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Nelson Shifflett: A hunter’s view: We have  too many guns in US

Within hours of the killing of two dozen innocent people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, by a gunman, an editorial by Dan Agin of the Huffington Post spread across the internet. In the editorial “American Idyl: The Gun Lobby and the Killing of Children,” Agin attempts to make a connection between the National Rifle Association, hunters and the killing of children with the following excerpt:

“In the first place, we don’t need to put the lives of everyone, especially city and suburban people, at risk because of backwoods hunting. Making weapons available for backwood entertainment hunting results in the deaths of too many innocent people. ... hunting is now merely entertainment and not an economic necessity.” To Agin I say, I vehemently disagree that hunters are responsible for the senseless deaths of those innocent children and adults. However, thank you for bringing to light the opinion that many non-hunters share.

That is, from the outside, that all gun owners look alike. That is not so.

I am a gun owner and a hunter. If you have never owned a gun and have never been exposed to hunting, your grief and outrage at the murders is no greater than mine. And you may be surprised to learn that I, along with many fellow hunters, feel that this happened to a large degree because we simply have too many guns in this country.

No thinking person, hunter, or non-hunter, would disagree that too many of these guns are in the hands of the wrong people.

I do not attempt to defend hunting, nor do I represent the views of all sportsmen. However, there is in an increasing view among gun owners that the NRA is responsible for the proliferation of guns in our country, especially guns that by design have no useful purpose other than to kill people.

Because of its well-funded legislative efforts to promote gun ownership and the dissemination of misinformation about absurd threats to our citizens, we now have one gun in America for every citizen. The nation with the second-highest number of guns per capita is Yemen.

Being a sportsman, I’m regularly exposed to publications and emails from the NRA and its supporters. I am continually amazed there are people in this country who believe that we are about to be invaded by blue-helmeted UN troops intent on taking over our nation or that the UN Arms Trade Treaty is an attempt by our government to circumvent the Second Amendment and confiscate every gun in the country.

I am astounded that because of the NRA-sponsored Stand Your Ground Law, it is now possible in many states for two people to have a perfectly legal shootout at the mall, when each one feels threatened by the other.

The NRA has become a shill for powerful gun manufacturers and legitimate gun owners have been unwittingly recruited to support the proliferation of guns and pro-gun legislation that threatens the safety of our citizens to greater degree than any foreign threat.

In the months ahead, the Connecticut tragedy will lead us to search for threads that connect recent acts of gun violence in our nation. If we follow the pattern of Virginia Tech or Columbine, there will be speeches and hand-wringing in Washington.

It is time for hunters, target shooters, law enforcement and rural dwellers who use firearms to protect property and livestock to acknowledge that blame for the deaths of innocent children is shared by the NRA, with its symbiotic relationship with gun manufacturers, and by politicians who put ambitions ahead of our national interests and citizen safety.

To those whose lives have been altered by the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary and to every person affected by gun violence, please accept my apology. I have been silent too long.

Nelson Shifflett lives in Conway.

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