To steal a thought from one of our letter to the editor writers, hunter education is a deadly serious business.
We totally agree.
This editorial is not about the specific case that gave rise to the public clamor, the allegation that a certified firearms instructor wasn't sensitive enough in handling a few children.
We're not happy about the fact that the state took away the veteran instructor's certification without giving him a chance to respond formally to the complaints.
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But we weren't at the class that sparked all the controversy, and eyewitnesses we've heard from draw vastly different conclusions about the instructor's actions.
We'd like the state to revisit the decision and determine if there's not a better way to resolve the issue. But we're not prepared to declare who's in the right -- the parents who complained or the target of their complaints.
We are, however, willing to remind readers of the need for competent instruction on the safe handling of firearms for anyone with access to deadly weapons.
And, to some degree, to defend the idea that firearms instructors sometimes need to be forceful.
Plus, and this is a big one, acknowledge that the instructors are all volunteers.
Infractions of the rules on a military firing range bring serious consequences, from the first yell by the range sergeant to hours of marching with a full pack for punishment later on.
Hunting accidents are, according to a 1990 study, relatively rare. Accidents in the home, especially where children are present, are much more prevalent.
Therefore, it seems a safe assumption that hunter safety classes have paid off for society in the long run and the short run.
Firearms are the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. That includes all kinds of shootings, from suicide to gang fights to justified police shootings to outright murder.
Motor vehicle accidents are in seventh place. The other eight causes are diseases or severe illnesses.
The U.S. already is the most heavily armed nation on Earth, according to the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies. It estimates U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world's 875 million known firearms.
With firearm ownership on the rise in the United States (about 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the U.S.), the need for gun safety classes couldn't be clearer.
Age limits are important but in a gray area. When is a kid too young for a class, if the child lives in a house where weapons are present and unsecured?
The state wants hunter safety instructors to recognize that with an expanding population and younger children coming into the program, they must be more sensitive and teach in a more "positive" way.
The state offered to provide that training for the instructors in the Mid-Columbia.
It seems a shame that some of the volunteers have turned that down.
We need these classes. We need these volunteers. And no one knows better than these volunteers the importance of the work they have been doing so long.