Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in outdoor and travel markets. A former small-town newspaper editor and reporter, she constantly hunts for news headlines you need to read. Barbara also publishes Women’s Outdoor News online and pens columns for the National Wild Turkey Federation and Shooting Sports USA. Hailing from the Ozarks of Missouri, this avid hunter is now mentoring the second generation of hunters - her own little bevy of Realtree-wearing grandchildren.
Hunters and Accidents -- Adding 'Insult to Injury'
A good law does two things. It attempts to deter people who might do things against society’s wishes (through the threat of criminal prosecution and resultant penalties for the guilty), and if deterrence fails, the law permits the victim to receive damages for his injury (through a civil lawsuit). A new law proposed by my home state’s legislature does not adhere to that definition. It adds to another wrong-headed law that allows the state’s Conservation Commission to penalize someone for accidentally hurting someone else while hunting – with up to 10 years of suspension of hunting privileges. Presently, the Commission can levy a five-year penalty for an accidental shooting.
Here’s what I think. If a hunter kills someone through intent or negligence, we already have laws in the system that address this situation.
If I take an otherwise good shot at a deer in season, and that deer jumps and the bullet ricochets and hits someone one mile away, that’s an accident, not injury due to criminal intent or negligence. It is up to a court to decide my guilt or innocence, or whether I owe the other person any damages; political appointees to a commission shouldn’t be allowed to summarily remove my hunting privileges.
As opponent to the proposed statute Sen. Jason Crowell pointed out, when motorists accidentally hurt someone else, they do not get their driving privileges suspended. Or if they do, it’s because the court system decides it, not a commission of four people appointed by a governor (in Missouri, the Conservation Commission is appointed, not elected).
Which brings me to the second point: I have often wondered about the thin line between the court system and frankly, bureaucracy – in wildlife departments, in social services and even in the IRS. The power that some in these offices of government yield seems to be way above their pay grades and even more egregiously, their stations.
Do you think hunters should have their hunting privileges suspended if they accidentally hurt someone while hunting?