Wisconsin Encourages 10-Year-Olds to Hunt, No Safety Training Required

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Wisconsin Encourages 10-Year-Olds to Hunt, No Safety Training Required

By Stephanie Ernst on AnimalRights.Change.org
June 2009

Note: I removed the photo that was included here because of increasing discomfort with how visible the kids' faces were. The photo showed too very young boys posing with a gun about as big as their bodies and a dead bloody-mouthed deer.

The state of Wisconsin is worried that not as many people are hunting these days, but they have a plan: start legally arming grade school kids.

The legislature has passed, and the governor is expected to sign, a bill making it easier for children to hunt, by lowering the legal age from 12 to 10 (that's fourth or fifth grade) and by removing safety-training requirements.

Now the kids--according to the law, and we could have a whole other conversation about how likely it is that all the points of law will be (or currently are) followed by everyone--need merely be accompanied by an adult, with only one weapon between them and with the adult staying within arm's length of the child. And I want to be clear: it is my understanding that there was a safety training requirement when only kids 12 years and older were allowed to wield deadly weapons and kill animals for fun, but now that the kids will be two years younger, two years less mature, and two years less responsible, no more safety requirement--and they're "offer[ing] youngsters reduced license fees in an effort to preserve the state's hunting culture" too. Someone, please, explain the logic to me. Explain to me how arming "youngsters" is a good idea.

Oh wait--here's the logic:

The state and the organizations and businesses that revolve around hunting make money off hunters, who have to pay for licenses, fees, guns, ammo, equipment, etc. And if the number of hunters drops--as has been the case in Wisconsin--the state and the hunting interests don't bring in as much dough. But if all hunting adults have to do is accompany their kids as part of this "mentoring program," rather than go through the hassle of putting their kids through actual safety training, and if they can now take their kids for even cheaper, they're more likely to buy licenses for their children, hand deadly firearms to their children, take them out into the woods, teach them to kill, and (here's the important part) make lifelong, longtime-license-purchasing hunters out of them. Apparently, the earlier you indoctrinate teach someone to kill, the better and the more likely it is to stick. Lawmakers and hunters hope this program will bring more women into the fold too--adults with mentors won't have to go through safety training either. From the Chicago Tribune:

"It's important for us to include young people in the activities that a lot of us hold near and dear," said Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, who has pushed for years to lower the hunting age. "This is about our heritage."

The mentorship program is designed to attract not only more young hunters but adults who want to "test drive" the sport, said Randy Stark, chief conservation warden for the Department of Natural Resources. He said he expects to see more women hunt with the program.

I wrote exactly a month ago, in "Women, Girls, and the So-Called Achievement of Killing," about how much these attitudes disturb me. This need hunters feel to bring as many into the killing fold as possible and the way it is celebrated when children and women join in on the killing--these are not things for humanity to be proud of. Hunting is not a "proud tradition" or a practice that teaches anyone, child or adult, to respect "nature." And it's disconcerting that most news outlets can cover a story such as this with barely a moment (if even a moment, in some cases) of questioning and opposition. And of course, there is rarely any mention of "killing" or of the hunted animals themselves--just the "sport" and the "tradition."

Adults are already taking children 10 years old (and younger) on hunting trips, in states across the nation, legally and illegally both (apparently, 30 states have no minimum hunting age). Does Wisconsin or any other state really need a law expressly encouraging more kids to carry guns out into the woods?
We worry about teaching kids violence via movies and comic books and video games. We worry about them finding guns and knives and other weapons. And then we consciously, intentionally put guns and bullets in their hands and tell them killing is fun and offer them incentives to start killing. What a world.

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