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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 was using 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 States. (9)
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.
Socio-Cultural Values
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.” (17)
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 jungles.”(23)
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 activities. (26)
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 athletes.
Economic Values
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 billion.
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, especially wetlands.
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 crafts.
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 Zimbabwe animals.
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.
Psychological Values
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 support.
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 them.”(47)
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 weapons."(49) 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. . ." (51)
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." (55)
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.
Contrary Views
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 finger."
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 ”invisible athletes.”
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 in reality.
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." (66)
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." (67)
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." (68)
1) Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, (London: BBC, 1973).
2) Steven Mithen, “The Hunter-Gatherer Prehistory of Human-Animal Interactions,” Anthrozoos. 1999: Vol. 12(4):195-204.
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(NY: W.W. Norton, 1997).
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.
8) Ibid.
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, San 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, p.39.
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 Nostrad-Reinhold, 1976.
25) Ghazi bin Muhammad, The Sacred Origin of Sports and Culture, Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1998, pg. 62.
26) (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- srv/sports/olympics/longterm/shooting/shthist.htm)
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 color:blue'>America color:blue'>, 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.
37) http://www.campfire-zimbabwe.org/.
38) “CITES as tool for fighting poverty: The Conservation of Markhor in color:blue'>Pakistan color:blue'>” 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. Cit.
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 Press, 1998.
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): 505-518.
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 Reflections. NY: Vintage Books; Reissue edition (June 1989) P.277.
48) James Swan, Op. Cit., 1994 and 2000.
49) Erich Fromm, 1973, Op. Cit. p.156.
50) Ibid.
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, 2000.
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 color:blue'>United States color:blue'>,” Sociology and Social Research, Vol. 71, No. 1, October 1986, pgs. 55-57.
57) Joyce Lee Malcom, Guns and Violence: The English Experience, 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 Social Psychology, 1967.
59) Gary Kleck, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in color:blue'>America color:blue'>, 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, Quantico, Virginia,
66) Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr (Aug. 19, 1785), inThe 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.