Special Interests, Not Small Children, Clamoring For Wisconsin Gun Law


It was the type of news report that no one in Wisconsin could be proud of when knowing it had reached a national audience.   But there it was in USA Today.

On the heels of a change that eliminated Wisconsin’s minimum hunting age, 10 state hunting licenses were sold this month to children younger than 1, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources data released Tuesday.

It’s not known whether any of he infants actually participated in the hunt.

We chide other states over this or that issue but now we have to be prepared for the snide remarks which are surely to be aimed at us.    How this piece of legislation ever came to see the light of day is as much on my mind as the effect of its passage on our state.

What is at the heart of this matter is that some of the hunting interests in the state see a slippage in the number of young people who feel exhilaration over the notion of toting a weapon into the woods and killing animals.   There was no huge expression of desire from youngsters on this matter.  They were not calling legislative offices or using crayons to write letters to support a bill that they had no idea about. No, this whole matter was all about the special interests.

If members of the legislature were so intent on helping young people explore the great outdoors they  surely could have found some other avenue than one which allows access to a deadly weapon.  But this was not about kids as much as those special interests who also send campaign cash at election season.

I can say this with some authority since I know something about stuffing strange gun bills through the Wisconsin Legislature.  After all, I was the legislative aide to former State Representative Lary Swoboda at the time he authored the blind hunting bill in the state.  I would like to say you should read that line twice–but it still comes out the same.

If you have never spent any time with a quick-minded reporter from one of the Chicago papers, let me tell you blind hunting should not be your introductory topic on which to spar.  Believe me, I now know.  My ethical qualms tore at me between doing the job I was hired to do, and my sincere opposition to the measure on policy grounds.   In the end I was able to do both by talking off the record with the reporter and being able to impart the facts and also allow my conscience to be clear.

But the recent bill allowing all ages to hunt shows that these many years later legislators still get trapped into authoring such measures.  I know some will argue, as Swoboda did, that it shows representatives are ‘in touch’ with their districts.  But let me take the spin off that line and be blunt.  These types of bills are nothing more than a sign the elected officials are in touch with the special interests who fund the campaigns.

Having been raised in a rural area I know there are some kids who really desire to hunt with their dad or older relatives.  But I also know there are some kids at 13 who want to drive, and by 14 want to have sex.  But with all things there is a time and a season.  When most young kids are still not responsible enough to take the garbage to the curb each week one has to wonder what was in the heads of those who sponsored and passed this legislation.

At some point this law is going to prove very troubling and there will be headlines in newspapers and Letters to the Editor from shocked citizens.  At that time I trust those in the state legislature who passed it take the time to issue a meaningless press release, fully understanding that when they had the chance to stop the bill they opted instead to work for the special hunting interests.

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