Last week I learned how to properly handle a rifle, shotgun and compound bow.  And a handgun.  Actually, three handguns.

Gail and I spent a week with four other Salvation Army youth leaders at the American Wilderness Leadership School courtesy of the Safari Club International.  AWLS is located in the Gros Ventre Wilderness just south of the Tetons.  We loved it.  Mountains, wildlife, cold clear streams.  It was a treat for us outdoors people.

We were busy 7:00 in the morning til 9:00 at night.  Survival skills, wildlife management, fly tying, stream ecology, hikes.  All part of the week’s curriculum meant to train educators and youth development workers such as Salvation Army people how to lead young people in respectful engagement and care of the outdoors.

Early in the week someone mentioned ‘hunting culture’ and the phrase carried me back to life on a farm in northern Minnesota which meant my father and his brothers tramping around the kitchen early on November mornings as they prepared to go out deer hunting.  Venison steak and roast.  My favorite:  a smoked venison ham.  I’ve remembered its flavor and texture for over a half century.

The concept of hunting culture explains much of the reason people, men and women, use firearms.  It is part of the long story of the human race.  But without exposure to the hunting culture, to millions of Americans, guns carry a different connotation.

Almost every morning I check the Chicago Tribune for news from the city and every morning there is one or more articles with the same story line, the same bare facts.  This morning it said 19 people were shot in overnight shootings in the city, 13 of them within a 30 minute period.  If you live in the city, there is no hunting culture.  Guns represent a killing culture.

This understanding of guns horrifies hunters.

Mention that I fired a 12 gauge shotgun or Ruger handgun brings alarm to my urban friends.

Today there was a story from the street outside of the Empire State Building and another from Norway.  I have my own story of pop. Should those stories trump a story from Minnesota?  Is this really an issue of either/or?

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