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Eric AthertonBanning guns would have far-reaching consequences

The issue of how to deal with gun-related violence in this country continues to divide Americans along political and ideaological lines. This is one of two differing perspectives on the subject.

I don’t own a handgun — I’ve never fired one, actually — and I never will.

Every year I get an invitation to join the National Rifle Association, and every year I toss it, unopened, into the garbage.

My extended family is under strict orders not to give toy guns to my children, because the idea of a pre-schooler "playing" with a replica of a deadly weapon is unacceptable.

Nevertheless, a ban on gun ownership would rob me of a big part of my identity. I’m a hunter, and my days afield with friends and family are more precious than gold.

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But can hunting — and therefore, gun ownership — be defended without resorting to cliches like "Guns don’t kill people — people kill people"? Can hunters offer up something better than "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns"?

I think we can, and without speculating about how a gun ban would or would not decrease crime in America. For all I know, it might. But such discussions are guesswork at best.

Instead, I’ll focus on the certain consequences of a gun ban.

For starters, every home, apartment, garage, machine shed, outbuilding, car and hollow tree in America would have to be searched, top-to-bottom, because a voluntary "Turn In Your Guns" program would fail miserably. Who would want the job of searching for weapons? Local police? The military? I don’t think so.

Next, there’s the wildlife problem. Banning guns would end hunting, and in two years America’s deer, goose and black bear populations would skyrocket. Deer-car collisions would soar, and bears, having lost their fear of people, would begin raiding people’s garbage cans and kitchen pantries. Corn and soybean fields would be destroyed by huge herds of deer and flocks of turkeys, and fear of Lyme disease, which is spread by deer ticks, would keep people out of the woods.

Economic problems would follow. With hunting allowed, wildlife provides a boon to state treasuries in the form of tourism dollars, license fees and the sale of hunting-related clothing and equipment. With guns banned, however, wildlife would be a financial drain, as government-trained "wildlife managers" would be needed to sterilize, poison or shoot animals in a vain attempt to control their populations.

Meanwhile, groups like Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and countless other local, regional and national hunting associations no longer would have any reason to invest their time, energy and money in wildlife habitat. Wetlands would be drained, grasslands would be plowed and water quality in our rivers and lakes would decline amid fence-to-fence agriculture.

Finally, our nation’s children would be deprived of a chance to connect with nature and bond with their parents in a very special way. With video games, cell phones and the explosion of youth sports, it’s already tough enough to get kids into the woods, marshes and fields. A gun ban would make it even harder.

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Are there too many handguns on our streets? Absolutely. Are there too many loopholes in our assault-weapons regulations? Without question.

But taking away the shotgun I inherited from my uncle and the .22 my grandfather gave me when I was 12 would create far more problems than it would solve.

Eric Atherton is the Post-Bulletin’s Outdoors Editor.

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