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Published Thursday, February 16, 2006, in New York Post

DON'T BLAME HUNTERS

By John R. Lott, Jr. and Joni Ogle*

WITH all the fall-out over Dick Cheney ac cidentally peppering his friend with birdshot, few will probably ever hear that hunting with guns is not a particularly dangerous sport. Nor will they hear any mention that hunting can help save people's lives by helping control animal populations.

A Nexis search of news stories found that in all the avalanche of news coverage none of the national television news broadcasts on Sunday and Monday mentioned gun-hunters' safety record. Only three of the 76 newspaper and wire stories through Monday had mentioned anything about these accidents being rare.

In Texas, where the accident occurred, over a million licensed hunters can shoot quail for a third of the year and deer for a quarter of the year, but in 2004 just four were killed and 25 injured.

Surely with millions of people roaming around through the woods, it would seem that there would be that many injuries simply from people tripping over stones and underbrush.

Hunters seem roughly at the same risk as anyone else. About .17 Texans per million people are murdered each day. Assuming that hunters in Texas hunt the national average of 18 days per year, .22 Texas hunters are accidentally killed per day per million hunters. The accidental death rate from other activities on average is much higher, with about 1.02 Texans dying from non-firearm accidents each day per million people.

Nationally, non-firearm and hunting accident rates are also very similar.

Hunting also helps saves lives, and not from just the exercise that people receive. Some of the animals people hunt pose real dangers for humans, and it is not just cougars and bears. Probably the biggest threat to man are those cute deer. In 2004, 210 motorists were killed in collisions with animals (mostly deer). The Institute for Highway Safety estimates that each year an astounding 1.5 million animal-vehicle collisions occur, costing about $1 billion.

Hunting is just the most obvious way that animal populations are kept under some control. Hunters contribute around $300 million a year through licensing and fees that are also used to manage animal populations.

As Slaton White, editor of Shot Business magazine and a lifelong hunter, says: "The media may want to turn this [incident with Cheney] into something, but the fact remains that hunting is an extremely safe sport."

John Lott is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Joni Ogle is a law student at Texas Tech University.

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