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No time left for school of hard knocks

By Frank Galusha
01/02/14 – We hear a lot today about “gun violence,” which, of course, is nothing but propaganda put out by those who would disarm us. We who were taught to respect firearms from an early age know guns don’t kill people, people kill people; it’s as simple as that. Except in rare cases of abuse, misuse or neglect, we know triggers must be willfully pulled by a human being in order for violence to occur.

Respect for firearms can be taught or it can be learned from experience. I had a lot of the former but personal experience, and later, hunter education classes, really taught me and my son how important gun safety is.

Frank, Gordon Galulsha, 1980's, Blythe Dove Hunt
My son, Gordon, shown here with me in a photo taken in the mid-80's when he and I were hunting doves near Blythe, learned much from me but also from hunter education courses, which are now vital if we are to protect our right to keep and bear arms.

As for my personal experiences or "teachable moments," the first came while I was trying to open a gate with one hand while holding my new Benjamin Air Rifle in the other. Instead of pulling the latch on the gate I pulled the trigger and shot myself in the thumb. That hurt but the big hurt came when I showed my father the small puncture wound. “Why did you have your finger on the trigger?” Dad asked. In addition to a lecture, he took my BB gun away and I didn’t get it back until he was sure I would never put my finger on the trigger again until I was ready to shoot at something.

A year or so later I got my first .22 rifle. While hunting cottontails in Northern New Mexico, I saw a squirrel running up and down the side of a rock, a moving target I couldn’t resist. I fired several shots, advancing closer with each one before I realized I was shooting at a cow. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the cow was completely hidden behind the rock. All I had been seeing was the flick of her tail as she shooed away flies.

A few weeks later, my uncle asked me if I had shot one of his cows. Being both scared and humiliated I lied, but he would have none of it. One of the bullets hit the cow in the rump. The wound got infected and some days later the cow died. My uncle had dug the slug out of the cow’s rump so he knew I was guilty and I had to admit my mistake. Whether it was intentional or not didn’t matter; the loss of a cow was simply too great. He didn’t take my rifle; he took my ammo and I never got the chance to hunt rabbits on his ranch again.

That’s how I learned to identify my targets carefully and to take into account what might be beyond. I would not learn the ultimate lesson about ricocheting bullets for another 30 years, but in between I was either guilty of or the victim of improper, unsafe gun handling several times. Luckily no one was ever hurt but each and every incident taught me it was either me or my fellow hunters, not the guns that caused violence.

Ricochets? Let me relate a particularly egregious example. I was hunting mule deer in the Book Cliffs of Utah in the late ‘60’s. I carried only a buck tag. Before it was light enough to see horns, a large herd of deer passed in front of me rapidly headed up the canyon. I waited until their ghostly images were out of sight then quietly followed them. Gradually, I climbed the ridge intent on catching up and getting another look at them from above. After a long hike I finally caught sight of them again but before I could get a good look, they simply decided to bed down, all at once. I was amazed. There had been 15-30 of them scattered along the canyon bottom but once they were down I couldn’t see a hair, even with the scope. I waited for a couple hours but not one of them moved.

Frustrated, I decided to fire a shot against the cliff high above them figuring they would jump up and give me a chance to see some horns. Instead, the bullet ricocheted off the rocks in a downhill direction and barely clipped the backbone of a doe a couple hundred yards below and to the left of where I had shot, paralyzing her. The rest of the deer were gone in a blink but the doe began to bawl in pain. I had to climb down the canyon wall and up the other side to finish her off, which was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had in the field. Even though it was an accident, I was so ashamed I stopped deer hunting for many years.

Not everyone today gets to learn from experiences such as I had, and that is definitely not the way to teach our kids how to handle a gun for any purpose. Our right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed, but submitting to hunter education and abiding by what is taught in CCW classes is critical if we are to win the fight to save the right to defend ourselves.

Unrealistic movies, TV and video games are teaching kids gun violence (and every other imaginable form of violence) is acceptable, even heroic. Nonsense! Pulling a trigger is a last resort -- a move that can change our lives and those of others forever. Education, instruction, training and target practice followed by actual hunting experiences teaches respect for, and the proper use of guns. Without those lessons, we are doomed to learn the hard way and perhaps after it is too late.

How did you learn about gun safety? If you would like to share your experiences, send them to frank@myoutdoorbuddy.com.

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