Guns and Animal Rights


(This 1015th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on September 5, 2010.)


It seems appropriate and responsible, even necessary, for me to identify my position with regard to guns. I do so in response to a posting on the Second Amendment Foundation website and a National Public Radio column.


First, as a nature columnist, I know from personal interactions that I have deeply committed readers in opposing camps: firearm owners on one side and animal rights supporters on the other. I belong to neither group. I am not a hunter and, although I am a navy veteran, I have rarely shot a gun since leaving the service. At the same time, however, I find myself in opposition to many of the positions of the animal rights group.


I stand with firearm owners in strongly supporting properly state-administered and safe hunting, fishing and trapping. I am with them on the need for control of deer and Canada geese that are wrecking havoc on our ecosystems. I find myself in opposition to them in their support of assault weapon ownership and my support of gun licensing. I also consider the Supreme Court's Second Amendment interpretation almost as wrong-headed as its support for corporations to be considered citizens who can therefore buy elections.


I stand with animal rights supporters in their position on willful or uncaring cruelty to animals. I honor individual rehabilitators and the S.P.C.A. for their work with injured animals and I support the activities of people like Chris Bogan, who place unwanted cats with new owners. However, I oppose the feeding of feral cats and the release of stray cats even if neutered. Cats belong inside homes. More generally, I oppose the philosophy of P.E.T.A., which tells us that since we caused all problems, therefore we should do nothing to any animal even if it means saving human lives. I consider animal experimentation under appropriate restrictions necessary and I consider those who attack research facilities serious criminals.

Thus I find myself inhabiting a no-man's-land between deeply committed armies at different extremes. Which brings me back to what caused me to write this column.


Headline on the Second Amendment Foundation website: The Election Year Book Most Feared by Gun Grabbers in Government and Media: These Dogs Don't Hunt: The Democrats' War on Guns. I wanted to see what evidence author Alan Gottlieb would offer in support of his title so I spent an uncomfortable hour reading the book.


It offers a litany of name calling - "gun control extremists", "far left", "marching in lockstep", "offer lip service", "reactions as predictable as the sunrise." And evidence of the form, "Despite claims to the contrary, gun rights activists say...." and "One cannot argue that this philosophy does not permeate the party from the top to the bottom ranks." When Hillary Clinton shot a duck, her daughter was upset and scolded her: this somehow counts against Mrs. Clinton's hunting. Old reliable Wayne LaPierre speaks of her "wink-and-nod lip service to the Second Amendment."


The evidence this book provides argues the opposite of what the title would lead you to believe. Today there is no political support whatsoever for gun control. The book is about democrats, but you can bet that any wavering republican gets the message: stand with us or you're dead meat.


Gun owners are right in worrying that retreat on gun issues can lead to rout, but their willingness to head off every effort to control the margins of their activity is turning this country ever more violent. Even some of my hunting friends join me in worrying that gun violence is mounting. Mexico and some of our inner cities (Buffalo too?) appear already lost.


What is scary is that the rout is in the opposite direction. The NPR article speaks of politicians falling all over themselves to support of guns for everybody everywhere. An example: Senator Tom Harkin offered an amendment to the health care bill that would insure that veterans diagnosed with mental illness would not be denied the right to own firearms, this despite the fact that the health care bill did not mention firearms at all.


Admittedly my attitude is influenced by the home firearm death of a beautiful young child in our neighborhood, a tragedy that destroyed a family.


We need rational discussion of gun issues, not political posturing.-- Gerry Rising