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EDITORIAL: Safety shot


An unplanned shift in position, a dip in the earth below the foot, a hand slipping on the fore-end or not accounting for the spread of the shot.

There are any many reasons an intended target can be missed and safety is compromised.
Earlier this week, a group of about 20 people — a dozen of them younger than seven years — were playing on the west end of Pasadena beach.
It was 6:40 p.m. and despite the cloud cover, the sun kept ample light in the sky.
Youth ran around between the alder bushes on the beach and some veered towards the water to throw rocks.
Three consecutive shots quickly interrupted the play and the giggles of those having fun.
The pitch of the sound was crisp and clear. It wasn’t muffled by a long travel through dense air, nor did it have time to bounce off distance hills.
As the shots rang through the ears of those present, about 15 ducks scattered over the lake.
An adult on site approached three hunters — two men and a woman — who were eyeing their kill at the mouth of South Brook. For those unfamiliar with the area, that’s about 110 metres, or 360 feet away.
When confronted about jeopardizing the safety of those on the beach — and in the neighbourhood — one hunter was curt in his response: “We’re allowed to be here,” he said. “Call Wildlife!”
They were promptly told to leave. By the time police arrived the hunters were gone.
Taking the hunter's advice, The Western Star made a call to the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources wildlife division. To no one's surprise, there seemed to be a few wrongs committed on the beach.
According to the provincial hunting and trapping guide, it is against the law to “discharge a firearm within 1,000 metres of a school, playground or athletic field or within 300 metres of a dwelling.”
A quick look at Google maps will tell you the mouth of South Brook is about 190 metres from homes.
Let’s say for a second that a beach is not considered a playground in the legislation. Even then, the volleyball court on the beach — which is certainly an athletic field — is about 340 metres from where the shots were fired. While there could be an argument made this court is not used in the fall, it is still well below the one-kilometre minimum.
In addition, the Wildlife Act regulations state a hunter who discharges a firearm “without exercising reasonable care for the safety of other persons is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction.”
If that’s not clear enough to unclog a hunt for common sense, go to the federal Firearms Act, which again clearly defines a set of rules about firearm usage.
The fact those guns were pointed into the eastern side of the mouth of that river is surely enough to warrant charges of careless use of a firearm.
The hunters must have figured this out somewhere between killing a few birds and being told of their idiotic practices.
They fled.
Breaking laws is bad, sure, but the potential here was far worse.
Would those hunters have stuck around if the scenario were far graver? What if even one of those three shots strayed from the intended target? What if one of the hunters slipped, or the barrel of a gun lifted, or a duck quickly changed course and the barrel’s sights followed it toward that crowd of people?
Every fall, tens of thousands of hunters in the province adorn weapons and head out their doors. Luckily, more than 99 per cent of those act responsibility, practice proper hunting ethics and always — always — are cognizant of what’s beyond their target.
Those hunters on that beach in the middle of Pasadena did not.
It’s an awful place for your thoughts to go, but every parent on that beach thought about the "what ifs" that night.
Now, those hunters need to understand the gravity of their actions.
They need to know even though tragedy eluded them Monday night, the safety of fellow human beings is far more important than flagrant leisure shooting, boasting rights and small game on the supper table.
They need to understand how lucky everyone was.

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