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Guns matter in the gun debate: rural necessities

Our nation witnessed yet another round of mass shootings this month. The two shootings occurred in less than 24 hours, leaving the cities of Dayton and El Paso reeling in shock and horror from the senseless violence. While the two mass casualty events have brought those communities together, the rest of America is again grappling with the gun debate. The problem of stopping the violence and maintaining the right to bear arms has renewed with even more vigor.

El Paso shooting victim crosses. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Some of the main themes in this debate have been mental illness, background checks and access to guns. Rarely have the guns themselves been a central part of the debate. The premise that most anti-gun control advocates posit is that guns are not the problem; the user and any number of societal maladies and policy shortfalls are the cause. This premise obviously is valid and important to the debate, especially in light of the societal influencers surrounding the most recent mass shootings.

Yet, with such a hotly debated issue whose main subject is guns, should they not be a major part of the debate?

Healthcare itself is a central part of that debate. Mental health is part of the debate. While healthcare is not explicitly protected by the Constitution, very few people, debate the fact that basic healthcare is a human right. After all, there are very few emergency rooms which will refuse to help an injured person.

(Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

The Second Amendment gives all Americans the right to bear arms. Yet its practical, modern-day application has evolved into two main areas of focus: hunting/sport and protection. These areas of focus, especially hunting, are most practical and applicable in rural communities.

Chaffee County both represents and embodies the practical use of the Second Amendment, unlike many other places in our state and nation. It is because of this representation and use that Ark Valley Voice staff set about to better understand the practical uses of guns by rural residents and, more importantly, why guns are not a major part of the debate.

This article will focus on the hunting/sports area of focus. Either way, Ark Valley staff hope to better inform and help the community remain safe when handling guns.

“The United States has 270 million guns and had 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns and 18 mass shooters,” wrote New York Times columnists Max Fisher and Josh Keller in their Nov. 7, 2017 article, What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer.

The family of Thomas “T.J.” McNichols mourns at a makeshift memorial in front of the Hole in the Wall bar near the place where McNichols was killed by mass shooter Connor Betts, on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. The shooting – which killed nine people, including the shooter’s sister, and injured 27 others – came less than a day after a man with a high-powered weapon killed 20 people in El Paso, Texas, and a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded 12 at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California.
(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

These numbers are shocking but truly not too surprising, especially when you are talking about rural America where very few gun owners own just one gun. Many of those gun owners have half a dozen or more guns that have simply been passed down from generation to generation. More importantly, with that amount of firearms, it is pretty clear that gun ownership in the United States is also not partisan.  

Practically speaking, rural Americans have needed different types of guns going back to the settlement of the West. Larger caliber rifles were best suited for hunting and taking down large game such as deer, elk and moose. Shotguns, with their cone shape of shot pellets, made them ideal for hunting game birds in flight such as ducks, geese and pheasant. Smaller caliber rifles were better for hunting small game like rabbits, especially when times were tough.

Even larger caliber handguns hunters and ranchers wear working in remote areas protect them from large predatory animals. Not to mention, providing the ability too quickly and humanely euthanize injured livestock.

Gun Safety and Responsible gun ownership

Today, basic fundamentals are common among all these different types of guns, stressed by all responsible gun owners, including the fundamental safe handling of all firearms. Given the integral part guns play in rural living, it is no surprise that safe handling and a healthy respect for firearms have been passed down for generations. The website lists four simple rules to follow when handling guns:

  1. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
  2. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  3. Be sure of your target and aware of what is beyond it.
  4. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.

Like safe handling, shooting fundamentals have been taught and passed down for generations. Optimal shooting stances and platforms are some of the more diverse fundamentals. Breath control and trigger control techniques are some of the finer points in shooting fundamentals. All of these shooting fundamentals are meant to improve accuracy in different terrains, climate and particularly at longer ranges.

Hunter Ed Classroom Firearm Safety. Reference:  (Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Ultimately, accuracy is the goal as well as a necessity in almost all of the practical uses of guns in our rural community. Hunters take pride in being able to take down an animal in one or two shots. The least amount of bullet holes in a food-providing animal carcass allows for the maximum meat harvest. Not to mention, the quick and humane dispatch of the animal. Similarly, a rancher would prefer to humanely put down lame or injured livestock in as few shots as possible.

Hunting and sport shooting is by far the most prevalent practical exercise of the Second Amendment and it is especially important in our rural community. Which means that the important gun debate should include this viewpoint, helping abate the fears of people who have no knowledge of guns to understand the rural and recreational perspective.

Coming Wednesday: Part II of “Guns matter in the gun debate” will examine the use of firearms for personal protection and for protecting the “free state” as defined by the Second Amendment.

To read earlier articles on Guns and the Gun Debate:

Guns and the Gun Debate: An introduction to our three-part series

Guns and the Gun debate: Part 1

Guns and the Gun Debate: Part 2

Guns and the gun debate: Part 3