Monday, November 06, 2000

Few want limits on hunting age

Accidental shooting of tot in Ohio cited

By James Hannah
The Associated Press

        DAYTON, Ohio — Hunting accidents involving kids who themselves hunt or who tag along with hunters happen so rarely in Ohio that little pressure has been put on the state to impose age restrictions.

        But the accidental shooting of a 2-year-old who went squirrel hunting with his father last month may raise questions about that policy.

        Mike Gaskins, 31, and his son Dalton were hospitalized after another hunter fired a shotgun at a squirrel near them in Buck Creek State Park in Springfield.

        Mr. Gaskins' 5-year-old son, Anthony, also was nearby, but he was not hurt.

        David Brugger, assistant manager of Buck Creek State Park, said the Gaskins were sitting down and were hidden by foliage when the hunter fired at a squirrel coming down a tree trunk near them.

        “Everything everybody was doing was legal,” Mr. Brugger said. “He was doing nothing wrong by having his kids out there. A lot of people do it. It's not uncommon for parents to take their kids out and get them into that sort of recreational activity.”

        Margo Jackson, 19, of Dayton, said there should be a law that prevents children under 12 from hunting or accompanying hunters.

        “You don't need to be holding a gun at that age,” Ms. Jackson said. “You shouldn't be promoting that so early.”

        Ron Bland, spokesman for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the age of the 2-year-old victim had nothing to do with the accident.

        “It could have been two 50-year-old men there,” Mr. Bland said. “If they are observing the hunter, there is no state regulation against that.”

        Of the 1,048 hunting accidents in the United States and Canada in 1996, five involved children under the age of 10. One was fatal. In 1997, there were 1,019 people injured or killed. Seven of them were under the age of 10, two of whom died.

No minimum age
               In Ohio in 1998, only one of the 50 hunting accidents involved a child under 10. In 1999, no child under 10 was involved in an accident.

        Mr. Bland said there is no mini mum age limit to get a hunting license in Ohio. However, hunters under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.

        A person must take a 12-hour hunter-education course, in which the materials are written on a fifth-grade level, and then pass a test. Mr. Bland said children under the age of 10 have a difficult time with the course, and many instructors refuse to teach children under the age of 9.

        Howard White, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, said that a 2-year-old being wounded in a hunting accident was “particularly tragic.”

        “This is what happens when people go hunting. People get shot,” hew said.

Initiation rites
               He said his organization opposes hunting altogether because animals are wounded and suffer.

        Mr. White, who grew up in Michigan, said half of the boys in his third- and fourth-grade classes would take off school to hunt on the first day of the season.

        “It's really, unfortunately, not unusual,” he said. “It's sort of a blood rite of passage in certain parts of the country.”

        Allen Maye, 10, of Dayton said he opposes minimum age limits.

        “Kids should be allowed to go hunting,” he said.

        However, he said that hunting is dangerous and that children should first have their parents' permission.

Let parents decide
               Bruce Dawson, 46, of Lewisburg, who has hunted most of his life, called minimum-age requirements a bad idea. Mr. Dawson said that he learned to hunt at a very young age and that it gave him respect for the power of guns.

        “I'm against government interference,” he said. “That should be left up to the parent.”

        State Sen. Jim Carnes, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, said he is unaware of any efforts in Ohio in recent years to set age limits on those accompanying hunters.

        “That's a parental responsibility, and we need not be developing more rules,” said the St. Clairsville Republican.

        Barbara Foster is a senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which provides research to all 50 state legislatures.

        She said she is familiar with hunting regulations in most states and is not aware of any law that restricts observing or accompanying hunters.

        “I've never seen that,” she said.


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