Does Orange Make Hunters Safe? It Does If They Also Take A Safety Course.


So it’s halfway through #wearorange day and a quick perusal of the wearorange twitter site finds Hillary, Gloria Steinem, Tommy Chong, Spike Lee, Kim and more than 17,000 ‘likers’ getting behind President Obama to raise awareness about the violence caused by guns.  You can get a quick history of this movement on the #wearorange website, and while the color was chosen because it’s bright and draws attention, as a gun guy I wanted to think some more about how and why more than 40 states mandate the wearing of orange clothing when hunters go out in the field.

orange           Laws requiring hunter or what is often referred to as ‘blaze’ orange clothing to be worn are of fairly recent vintage, although the practice of putting on an orange vest or orange jacket before going into the fields or woods has been around for a long time.  Practically speaking, how much difference has it made in terms of safety since orange clothing was legally put into effect?  The best estimates are that the accident rate has dropped from 4 or 5 per 100,000 hunters to somewhere around .08.  In Texas, for example, there were 116 hunting accidents and 15 hunting-related deaths between 2010 and 2015; back in the 1980’s that was the average number for each year!  In Maine the yearly average of hunting accidents was around 37 per year in the 1970’s, this decade it is running 5 incidents per year.

Part of the reason for the decline in hunting accidents is also the fact that less people are hunting every year, a decline that started in the 1960’s as the country’s population became more concentrated in cities and suburbs and rural areas were left behind.  In 1970 Americans purchased 40 million hunting licenses, and even with a slight uptick the last several years, the annual number of licenses now sold is around 15 million or less. So it’s not the wearing of orange clothing that’s making hunters safer per se; it’s the fact that blaze orange is worn by less hunters which means, by definition, fewer accidents will take place.

But there’s another reason cited by experts as to why hunting has become safe, which happens to be the spread of hunter safety courses that are required before a first hunting license can be purchased and used for game or fowl.  Every single state requires some kind of hunter safety education, and by the way, in order to get a driver’s license you have to pass a brief driving test but you don’t have to present proof that you have taken a driver education course at all. Many states offer online hunter safety courses, others accept proof of a safety course taken in another state. But the bottom line is that if you want to go hunting anywhere in the United States besides your own back yard, you can’t do it unless you first have been educated on the laws and practices of hunter safety which means, by the way, safety laws and practices involving guns.

What’s most interesting about this universal safety education requirement, a requirement incidentally, that is mandated by government in every state, is that the NRA doesn’t seem to have a problem with these educational requirements at all.  Now you would think that the selfsame gun organization that blocks every attempt to mandate required safety courses for gun ownership would be consistent and try to undo safety courses that are imposed on anyone who wants to go out into the fields or woods with a gun.  After all, the whole point  of hunter safety instruction, the whole point of wearing orange, is the recognition that guns are extremely dangerous and nobody should be allowed to use them for hunting until they have been properly trained.

So would someone please explain to me how come it’s not dangerous to put a loaded pistol in your pocket and walk down the street?



The NBA Takes On The NRA And I’ll Take The Short Odds On The NBA.

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You may recall that before he was appointed Attorney General that Eric Holder gave an interview in which he said that the way to deal with gun violence was to tell kids that guns “weren’t cool.”  That statement a storm of acrimony from the NRA and its various noisemaking minions, all of whom were committed to a strategy that promoted guns to millennials and other non-traditional gun-owning demographics on the basis that they were cool.

spike              Probably the most outrageous attempt to sell this nonsense has been the video antics of an African-American lawyer who calls himself Colion Noir, who has been prancing around on the NRA video channel coming up with all kinds of hip and cool reasons why we should all own and carry guns.  The folks who write his scripts have come up with some kind of concocted blather about using guns for self-defense, but what’s really going on here is an effort by the NRA to capture the hearts and minds of younger minority folks, most of whom don’t appear to be all that interested in guns.

Of course the truth is that Colion Noir and the NRA in general have about as much to do with defining “cool” as the veritable man in the moon.  Most NRA members are older, White men who listen to country music and live in Southern states and smaller, Midwestern towns.  They represent a demographic that’s about as far away from anything hip and cool as could ever be imagined; getting this audience to respond to an inner-city, jive-talking Black dude would be tantamount to bringing back the Miles Davis Quintet to play the weekly barn dance at Grand Old Opry in Tennessee.

Which is why I sat up and really took notice yesterday when a group of NBA players announced that they were joining with Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown to run ads on messages about gun violence that will appear during a series of marquee games that will air on Christmas Day. The ads will feature NBA players like the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and the Clippers’ Steve Paul, along with testimonies from survivors of shootings and relatives of folks killed by guns.

I knew something was when I noticed that Spike Lee was becoming very visible on the gun violence issue, particularly when he and Al Sharpton announced a gun violence initiative following the premiere of Spike’s new movie, Chi-Raq, which is all about gun violence on Chicago’s South Side.  At that press conference, Spike and the Reverend Al pledged to hold a series of summit meeting in various cities, but you can’t begin to compare the impact of such meetings to the power and force of the ads that will appear on national tv.

These ads represent a level of interest and concern that could be (pardon my pun) a real game-changer when it comes to the national discussion abut guns. Because the people featured on these ads don’t represent cynical politicians scurrying around for votes by lamenting the loss of our ‘freedoms,’ they don’t represent noisemakers for the manufacturers who want to sell guns, and they certainly don’t represent some amateur-hour video huckster who wants you to think he’s a real dude because his skin color happens to be something other than white.

I never thought that gun violence was about race, or poverty, or inner-city life or anything of that sort.  I always thought that gun violence was about one thing and one thing only: guns.  And the remarkable thing about this effort is that every person who appears in these ads says something about guns and what guns have done to their lives and to the lives of people they love and used to love.

I’m going to catch these ads on Christmas because I want the ratings of these games to reflect how I feel about gun violence. And I don’t think it would be a bad idea if someone (hint, hint) would let us all know when future ads will appear.


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