PETA Takes on the NRA

A protestor holds a banner during a march to the National Rifle Association headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington Monday
A protestor holds a banner during a march to the National Rifle Association headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Curbing gun violence will be a top priority of President Barack Obama's second term, aides say. but exactly what he'll pursue and how quickly are still evolving. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In a recent appeal to hunters to support gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, NPR sports commentator Frank DeFord called hunting "a perfectly reasonable sports hobby." But not one of those placating words describes hunting accurately. A "perfectly reasonable sports hobby" is flag football or even ping pong -- not a pastime in which most of the participants aren't participating willingly and in which the goal is putting an end to their participation, not to mention to their very existence. The NRA vigorously promotes hunting with all manner of weapons, from crossbows to rifles, which is why PETA parents and others are out protesting this week as the NRA mounts the bully pulpit to try to distance itself from a gun massacre that has shaken the country.

Years ago, former Washington Times outdoors columnist Gene Mueller wrote an emotional piece about hurting himself while out hunting. He had set off to blow away some geese who were minding their own business on a lake somewhere outside the Beltway, when he tripped and fell, causing his gun to go off and pepper his legs with shot. He was full of self-pity at how much his injuries hurt yet, like most hunters, didn't connect the dots from his own experience to what he had been about to inflict on other living beings. If Mueller's God, credited by him with saving his life, was trying to impart a somewhat different message about the worth of His creation, Mueller missed it. At the time, I questioned how a person so out of touch with reality and so unable to relate to the suffering of others could be given a whole column in a newspaper or, for that matter, a gun. The issue of how we can allow almost anyone to have a gun is now the question of the day, and how we can allow our own government Fish & Wildlife agencies to encourage children to go hunting should be another.

The animal death and injury toll is, of course, staggering, but the human death and injury toll is also worth noting during hunting season. Every year, we hear of hunters dispatching their own young by mistaking them for turkeys and other wildlife. Hunters also "cull" or harm themselves--sometimes with the help of a dying deer who kicks the gun while being held up by the antlers for a photo with the grinning killer and sometimes with the help of hounds used in the hunt. If it isn't a dog who steps on the trigger of the loaded weapon that the hunter had left lying around in the bottom of the boat, then it's a dog who was dumped in the back of the hunter's pickup truck with a rifle, and -- bang! -- the bullet goes right through the window to find its original owner. One hunter shot himself while pounding in his tent pegs with ... yes, the butt of his rifle. Another hunter shot and killed a woman in Maine after mistaking her gardening gloves for the fluffy underside of a deer's tail. She had dared to be out in her own garden during hunting season.

Hunters (and we are not talking about aboriginal peoples here but rather the 3 percent or so of Americans who enjoy hunting) are not going to be "reasonable" about laying down their or anybody else's arms. They are cowards and bullies who arm themselves out of fear of everything from a personal snub to a zombie apocalypse. Having a weapon in their hands helps abate their feelings of powerlessness in the face of normal life. A few, like Dick Cheney, can apparently never get enough of power or bloodshed. I mean, who else could endorse the torture and killing of human beings as his day job and then kill delightful, free-flying little birds who weigh less than a pound as a way to relax on the weekend? And even Dick Cheney ended up shooting a fellow hunter in the face.

There is nothing reasonable about taking pleasure in killing other living beings -- any other living beings. And the hunting of human beings is just another vile form of hunting. All the facts about the Sandy Hook shooter are not yet in, but every school shooter before him had a history of hunting animals and committing other violent acts against them. If you can't get a license to kill humans, you can simply walk into a store and get a license to shoot other vulnerable beings, and it's perfectly legal. What's fair or right or reasonable about that?

As Bill Maher tweeted, "Stop saying we have to protect hunters--why? There's food in stores now. The slippery slope is the one that leads back to this outdated bs." It's the children and the animals and the everyday citizens who need protecting, not the hunters and the profiteers at the NRA. It's time to end this pandering to the gun lobby (no one imagines for a moment, do they, that hand-to-hand combat will be how any future war proceeds or that the United States will be invaded by aliens?), and Congress needs to start the process. Yes, it may be a slippery slope to impose restrictions, but that's all to the good. Let's start prying the guns out of all those hot trigger-happy hands and really, truly work for peace on Earth for all living beings.