Paper for Presentation at A Symposium
UN and Regional Small Arms Regulation:
Issues Concerning Civilian Firearms Ownership
in Search of Common Ground
Sponsored by the World Forum On The Future of Sports Shooting Activities
May 2, 2003 The Tower of London
“Peaceful Arms: Hunting and Sport Shooting as Culture and Heritage”
by James A. Swan, Ph.D.*
“The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.”
Jacob Bronowski (1)
Of all the tools that man has made, weapons are among the most basic
and important. Carbon dating of archeological discoveries shows that
some five million years ago Homo habilis
rocks with a rough sharpened edge. Target marksmanship with archery,
spears, slings and other projectile weapons, as training for combat,
defense and hunting, dates back at least half a million years, and is
probably much older.
Without weapons modern man might not have evolved from other primates.
Weapons not only helped early man defend himself against carnivorous
animals and enemies, but scholars generally agree that Homo Sapiens’
brain grew dramatically in size between 600,000 and 250,000 years ago,
enabling complex thought and tool-making, as a result of consuming extra
protein that could only come from a meat-rich diet. (2)
While there is debate about how much
early meat consumption was due to scavenging and how much came from
hunting, clearly, when weapons and hunting skills developed, hunting
was key to human survival and a prominent force evolution, as well as a
touchstone of art, culture, myth, science and technology. (3)
Human intelligence stands out in at least two areas: the ability to
harness the element of fire, and the ability to create, manufacture and
use tools and technology. Both of these elements come together potently
as firearms, one of the most influential inventions in human history. (4)
Weapons sports originated to develop and refine hunting and
martial skills for survival. Over time, sports evolved as what Erich
Fromm refers to as “biologically adapted
aggression;” i.e. conserving original instinctual energies
and converting them into recreation and sports. (5)
A similar transformative pattern may be seen in shooting sports as they evolved
from survival skills-training to became target shooting, sport hunting,
world championship and Olympic athletic contests, and even spiritual
practice, as in Japanese archery, Kyudo.
Firearms sports originated in the early 1300's in Europe, not long
after the invention of firearms. According to the National Shooting
Sports Foundation, by 1472 tournaments were held where marksmen using
muzzleloaders shot at distances up to 500 yards. The
bull’s-eye was five feet wide. By the early 1500's sights and
rifled barrels were common in Europe. The “brown
bess” muzzleloader, which can fire either shot pellets or a
lead ball, was instrumental to the establishment of the United States.
There are some 65-70 million people in the world who
currently participate in target shooting and hunting. (Figure 1) The
vast majority of uses of guns in developed countries are for sport. For
example, in the U.S., while guns are used in defensive purposes about two million times a
year, and for gun crime 0.6 million times a year, there are at least 26
million people who participate in various shooting sports. (6)
The apex of shooting sports competition is the Olympics. Shooting
sports were part of the first modern Olympics in 1896, and today there
are 18 different shooting sports events in the Summer Olympics, and 8
biathlon events in the Winter Olympics. In both the Summer and the
Winter Olympics, more nations participate in the shooting sports events
than in any other. The International Paralympics also feature 16
shooting sport events.
Shooting sports are not only enormously popular; they are also the
safest of all popular sports, and getting safer. According to the U.S.
National Safety Council’s Injury Facts Report, in 2000
U.S. firearms accidents in general fell to the lowest number since
record-keeping began in 1903. (7)
Unfortunately, the National Safety Council does not differentiate
between injuries in sport shooting and accidental injuries from
firearms in general, and target shooting is both supervised and
unsupervised. So, we do not have firm statistics on the numbers of
target shooting accidents in the United States, but we do have many indications of
their safety. Bob Mitchell of the USA Shooting Team is aware of only
one firearms injury in competitive shooting matches since he first
became involved with shooting sports competitions in 1963. The U.S.
National Skeet and Sporting Clays Associations have no record of any
weapons-related fatality associated with a registered skeet or sporting
clays competition -- ever
Thanks to some 55,000 volunteer Hunter Education Instructors
in North America, whose courses are mandatory in all 50 states to
qualify for getting a hunting license, hunting is now safer than many
popular sports including golf, tennis, basketball, and even ping-pong.
(8) According to the International Hunter Education Association, in
2000 there were 91 fatal accidents and 835 non-fatal accidents for the
more than 13 million licensed hunters in the United
In contrast, the US National Safety Council reports that recreational boating and bicycling
account for 800-900 fatalities per year each, and swimming fatalities
normally exceed 1000 per year.
Archery, another shooting sport, is even safer. An agent at
Accordia Insurance Company who handles the policy for the American
Archery Association told me that during the last five years, she has
had only one injury claim for an archer. This was a repeated stress
injury, an elbow problem from a tournament archer who shot too much
with improper form.
There are more than three million hunters in the US
who now hunt with bow and arrow. From 1993-1998, the last five years
for which data are available, injuries per year have never been more
than 20, and fatal injuries per year range from 3-6. Most of these are
people falling, especially out of tree stands. (10)
Despite the enormous popularity and safety of shooting sports, they
receive almost no notice in United Nations discussions of small arms.
(11) In a similar vein, there is little or no positive coverage of
shooting sports in the general media in North America, except perhaps
for an occasional article in the “Outdoors” section
of the newspaper. (12) I must add here that the biathlon is very
popular in Europe, making it the most popular shooting sport in the
world, but it is virtually unknown in the West, even though it is a
World Cup event.
The absence of balanced discussion and reporting of shooting sports in
policy-making discourse and mainstream media makes shooting sports a
mystery to many non-shooters. Especially in these times of war and
terrorism, the lack of general knowledge about the positive value of
shooting sports makes them vulnerable to projections of fears of
violence because sporting firearms have lethal potential. The anonymity
for shooting sports contributes to considerable demonizing,
stigmatizing, stereotyping, and scapegoating that often has little
basis in fact. (13) Such biased reporting of sporting firearms fosters
a “Culture of Fear” that makes people more anxious
and vulnerable to terrorism. (14)
In the name of balance, in this paper I will present some of the
positive economic, ecological, socio-cultural and psychological values
of hunting and shooting sports. I will argue that not only are target
shooting and hunting a vital economic force that has considerable
cultural and historical significance, they are also a positive force to
enhance mental health, increase peace and support ecological balance.
Each culture creates a unique identity that is preserved
through laws, ethics, myths and symbols, social institutions, a legacy
of heritage, leaders and heroic figures. (15) For each cultural system,
heroes set cultural standards for desirable behaviour including ethics,
bravery, courage and service. Heroic accounts related in story, art and
music, are a vital force in keeping a culture alive.
Historically, warriors and hunters have been cultural heroes for they
protect and provide for the community. They not only set standards of
behaviour, they serve as role models of maturity and socially
sanctioned uses of weapons. Hunters and hunting ethics establish what
is permissible to kill and what is not, which is a core issue for every
culture’s identity. (16)
Some argue that in search of peace we should socialize youth to deny or
sublimate their aggression, including its translation into shooting
sports. The eminent psychologist Rollo May writes of the danger in such
thinking:“In the utopian aim of removing all power and
aggression from human behaviour, we run the risk of removing
self-assertion, self-affirmation, and even the power to be. If it were
successful, it would breed a race of docile, passive eunuchs and would
lay the groundwork for an explosion in violence that would dwarf all
those that have occurred so far
Society grants permission to use dangerous tools according to a
person’s perceived responsibility and maturity. When one is
legally granted permission to use a weapon, such as firearms, this is a
rite of passage that is a milestone in one’s life, as well as
a cultural standard. It signifies maturity and responsibility.
A most important study of youth firearms ownership was conducted in
Rochester, New York, where researchers studied 675 ninth and tenth
graders. The study found that youth who learned about lawful firearms
use from their families had lower rates of crime, substance abuse and
delinquency than youth who learned about firearms from their peers,
i.e. illegal firearm use. Surprisingly, youth who used legal firearms
had lower rates of criminal activity, drug abuse and delinquency than
those youth who had no firearms at all. (18) This research demonstrates
how sport shooting can be a positive socializing force.
Another illustration of how shooting sports can teach maturity and
serve as a positive socializing force is the “Buffalo
Soldiers of Florida,” an Explorer Scout Post serving at-risk
youth in the housing projects of Orange County Florida. The program has
been underway for over 12 years. It started as a crime prevention
program to provide positive black male role models. The kids take part
in historic re-enactments of the Civil War “Buffalo
Soldiers” troop, including learning to use of black powder
weapons. According to officer Angel L. Rodriguez, jr., leader of the
program, who has been with the program since it’s inception,
only one of the hundreds of boys who has gone through the program is in
prison for robbery. The rest have gone on to become law-abiding members
of the community, including military service and becoming members of
the Orlando Police Force. (19)
Since the days of Kublai Khan, hunters have placed certain restrictions
on themselves such as seasons, limits and methods. Some of the earliest
game laws were religious, as in Deuteronomy (XXII) where one finds the
prohibition: do not take birds from their nests. Hunting regulations
have influenced the development of legal systems.
None of the major religions of the world prohibit followers from
hunting. Those who follow Asian traditions, such as Hinduism and
Buddhism, where the Ahimsa tradition is honored (Ahimsa literally means
"do not harm"), may not be able to kill animals, but they can and do
raise them and eat them if others kill them. The East Indian holy book,
The Rig Veda
, states clearly that so long as one is
spiritually pure, eating anything is permissible.
As a socializing force, hunting has a special value to families and
communities. “Hunting contributes to the establishment of
strong social bonds within families and between friends because of the
long-term commitment that socialization takes, because of the emotional
intensity of shared experience in participation in the life and death
cycle and because of the long-standing traditions that become
established around the hunt.” (20)
In many rural areas throughout North America, high school goes into
recess for the opening of the deer season, special sermons for hunters
are held in local churches on the eve of deer season, and festive
events are held to herald hunting seasons. In a similar fashion, in
Europe, celebrations honouring St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunting,
including the Mass of St. Hubert and associated festivals, are a vital
community event filled with tradition and meaning. (21) It is because
of such rich enduring traditions that we see such widespread protests,
such as the Countryside Alliance’s quarter million marchers
who descended on London in September 2002, when hunting is threatened.
Hunting seasons represent rituals of renewal that enable modern man to
remain in contact with his roots in nature. Such rites celebrate
heritage, strengthen human community, improve cohesiveness in families,
and vitalize local economics, as well as affirming membership in the
web of life. A number of studies find that as many as 65% to 75% of
hunters are motivated to hunt each year because of psychological
connections with nature that are unique to hunting. (22) The modern
hunter hunts to conserve his soul as much as put healthy food on the table.
In recent times the anti-hunting movement has challenged the
social-acceptance of hunting. Health professionals Eaton, Shostak and
Konner suggest that devaluing hunting traditions can weaken healthy
social standards and even contribute to juvenile delinquency. They
write: “Our ‘ hunting instinct’
has gone awry in ‘civilized’ society, where the
thrill of the chase and the kill are no longer part of our experience
and there are no clear avenues of expression except, perhaps to our
peril, in the streets and subways of today’s urban
Sports are socially sanctioned activities that energize and
organize human community. The motivations for a person to participate
in sports vary from healthy expression of aggression and developing
competency to neurotic needs for power, narcissism and exhibitionism.
The overwhelming majority of sports encourage unity of mind, body and
spirit and are a very positive social force. (24)
There is a rich legacy of myths, rituals, and even spiritual
traditions that guide many sports. (25) This is certainly true for
marksmanship. Homer’s "Iliad" indicates that Greeks held
archery contests to shoot pigeons on top of tall poles in honour of the
gods. Indians, Persians, Slavs, Celts, and Germans engaged in similar
Shooting sports today contribute to world unity through
various competitions. The first World Shooting Championships were fired
in 1897. Women’s events were first instituted at the 1958
Championships, and today World Championships for men and women in all
disciplines are fired every four years, attracting thousands of
The 65-70 million shooting sportsmen of the world are a major
economic force. Their full impact is not easy to measure, but it is
demonstrated in the popularity of the two major trade shows that serve
the shooting sports community: 1) In the U.S., the SHOT Show, which in
2002 drew 30,000 attendees and 14,000 exhibitors, generates an
estimated $50 million to local the host city; and 2) in Europe, the IWA
and Outdoor Classics International Trade Fair for Hunting, Outdoor
Articles, and Accessories, in recent years has had 1000 exhibitors and
25,000 trade visitors.
One indication of the contribution to the economy from
U.S. sport shooters is that a 2002 US Fish and Wildlife Survey reports that
in 2001, legitimate purchases of guns and ammunition totaled over $2
The economic value of hunting to the U.S. economy has been carefully studied.
According to a 2001 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey, the 13 million hunters in the
U.S. spent a total of $20.billion in 2001, including $2 billion on food and
$4.6 billion of gear, and they supported some 575,000 jobs. (27) The
economic impact of hunters is felt nation-wide, but it is felt most in
those states that have the most hunters Pennsylvania, New York,
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Similar data for other nations are also sizeable. Some 700,000 Britons
take part in game shooting each year. According to the Countryside
Alliance, sport shooting and hunting are responsible for providing over
39,000 jobs and generating over £500 million per annum. Some
other examples: the approximately 250, 000 licensed hunters of New
Zealand, generate about $170 million a year (28); and Canadian resident
hunters spend about $1.2 billion a year on hunting trips, and pay $70
million a year for hunting licenses. (29)
In addition, U.S. hunters and sport shooters have paid $3.95 billion in excise taxes
since 1939 through the Pittman-Robertson Act. (30) The purpose of this
Act is to provide funding for the selection, restoration,
rehabilitation and improvement of wildlife habitat, wildlife management
research, distribution of information, hunter training programs and the
development, operation and maintenance of public target ranges. Funds
are derived from an 11% Federal excise tax on sporting arms,
ammunition, and archery equipment, and a 10% tax on handguns.
Hunting and Fishing license sales in the U.S.
represent approximately 20% of the operating budgets of state fish and
game agencies. The federal duck stamp, which has been required of
waterfowl hunters since 1934, has brought in more than $647 million,
resulting in the conservation of over 5 million acres of wild lands,
Contributions by private individuals to hunting organizations that in
turn are used for conservation work including acquisition and
preservation of habitat, research and education represent many hundreds
of millions more. (31)
Habitat conservation helps wildlife, and it also has economic value. A
team of researchers reported in Science magazine in August 2002 that
the benefit-cost ratio of conserving wild lands is 100 to one in favor
of conservation because wild lands aid climate regulation, water
filtration, and soil formation, as well as providing fish and game for
sustainable harvest. Wildland habitat destruction costs the world $250
billion a year, they reported. (32)
Hunting is also a significant wildlife management tool. While the press
tends to focus on reporting of endangered species, in reality the
US and many nations have problems with species overpopulations. In North
America, overpopulations of whitetail deer, coyotes and snow geese
cause considerable economic damage, as well as damage to habitat that
supports other wildlife. In 2001, livestock losses from wildlife in the
United States totaled $944 million, field crop losses due to wildlife
totaled $619 million, livestock and poultry losses due to wildlife
totaled $178 million, and losses of vegetables, fruits and nuts totaled
$146 million. (33) In a recent national survey in the
US, 80% of the farmers responding reported wildlife damage on their land in
the prior year. This damage took place despite the fact that the
average farmer spent $1000 to try to prevent wildlife damage. (34) In
Ontario in 1998, wildlife damage to farmers cost over $41 million. (35)
A major problem with wildlife overpopulation is collisions with
automobiles. In the U.S. more than one million deer a year are hit by cars, killing over 100
people and resulting in more than $1 billion in costs for repairs. (36)
More deer are now killed every year by cars than existed around the
turn of the century. In some states, cars kill more deer than hunters,
and poachers kill more deer illegally than legal hunters. Wild animals
also spread Lyme disease, bubonic plague, rabies, avian cholera,
botulism and tuberculosis. Hunting is the most cost-effective way to
control wild animal overpopulations.
Hunting, especially big game hunting, is also a major force in
encouraging conservation and promoting economic self-sufficiency in
native cultures. In Africa, in 1979 the wild elephant herd was 1.3
million. By 1989, it was sliced in half to 600,000, largely due to
uncontrolled poaching. To curb the decline, importation of ivory was
banned, and some countries forbade sport hunting for elephants. In
places where hunting has been banned, elephant populations have
plummeted even more.
Kenya banned elephant hunting in 1977. Poachers subsequently butchered the
herds, as supervision of the animals also declined with the loss of
revenue from hunting. In less than two decades, Kenya's
elephant herd went from 150,000 to less than 6,000.
Botswana, in contrast, permitted big game hunting, and in the same period of time,
their elephant herd has quadrupled. The key here is that hunters pump
considerable money into the local economy, which increases the value of
the animals to local natives, provides jobs and fresh meat for many,
and supports wildlife research and law enforcement. It is estimated
that hunters spend $35 million to $65 million dollars a year on African
elephant hunting safaris. The white rhino in South Africa has similarly increased in numbers,
thanks to hunter' dollars.
In 1980, Zimbabwe had 40,000 elephants. Today, after 22 years of carefully regulated
hunting, they have 88,000 pachyderms. According to Ed Adobe, Chairman
of the Zimbabwe Wildlife Advisory Council, eco-tourists may outnumber
the hunters, but the hunters outspend them, $15 million to $10 million.
When eco-tourists come in, they whisk around in a jeep for a couple
days, wine and dine, and leave. Hunters stay longer, pay trophy fees
and guides, and the meat from animals killed goes to local villages,
along with skins and bones that can be used for clothing and arts and
The program that oversees hunting in Zimbabwe
is called CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programmed for Indigenous
Resources). (37) Under CAMPFIRE, people living on impoverished communal
lands, which represent 42% of the country, claim the right of
proprietorship, including wildlife. CAMPFIRE offers people an
alternative to destructive uses of the land by making wildlife a
valuable resource. Wildlife, in fact, is the most economically and
ecologically-sound land use in much of Zimbabwe.
Since its official inception in 1989, more than a quarter of a million
people have been involved in managing wildlife through CAMPFIRE. It has
been so successful that South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and
Botswana are now developing programs similar to Zimbabwe, sometimes using relocated
A program similar to CAMPFIRE in Pakistan has aided the conservation of the markhor (Capra falconeri), a kind of
wild goat with unusual spiral horns. (38)
Hunting is also valuable for procuring food. Wild game meat is low in
fat and cholesterol and high in protein. (39) While it is true that
modern hunters do not need to hunt for meat for survival, the amount of
meat gained from animals harvested is sizeable. In the United States
, each year people consume more than 750 million pounds of wild meat, which is roughly equivalent to two
million beef cattle. (40) Priced at the conservative rate of $1.75 per
pound, the wild meat consumed in the US would be valued at $1.3 billion.
The economic value of shooting sports is substantial, but one
could argue that the people, businesses and institutions involved could
be redirected to other forms of enterprise or other forms of outdoor
recreation. One could also posit that while there is considerable
positive socio-cultural value from shooting sports, these values could
also be achieved in other ways and the history of shooting sports could
simply become history, to be studied but not lived.
Shooting sports also have other values psychological onesthat in the
long term may make an even stronger case for their preservation and
Weapons are “archetypes” in the view of Carl Jung.
Weapons symbols spring from the depths of psyche and represent basic
instinctual organizing forces of power and potency that make us
uniquely human and able to survive. Archetypes appear in dreams all
around the world, as well as myths and symbols that imply power, truth
and justice. Jung said that all archetypes have positive and negative
potentials. Learning to harness instinctual energies, such as the
weapons archetype, and turn them into creative, positive social forces,
is a measure of a culture’s success. According to
psychoanalysts Theodore Feldman and Phillip Johnson, “groups
of individuals, societies and even nations may use weapons (and their
symbols) to counter feelings of vulnerability… (that)
diminish the group’s collective self.”(41)
That weapons are innate in the human psyche can also be seen in
children’s play. “Ethnologists have shown that in
societies where guns aren’t part of the local symbology, kids
play similar games with bows and arrows and spears.”(42) This
suggests that if firearms disappeared, other weapons would be created.
Weapons are part of us. We need to learn with them, and respect them,
not fear them.
It is well-documented that training in weapons sports helps increase a
child’s chances for success in life. This is even true for
“at-risk” youth. There are numerous studies that
support this position. Two noteworthy examples are:
Actor Chuck Norris, a former world champion martial artist, has created
"Kick Drugs Out of America," which now reaches 6000 middle school kids
a year with martial arts instruction. An independent evaluation of
KDOOA has found that students who participate in the program for three
years have higher grades and better attendance records at the end of
the three-year period than do students in a nonparticipant group. Even
after one year of participation, "failing student" and "unexcused
absence" percentages are lower during the year students participate in
the program. High school students who have participated in the KDOOA
program in middle school are less likely to have serious confrontations
with others. (43)
Peter Westbrook, 1984 Olympic fencing Bronze Medalist and 13 Time U.S.
National Men's Sabre Champion, is a black man born and raised in
poverty who learned to fence as a way channel his anger into survival
skills. Following in his footsteps, he has set up a program that has
helped hundreds of inner-city children gain self-esteem through
learning fencing. This program also developed three of the nine members
of the 2000 US Olympic fencing team. His success and that of his
students illustrates how studies of weapons sports can transform
negative energies into a positive force. (44)
Numerous other studies reported in the psychological literature find
that training in martial arts, including education in weapons, has
positive consequences for self-esteem, discipline, and concentration
that transfer to greater success in school and life. This is even true
for at-risk youth. Twemlow and Sacco, for example, find that
traditionally taught martial arts instructional programs can be an
effective treatment program for violent adolescents. (45) Zivin, et.al.
report that a school-linked martial arts program was effective for
juveniles at high-risk for violence and delinquency. (46)
The common theory here is that wwhile weapons sports train people to be
potentially more violent and lethal, as weapons skills increase,
aggression and violence decrease as one becomes more self-confident and
able to better control one’s passions and impulses. Weapons
sports enable man to learn to tap into his deepest passions and learn
to not fear them, but gain control over them and express them in a
peaceful, enjoyable fashion. Or, as psychiatrist Carl Jung states in Memories,
Dreams and Reflections
: “A man who has not passed
through the inferno of his passions has never overcome
There are millions of people of all ages who participate in shooting
sports. While considerable research documents the positive value of
weapons sports educational programs, such research for target shooting
programs does not appear in the psychological literature. The lack of
such research needs to be addressed immediately.
The Psychological Value of Hunting
Despite vitriolic accusations by some anti-hunters, there is
no substantial psychological research or writing that concludes that
ethical hunting is in any way associated with mental dis-ease. Many of
the best-respected behavioral scientists of our times, including
Sigmund Freud, William James, Carl Jung, Erich Fromm, Marie-Louise von
Franz, and Karl Menninger, agree that hunting is a natural, healthy
part of human nature, an instinct programmed into the master computer
of our species for survival purposes. (48) Dr. Erich Fromm, one of the
most widely-respected behavioral scientists of the twentieth century,
summed up these opinions in his widely-acclaimed study of the causes
and prevention of violence, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
“In the act of hunting, a man becomes, however
briefly, part of nature again. He returns to the natural state, becomes
one with the animal, and is freed from the burden of his existential
split: to be part of nature and to transcend it by virtue of his
consciousness. In stalking the animal he and the animal become equals,
even though man eventually shows his superiority by use of his
Fromm explains his position by pointing out
that the motivation of the modern sport hunter is pleasure fused with
ethics, while the motivation of the sadist, who might torture and kill
pets or other small animals, is revenge. (50)
It is fascinating to see how Fromm’s views agree with those
of the noted Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset:
"When one is hunting, the air has another, more exquisite feel
as it glides over the skin or enters the lungs, the rocks acquire a
more expressive physiognomy, and the vegetation becomes loaded with
meaning. But all this is due to the fact that the hunter while he
advances or waits crouching, feels tied through the earth to the animal
he pursues, whether the animal is in view, hidden, or absent. . ."
Dr. Melvin Konner, Emory University professor of psychiatry
and anthropology, in his award-winning book, The Tangled Wing
based on his seven- year study of the biological origins of human
behavior supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, agrees
that ethical hunting is not associated with psychopathology or violence
and states: "... there is little or no evidence, physiological or
behavioral, to suggest that predatory aggression has much in common
with intraspecies aggression." (52)
Leuck reports that hunting can play an important role in increasing a
person’s self- confidence, self-esteem, and activity in
natural resources conservation. (53) This is especially important, as
shooting sports in general are lifetime sports that can be enjoyed by
virtually anyone, including people with disabilities.
Learning about the reality of the food chain that life feeds on other
life through first-hand experience, as in hunting, commonly leads
hunters to develop a reverence for nature that leads them to perform
acts of conservation. (54) As Jose Ortega y Gasset has said: "Hunting
submerges man deliberately in that formidable mystery and therefore
contains something of a religious rite and emotion in which homage is
paid to what is divine, transcendent, in the laws of nature."
In support of the many psychological writings and studies about hunting
is a noteworthy study by criminologist Chris Eskridge who compared
hunting license sales with violent crime rates on a county-by-county
basis throughout the United States. Eskridge found a significant inverse correlation; i.e. as hunting
license sales go up, violent crime goes down. (56) This is consistent
with other studies that owners of sporting firearms, who are more
common in rural areas, tend to learn shooting skills from parents and
family, have fewer accidents, lower rates of violence and use their
firearms for sport shooting more often than protective owners. (57)
Here is an example of how more shooting, not less, may contribute to
peace and social stability.
Those who oppose weaponry will often cite the "weapons
effect" theory of psychologists Berkowitz, LePage and others, that
assert that the mere presence of a weapon triggers aggressive feelings
that can lead to violence. (58) Or, as Berkowitz told Psychology Today
in 1968, "Guns not only permit violence, they stimulate it as well. The
finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be pulling the
When criminologist Gary Kleck reviewed 21 similar "weapons effect"
studies, he concluded: "None of the studies provided any evidence
directly supporting the idea that possessing a gun encourages physical
aggression, or that the 'trigger pulls the finger.'"(59) Further, one
researcher evaluating Berkowitz's research reports that subjects
emerging from the study expressed anger and hostility toward the
researchers for putting them in an obviously contrived environment with
a gun present. (60)
Violent behavior is most associated with violence-prone individuals who
have never developed psycho-emotional skills to manage their
aggression. (61) Learning to use a weapon can be a potent way to face
and master one's dark side and turn it to positive ends. Thus,
organized instructional youth shooting sports programs such as in the
U.S. the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, the Boy
Scouts of America, 4-H, and the Scholastic Shooting Program, which
introduce over three million youth a year to weapons with virtually no
accidents are contributing to the economy, social character and mental
health of the country. They are a force for peace, not violence. More
research needs to be done to document their value.
The Image of Shooting Sports In The Media
If shooting sports are extremely safe, a significant economic
force in the economy, a positive force in socio-cultural systems and
environmental conservation, and associated with psychological
healthiness, and then why do they receive little or no positive
attention in news reporting, mainstream dramatic TV and feature films,
especially in North America? This is an especially vexing question when
one considers that the US Olympic shooting team has won the third largest total of medals in any
Olympic sport, after track and field and swimming. The lack of U.S.
reporting on Olympic shooting events makes these competitors
Like him or not, Academy Award-Winning filmmaker Michael Moore, in
“Bowling for Columbine,” has shown us how media
perpetuate a “culture of fear,” which creates a
sense of well-informed futility that makes people feel impotent, and is
very likely associated with contributing to violence. Psychiatrist
Sarah Thompson has shown how people who feel to be victims will
displace and deny their own inner feelings and project these negative
feelings onto others. (62) Biased negative media reporting of firearms,
therefore, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which may not be based
John Lott, jr’s recent book, The Bias Against Guns
is an outstanding study of how modern media have buried positive
reporting of firearms use, including sport, and dwelled on negative
sensationalism. (63) Not long ago I came across an illustration of a
serious lie about firearms in the media. A September 7, 2000,
Associated Press story “Warning On Teens Who Fixate on
Violence,” appeared in my local paper. (64) The article
reported on an FBI study of mass school shootings, “The
School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective.”(65)
According to the AP, the study states that one of the danger signs of a
potentially violent child is being "skilled with firearms." Since this
finding would run contrary to all research I have found, I quickly
ordered the report. I have read the study several times. It says
absolutely nothing about being skilled with firearms having anything to
do with violent tendencies.
What the FBI report does say, however, is that: “News
coverage magnifies a number of widespread but wrong or unverified
impressions of school shooters
.” (my underline) The
AP’s “skilled with firearms” item could
be a mistake, but I doubt it.
Not that many years ago mainstream television and feature films
regularly portrayed hunters as heroes. The absence of positive shooting
sports portrayal in mainstream news media and dramatic film and
television must be corrected if shooting sports are to be preserved,
because we live in the Information Age where media influence, create
and change social norms. A single feature film, “A River Runs
Through It,” made flyfishing socially popular, even
politically correct. The hunting and shooting sports community does a
good job of programming for its members. They now must be willing to
branch out and support mainstream writers, actors, directors and
producers who are willing and able to paint an accurate picture of the
shooting sports and their place in modern times.
Weapons are some of man's most important tools: they are a
cornerstone of our culture and consciousness. If we fail to learn the
significance of weapons in our lives the fear of them will rule us, and
that makes us easy targets for terrorists and criminals. We need to
unsheathe the blade of truth to put weapons sports in their proper
place. Until people learn respect for the weapons in our lives, the
fear of them will control us.
In a letter, Thomas Jefferson advised his nephew:"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I
advisethe gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the Body, it gives
boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with
the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and
stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant
companion of your walks."
Russian General-LT B.I. Baranov, said much the same thing:
"The shooting sport. . . more than any other sport, cultivates
in man high moral character, self-control, endurance, discipline, and
other important functions such as sure-sightedness, self-confidence and
control of movement."
It is now time for the true story of shooting sports to be
told. And that story, is, as Henry David Thoreau has put it
"We cannot but pity the boy who has never fired a gun; he is no
more humane, while his education is sadly neglected."
1) Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man
(London: BBC, 1973).
2) Steven Mithen, “The Hunter-Gatherer Prehistory of
Human-Animal Interactions,” Anthrozoos. 1999: Vol.
3) S.L. Washburn and C.S. Lancaster, “The Evolution of
Hunting” in Man, The Hunter
, ed. R.B. Lee
and I DeVore, (Chicago: Aldine, 1968).
4) Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel
5) Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
(NY: Fawcett, 1973).
6) Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms And Their Control
(NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1997); and National Shooting Sports Foundation.
7) National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2000.
9) International Hunter Education Association, http://www.ihea.com/
10) Archery Safety
11) See: “Small Arms: Report of the
Secretary-General” United Nations Security Council, September
20, 2002; Thomas L. Mason, “A Free Trade Perspective from the
Firearms Community,” SAIS Review, Vol. XXII No.1
Winter-Spring 2002, pgs. 203-206; and “At Gunpoint: The Small
Arms and Light Weapons Trade,” Brown Journal of World
Affairs, Spring 2002, Volume IX, Issue 1.
12) “Outgunned: How the Network News Media Are Spinning the
Gun Control Debate,” SPECIAL REPORT, Media Research Center,
January 5, 2000.
13) James Swan, In Defense of Hunting
Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994.
14) Barry Glassner, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are
Afraid of the Wrong Things
, NY: Basic Books, 2000.
15) Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture
, NY: Mariner
Books; Reissue edition, 1989.
16) Margaret Mead, “Cultural Factors In The Cause and
Prevention of Pathological Homicide” Bulleton in the
Menninger Clinic 28 (1964: 11-22.
17) Rollo May, Power and Innocence
, NY: Dell, 1972,
18) Alan Lizotte, et. al. Patterns of Adolescent Firearms Ownership and
Use, Justice Quarterly, Vol. II, No.1, pp.51-73, (1994).
19) communication with A.L. Rodriguez, jr., 8/5/2002, and http://hometown.aol.com/ahho9thcav/myhomepage/profile.html
20) J.W. Enck and D.J. Decker, “Differing
Perceptions of Deer Hunting Satisfaction Among Participants and
Experts” Northeast Wildlife, 1994, Vol. 51, pgs. 35-46.
21) James Swan, The Sacred Art of Hunting
Minocqua, WI: Willow Creek Press, 2000.
22) Phil Seng, et. al. “Contributions of Hunting to North
American Society and Culture,” Transactions of the 66 North
American Wildlife and Natural resources Conference, 2001, pgs. 203-231.
23) S. Boyd Eaton, M.D., Marjorie Shostak, and Melvin Konner, M.D.,
Ph.D., The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet and
Exercise and a Design for Living
, (NY: Harper and Row, 1988).
24) Dorcas Susan Butt, Psychology of Sport: The Behavior,
Motivation, Personality and Performance of Athletes
, NY: Van
25) Ghazi bin Muhammad, The Sacred Origin of Sports and
, Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1998, pg. 62.
27) “The American Sportsman: Take A Closer Look,”
NSSF and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, October, 2002.
28) John Howat, e-mail 1/25/03.
29) Gary Mauser, “Hunters Are the Mainstay of
Canada’s Provincial Wildlife Management Programs,”
BC Wildlife Federation, 2002.
30) NSSF. October 1, 2002, press release “Revenues Generated
by Hunters and Anglers Would Rank #11 on the Fortune 500.”
31) “Fish and Wildlife Agency Funding Survey,”
Wildlife Legislative Fund of
Columbus, OH, 2001.
32) Environmental News Service, “Study: Humanity Loses $250
billion a Year in Wild Habitat,” August 9,2002.
33) Alaska Farm Reporter, May 23, 2002.
34) M.R. Conover, “Perceptions of American Agricultural
Producers About Wildlife On Their Farms and Ranches,”
Wildlife Society Bulletin, 1998, 26: 597-604.
35) BCWF Alert #279/2002 “Red Tape and Taxes Driving Hunters
Out of the Sport at A Huge Cost”.
36) “Bambi’s Mother In The Crosshairs,”
NY Times, editorial, 12/2/02.
38) “CITES as tool for fighting poverty: The Conservation of
International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation website,
November 15, 2002.
39) Eaton, Shostak and Konner, Op Cit
40) Wildlife Management Institute, 1992; cited in Seng, et. al., 2001, Op.
41) T.B. Feldmann and P.W. Johnson, “The Self-object Function
of Weapons: A Self Psychology Examination,” Journal fo the
American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 1992 Winter: Vol. 20(4): 561-576.
42) Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy
Super Heroes and Make-Believe Violence
(Basic Books: NY,
2002, p. 48.
43) see: http://www.kdooa.org/
44) Peter Westbrook with Tej Harzarika, Harnessing Anger: The
Inner Discipline of Athletic Excellence
, NY: Seven Stories
45) Stuart Twemlow and Frank C. Sacco “The Application of
Traditional Martial Arts Practice and Theory to the Treatment of
Violent Adolescents.” Adolescence, 1998 Fall; Vol. 33 (131):
46) Gail Zivin, et. al. “An effective Approach to Violence
Prevention:Traditional Martial Arts In Middle School”
Adolescence, 2001 Fall; Vol. 36 (143): 443-459.
47) Carl Jung with Aniela Jaffe, Memories, Dreams and
. NY: Vintage Books; Reissue edition (June 1989)
48) James Swan, Op. Cit.,
1994 and 2000.
49) Erich Fromm, 1973, Op. Cit
51) Jose Ortega y Gasset, Meditations On Hunting
NY: Scribner’s, 1972, p.51.
52) Melvin Konner, The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints
On The Human Spirit
, NY: Henry Holt, 1982, P.203.
53) D.Leuck, “Becoming An Outdoors-Woman: Effects On
Activities and Attitudes,” M.S. Thesis, University of
Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 1996.
54) James Swan, Op. Cit,
55) Jose Ortega y Gasset, Op. Cit.
, p. 98.
56) Chris W. Eskridge, “Zero-Order Inverse Correlations
Between Crimes of Violence and Hunting Licenses In The
Sociology and Social Research, Vol. 71, No. 1, October 1986, pgs.
57) Joyce Lee Malcom, Guns and Violence: The English
, Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2002, p.204; and Gary
Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms And Their Control
NY:Aldine de Gruyter, 1997, p.84.
58) Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage "Weapons As
Aggression-Eliciting Stimuli" in Journal of Pesonality and
59) Gary Kleck, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in
NY: Aldine, 1991.
60) David Kopel, "No Choice: Weapons-Effect Paralysis." In National
Review Online, April 17, 2002.
61) Daniel b. Policy and Donald B. Kates, Jr. “American
Homicide Exceptionalism” University of Colorado Law Review,
Vol. 69/Issue 4, Fall 1998, p.994. Also see: Martin Killias and
Henriette Haas, “The Role of Weapons In Violent Acts: Some
results of a Swiss National Cohort Study,” Journal of
Interpersonal Violence, 2002, January; Vol. 17 (1): 14-32.
62) Sarah Thompson, M.D. “Raging Against Self Defense: A
Psychiatrist Examines The Anti-Gun Mentality”
63) John R. Lott, jr. The Bias Against Guns: Why
Almost Everything You’ve Heard about Gun Control Is Wrong
Washington, DC: Regnery, 2003.
64) Associated Press, “Warning On Teens Who Fixate On
Violence,” Marin Independent Journal, 9.7/2000.
65) Mary Ellen O’Toole, “The School Shooter: A
Threat Assessment Perspective,” Critical Incident Response
Group, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, FBI Academy,
66) Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr (Aug. 19, 1785), in
Portable Thomas Jefferson 382 (Merrill D. Peterson ed., 1977).
67) B.I. Baranov, Textbook for Teaching the Young Soldier
(1973) quoted in James B. Whisker The Citizen Soldier and The
United States Military Policy
, North River Press, 1979 (p.17).
68) Henry David Thoreau, “Higher Laws,” from Walden
in The Portable Thoreau
, ed. Carl Bode. NY: Viking
Press, 1947, p. 459.