdoors a safer, more enjoyable place to hunt…and they get little or no praise for all the positive work they have accomplished over the past several decades.   But in the blink of an eye a mistake is made by a very notable public figure among our ranks…and suddenly the sport we cherish so dearly to our hearts is in a public relations nightmare with everyone from late night talk show hosts to our news personnel exaggerating the scenario for their own selfish gain…and almost always at the expense of an otherwise noble sport, but for a negative incident.

On one hand I am a little pissed at Cheney for not being more careful while out quail hunting this past Saturday thus creating all of this hullabaloo.   Pissed in the same sense that I would be at any one of my hunting comrades when they exercise poor judgment while carrying a firearm.   Hunting safety is a serious matter and requires everyone in the hunting party to participate…and to be mindful…and re-mindful, when a complacent partner needs a gentle safety reminder.   On the other hand, I’m hoping this incident reinforces in all of our minds that nobody is immune from hunting accidents.   They can happen anywhere…at anytime…and in any manner…and the only thing to prevent them is to reinforce the responsible actions that must be made every time the trigger on a gun is pulled.

As the VP soon learned…no quail is worth the sacrifice of possibly losing an old friend.   If you’re unsure…DON’T SHOOT!   There will be more game (and shooting chances) likely just ahead.   Perhaps one of the sad realities of most hunting accidents is this…of course, whenever someone is injured or killed it is a tragedy to both the shooter and the victim’s family.   But what even makes matters worse…in MOST hunting accidents the parties involved are usually close friends or family members.   That fact alone certainly gives each of us all the reason in the world to be as safe as we can when walking the fields and woods participating in our beloved sport.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.