Throughout Chautauqua County, there are hundreds of hunters who have never had a single mishap with their gun.
They are law-abiding citizens. Their guns don't end up used in robberies or murders. Children aren't shot with those guns. They have little to lose from many of the regulations in the NY SAFE act or similar federal legislation proposed by President Barack Obama.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service statistics, 13.7 million people went hunting in the United States in 2011 - and two-thirds of those hunters aren't among the NRA's 4 million members. Yet, by default, hunters allow themselves to be represented in the gun debate by the NRA. When the NRA refuses to acknowledge the need for any gun legislation, it is doing a disservice to those same people on whose behalf the NRA allegedly speaks. The same goes for Ted Nugent, who is better off sticking with his guitar than speaking on behalf of hunters.
Hunters like those in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties own guns because they want to put food on their table and feel closer to the land. They own guns to participate in a sporting activity. They aren't likely to go hunting with a weapon that needs a 30-round clip. They're very unlikely to shoot at a volunteer firefighter or to have irregular ammunition purchases that would be a red flag to those reviewing the state's ammunition purchase database.
Through little fault of their own, hunters are lumped in with the increasingly extremist stances taken by the NRA. Hunters need a group all their own. Such an organization could oppose a ban on "semiautomatic" guns, a class that does include many legitimate sporting weapons, while supporting steps to improve public safety - like the sale of large-magazine firearms that hunters would never use. The organization could also bring a voice on other hunting issues - the loss of wildlife habitat and open space, for example.
Judging from Letters to the Editor and other commentary received recently, there are quite a few hunters out there who feel as if they have no voice.
The only ones who can change that are hunters.