Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I haven't had much opportunity to shoot lately nor pursue my other shooting related hobbies including reloading. One thing I have been able to do is to follow the news. The story about the Vice President of the USofA, Dick Cheney, accidentally shooting one of his quail hunting party has been front and center this week. Hard to avoid hearing or seeing this on radio, TV and the internet in blogs and forums, I've had some thoughts I'd like to share.

First thing when I heard of the incident, I prayed for all involved. It is my fervent hope that both the VP and his hunting buddy Mr. Whittington and their families come through this without problems. I also hope that we learn the intended lessons from this "event".

This sort of thing is something that no shooter wants to happen. Most of us take extreme measures in our attempts to ensure that such things don't happen. We don't want to hurt others, we don't want to be embarrassed by our lack of skill, we don't want to be sanctioned by society, we want to continue to hunt, we don't want to lose the opportunity for camaraderie that exists in such hunts and we are generally among the most responsible people in society. I doubt that the VP is any different from any of the rest of us.

Most of us who've been hunting over broken terrain with lots of low vegetation like a cornfield realize that a number of circumstances/conditions can come together and often do to maximize risk. Party members becoming separated from the party and rejoining the party at an unexpected juncture (location and or time), sunlight impeding vision (particularly early in the morning or late in the day), terrain and vegetation obscuring visibility, all the movement of the various hunters, dogs, and perhaps dog handlers as well as flushing birds can come together to create a bad situation very quickly. Apparently, all these came together and the result was that one hunter shot another (the VP shot Mr. Whittington). Very unfortunate.

Fortunate though was that the VP's physician's assistant was there and immediately treated Mr. Whittington. Unfortunately Mr. Whittington (age 78) has suffered some complications with a pellet apparently traveling to the heart muscle and causing a minor heart attack. He remains in the hospital.

The news reporters have been singularly unhelpful in understanding the situation. They are simply too ignorant to use the proper terminology in describing the incident and have used inaccurate terms such as "buckshot" and inflammatory but imprecise terms like "sprayed with shot" (or "buckshot") which do nothing to understand the incident. It seems too that nobody can get the distance nailed down. Was Mr. Whittington 30 yards or 30 feet from the VP when shot? The VP says 30 yards.

Perhaps the most important thing to the news people isn't that there was an accidental shooting but that the Corpus Christi newspaper was able to scoop them. How does this help provide information to the public? In fact, the major media may have contributed to this by making the VP "gun shy" (I couldn't resist) because they don't trust anything he says.

Then the Democrats have been leaping on the bandwagon as well accusing the administration of being secretive and even Ted Kennedy has wondered aloud why it took so long to release the information to the public. Of course Mr. Whittington survived, Mary Jo Kopechne is in her grave because Teddy left her in the car in the water to die. Hypocrisy is everywhere but it isn't surprising.

The informal networks of shooters have had a field day with the subject. Detailed analysis of the shooting based on the very little information provided has been incessant. A lot of it seems to be more intended to give the writer or speaker an opportunity to expound than for any other reason (HEY!, this IS my blog). One of the big things that some folks have seized on for discussion was that both the VP and Mr. Whittington (although he is seldom mentioned) did not have a particular license newly required by Texas for quail hunting.

I read one forum poster say that the VP was a poacher because he failed to get a license that had never before been required. He ignored the reported fact that both the person purchasing the stamp/tag/license for Mr. Cheney and the Texas seller of that stamp/tag/license (reported several times as being a member of the Texas department responsible for the regulations and enforcement) failed to realize that the stamp/tag/license was required. If the expert doesn't know you need the stamp/tag/license how can you get upset that the VP doesn't know? Mr. Whittington didn't have the stamp/tag/license either! Sounds to me as though the state of Texas needs to do some education on the subject. I don't think "poacher" applies since BOTH hunters made every attempt to have the correct licenses. Poachers actively avoid licensing.

The posters were also upset that these folks were given "preferential treatment" as they only had to buy the missing stamp/tag/license. Sounds like common sense enforcement to me. These same folks were upset that the VP had somebody else buy his license for him, as though that was some sort of elitism. That amazed me as it is common here in VA. It is also common that the buyer fails to purchase a particular tag but it isn't so complicated that most folks can catch the error before going afield. Changes are one thing that catches many folks. The VADGIF sees fit to move the seasons about and change the license and terms enough to confuse even long time hunters and it certainly is easier here than elsewhere.

Others were upset that the VP wasn't in jail for the shooting. Apparently, the Texas and local law enforcement folks acted within the law. So what is wrong with that? Would any of these folks finding themselves in the same unfortunate circumstance DEMAND that they themselves be jailed? I doubt it. In my mind the actions of the Texas state and/or local law enforcement officials acted as they should act in every such case.

Now we've heard from the VP in an interview with Brit Hume of Fox News Channel. Mr. Cheney clearly explains the actual events of the incident. He accepts responsibility even though there were circumstances which clearly contributed to the accident.

What it has come down to is politics and hate. There are folks who will say and do anything however falsely to politically hurt the VP and President. There are folks who simply hate and distrust these men without reasonable cause. This is more than unfortunate.

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