We are in the season where photographs of hunters proudly kneeling behind the carcasses of once-vital, even noble, beings begin to appear in various publications. And once again I ponder the mentality involved. What is celebratory in extinguishing the life of another living creature? What psychological juices are savored? (That’s an interesting one to explore.) Is the ego stroked, as if something meaningful has been achieved? I do hear considerable bragging from hunters about both their skills and their kills. Or is the killing a chest-thumping statement about life belonging to the powerful? That hardly fits, because the battle is so lopsided. Does the hunter believe that something of the beauty and even grandeur (certainly not the innocence) of the creature transfers to its killer? That doesn’t happen; there is nothing either grand or beautiful in the glassy-eyed creature that lies lifeless before the camera. I sometimes wonder if people ever thank God for their own gift of life, which enables them to almost casually erase other forms of life.

I know from experience that most hunters are not without compassion; they consistently are decent humans, but at what point does the excitement of killing trump their compassion? I’m curious because I do not know. Does one simply yield to indifference or veiled cruelty in the fall?

Two things for certain: First, my hunting friends will roll their eyes and say “there he goes again,” suggesting I am once more prodding them with a familiar looking stick, and of course I am. I know I am an irritant to them, but I trust that our friendships can weather my meddling. And second, the general sporting community, armed with both arguments and rationalities, will rise up as one to tell me I do not understand — but that, of course, is my point. My preferences consistently tug me into my oneness with all living beings, and into avoiding inflicting unnecessary pain and terror and death on them. Each hunting season I look for something that makes the whole process spiritually meaningful.

Richard Gist, Princeton, Minn.

• • •

In his Oct. 11 commentary “How high tech has killed real deer hunting,” Ron Way is giving all of us old codgers a bad name. He scoffs at modern deer-hunting technology the way many of my ancient peers scoff at cellphones and iPads. He rhetorically wonders if hunting with a scoped rifle is really hunting. This is like asking if using a cellphone is really talking on the phone. My guess is that he doesn’t use a rotary phone even if he thinks it would be more authentic.

Maybe more problematic is that he doesn’t appear to know much more about deer hunting than his skeptical grandchildren. He scoffs at “ridiculously high-powered rifles” as if the .30-30 Marlin he uses is some kind of an innocent peashooter. He talks about 500-yard shots as if such a thing were really possible in Minnesota’s North Woods. He scoffs at ladder stands as if we didn’t build homemade tree stands in the good old days. (By the way, those stands were far more dangerous to use.)

I don’t care if Way wants to stumble around the woods with his peashooter, but I hope he decides to wear some of that modern blaze-orange clothing rather than the good old red-plaid wool jacket that may provide him with a more authentic hunting experience.

Tim Mungavan, Minneapolis

 

GUN CONTROL

Little point in public measures? Evidence shows otherwise.

If you’re looking for an illustration of what caving in to the gun lobby looks like, I refer you to D.J. Tice’s column of Oct. 11 (“Thought experiment: Could gun prohibition work?”).

Tice’s proposed “thought experiment” argues that there’s little point in hoping that public-policy measures and regulation can mitigate the proliferation of mass homicides in this country, since our efforts to address the issues of undocumented aliens and illicit drug use have failed. But is that true? Data suggest otherwise.

On undocumented aliens, data from the Pew Research Center (http://tinyurl.com/orvaprh) indicate that the number of illegal aliens has declined by 1 million since peaking in 2007. This decline coincides with ramped up deportation by the Obama administration over the past six years.

As for drug use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the use of illicit drugs among 12- to 17-year olds (the group most exposed to aggressive anti-drug programs) has also declined from 2002 to 2013 — from 11.6 percent to 8.8 percent. Alcohol use among 12- to 17-year-olds has fallen even further — from 17.6 percent to 11.6 percent (http://tinyurl.com/ounf6qd).

The two examples Tice uses actually show the opposite of what he intends — that proactive public-sector interventions can have a beneficial impact on major social problems. By contrast, the past decade has seen significant retrenchment from measures to control firearms — from Congress’ unwillingness to reauthorize the Brady Bill to the proliferation of concealed-carry laws to the Supreme Court’s denial of local law enforcement agencies to adopt and enforce reasonable measures to address gun violence in their cities. Is it any wonder, then, that horrifying events like Newtown, Charleston and now Roseburg have become painfully common? The Harvard School of Public Health reports that the rate of mass shootings has tripled since 2011 (http://tinyurl.com/o7wer2v).

Tice’s argument is that nothing can be done to prevent gun violence and mass shootings in this country — that we might as well throw up our hands and not try. This is exactly the message the NRA has been foisting on this country for years. On second thought, maybe Tice hasn’t caved in to the gun lobby. Maybe he has become their spokesperson.

Stephen Seidel, St. Paul

 

FOREIGN POLICY

Some would simply disengage. Don’t let them influence you.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (“America’s ‘perpetual war’ must end,” Oct. 11) makes much of his suggestion to Secretary of State John Kerry that he was suffering from a case of “historical amnesia” two years ago when we were actually considering doing something when Bashar Assad’s military used chemical weapons in Syria. To give him the credit he is due, Nolan does accurately describe many of the total failures of the foreign policy of an administration led by a president from his own party. I wonder if Nolan supported this president during the campaigns of 2008 and 2012. But his chiding Kerry for amnesia is amazing when you consider the tone of the rest of his article, which seems to be advocating a foreign policy combining nonintervention and appeasement along with a dose of abdication of our role as a leader on the world scene.

Nolan has a truly severe case of “historical amnesia” if he can’t remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001. His strategy for dealing with the dangerous world we live in today seems to be to throw up his hands and say there are no solutions, so let’s just disengage and hope for the best. We should expect more than that from our elected representatives and, of course, from the administration responsible for our failed foreign policy.

James Winberg, Little Canada