If You Think That Wear Orange Day Won’t Making A Difference, Think Again.

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Sometime early in 1965, I remember there was snow on the ground, a bunch of us left our college campus, went down to Times Square and demonstrated against American troops in Viet Nam.  At the time there were only 20,000 or so fighting men over there and people who walked past us nodded politely, glanced at and then threw away our little leaflets. After an hour or so we all went home.

We never could have imagined that five years later there would be 400,000 American GIs in Southeast Asia, but we also couldn’t imagine that there were demonstrations daily in every American city, and that eventually the anti-war stance of a majority of Americans would help bring about an end to the war.

I was thinking about my experience as a college student during the Viet Nam War last week on Wear Orange Day.  Because when it started in Chicago as a way to commemorate the life (and terrible, terrible death) of Hadiya Pendleton, I don’t think that anyone believed or even imagined that in two short years this event would swell into an international occasion embracing the activities and energies of millions of average, ordinary folks like you and me.  And when I say millions, I’m not talking about single-digit millions; I’m talking about hundreds of millions – that’s right – hundreds of millions who were aware that wearing orange on June 2nd meant participating in an activity that allowed everyone to spend some time thinking about the violence caused by guns.

orange2           I didn’t notice, incidentally, that the event was embraced or even mentioned by the NRA.  Usually when some organization, politician or celebrity says anything remotely reasonable about gun violence, Gun Nut Nation’s noise machine swings into action, inundating the faithful with emails, videos, and most of all, demands for cash.  Last week it was Hillary, this week it was Katie, there are plenty of targets around.  And the reason that the number of targets keeps increasing is the same reason why participation in the Wear Orange campaign is growing by leaps and bounds, namely, the silly and stupid arguments that are trotted out again and again to explain away the senseless deaths of more than 30,000 human beings every year from gun violence simply don’t work.

In 2015 there were 55,000 people who posted #WearOrange support on social media; this year more than 200,000 posts came up; last year the hashtag registered 220 million impressions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – try seven times that number this year; in 2015 they held a Party for Peace in Chicago, last week more than 200 events took place countryside; the Empire State Building was lit orange, so were more than 125 other landmarks from sea to shining sea.  Want a list of the hundreds of companies, major personalities, political leaders and professional sports teams that wore orange?  It’s right here.

I have been following the argument over gun violence for more than thirty years, in fact it’s going on forty because I first started paying attention to the issue of guns and gun violence prevention in the run-up to GCA68. And what is so important and different about June 2nd from every previous activity designed to increase awareness about gun violence is that this time, for the first time, it didn’t grow out of an immediate response to a horrific shooting or other crazy, gun violence event.

Which means that the emotions and energy displayed on June 2nd aren’t just going to fade away.  Because #WearOrange has now taken on a life of its own; it exists because people understand and support the idea that guns are deadly and gun violence needs to fade away.  Tomorrow I’ll go walking and spot someone who just happens to be wearing orange. I’ll flash a quick grin of recognition and I’ll probably get a quick grin back.  And if this happens to me it will happen to others and it will happen more and more.

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?



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