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Hunting Rifles, Youth and the Second Amendment: At What Age Should a Child Have a Gun?
Children are often involved in hunting accidents. Some states have no age limits. Should they?
A startling case in St. Johns, Arizona in late October involved an eight-year-old boy who shot his father with a rifle. This was the same kind of rifle his father had used to teach the boy to hunt. The youth had a good record in school, and there had been no report of any abuse of the child nor of any conflict between the father and child. Yet the authorities determined that there was premeditation and planning in the killing of the father.
South Dakota this year reduced the age at which a child will be able to hunt accompanied by a parent or guardian from age 12 to age 10. This was done in spite of the fact that the International Hunter Education Association reported that in 2004 there were 445 hunting accidents, about 25% of which involved children. The Association believes the statistics will rise by lowering the age at which children can handle guns. The organization stresses the fact that the risks are high that teaching violence to children will cause problems because when children are around firearms there is a greater risks for having an accident. Further there are many deaths that involve a parent killing a child or a child a parent, the Association declares, while it further maintains that children shouldn't be exposed to violence because they don't have the adult cognitive skills to manage their feelings and may resort to using a gun in circumstances where an adult would not.
.The National Rifle Association takes a different approach to the problem by stressing the importance of education and offering classes in the public schools. They believe that hunter education will provide children with an introduction to conservation and wildlife management. They also think that proper education would reduce the risk of accidents. No mention is made of age limits.
PETA, the organization for the fair treatment of animals, has asked Janet Napolitano of Arizona to prohibit individuals under the age of 18 from owning and using rifles. Their stance, like the Hunters Education Association, is that individuals under that age don't have the maturity to use guns appropriately.
The lifestyle of many communities involves the father and son going into the wilderness to hunt. It is virtually a right of passage in such places as North and Central Louisiana, as an example. That lifestyle doesn't want to be threatened with any changes. Changes, however, may be reasonable given the stresses of the economy; and modifications to existing laws are being reviewed as a consequence in many areas of the nation. It is likely that one modification in some areas will be to look at the age where guns can be used for hunting.
1."South Dakota's Hunting Law is Cause for Concern," University Chronicle, 6/30/08 South Dakota's hunting law is cause for concern
2."West Virginia's A+ Idea," NRA Hunters Right Org.,
3. "Keep Kids Away from Hunting Rifles," the PETA Files, kids away.php