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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sharp Shooting Cheney

Numerous national news outlets are reporting that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney shot a 78 year-old man with a shotgun today while on a hunting trip in Texas. Although the story is that it was a mistake, how can someone mistakenly shoot a person while aiming at a bird? Also and possibly equally important, who shoots a relatively small bird such as a quail with a huge, powerful shotgun? Will the man, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, pursue charges against the VP? We'll have to wait and see...

21 Comments:

At 7:15 PM, Blogger kyledeb said...

Hey Chip,

Just thought I'd put a little more accuracy into your post. You always hunt birds with shotguns because the pellets spray covering a wider area. Second of all, it seems pretty simple how it happened. Whittington came up from behind, probably thought they had saw him even though they didn't. You wait until the birds fly away and you shoot them as they are doing so. It requires you to shoot in front of where their flying to make up for the timing. He was following the flight path of a bird to his side, a split second thing, not knowing the old man was by his side, and just shot. It doesn't seem as though it was that bad, he just caught a little bit of the spray. Trust me, if he would have hit him dead on, it would have been over for that man. Just thought I'd let you know, come down to Guatemala and I'll help you learn yourself, lol.

Check the pic

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger kyledeb said...

Sorry I forgot to say that quail pellets are really small, another reason there wasn't much of an injury.

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

I have a problem with this on numerous fronts. Firstly, I don't think that hunting animals for sport is OK. It demonstrates the wanton dominance that humans have over the lives of other natural creatures simply because we have tools (and the interest) in killing them as passtime. Killing them for food is OK but I don't think this was the case here.

Secondly, this does not excuse him from making such a grave mistake. Yes, we all make mistakes and some get us a B+ instead of an A- on a quiz while others put numerous small pieces of hot metal into numerous body parts of an elderly man.

Thirdly, I still consider it excessive to shoot a quail with a shotgun whether that's commonplace or not. I get what you're saying about technique and timing and whatnot but that's like using a sledgehammer to tap in a nail in a wall; smaller instruments would suffice and stop huge accidents like this from happening.

 
At 12:40 AM, Blogger kavulla said...

What a fun case-in-point of disconnect between liberals (or communist or pan-African or however you 'identify') with the average red stater! I take it you don't do much hunting in Jersey, eh Slugger?

I wonder, for instance, what would those "smaller instruments" for quail hunting be?

Occasionally, I go pheasant and grouse hunting, and I eat everything I shoot. Most hunters do. When hunters kill larger game and can't eat all the product, most give it to community food banks. Having volunteered at one, I can tell you that it accounts for a large food source throughout the year -- many more people would go hungry if not for the "wanton dominance that humans have over the lives of other natural creatures."

Hunting, even if for sport, seems more appropriate than letting wildlife populations grow out of control. In places where hunting is not de jure -- in New Jersey, for instance -- culls occur to prevent outright winter starvation. Would you rather have animals poisoned and rendered inedible?

Your post speaks to how out of touch someone who lives in an urban environment can be. In Montana, where I live, there has been an uninterrupted culture of hunting for thousands of years -- the implements and (to a certain extent) the reasons have changed, but the bottom-line fact remains that part of the "natural" aspect of humans remains our role in controlling the populations of other animals. (Given your previous posts on Africa, surely you're aware that one of the most damaging things colonial governments did was to establish game reserves and take away Africans' traditional practice of hunting overpopulated game which posed a threat to crops.)

In any case, shooting, dressing, butchering, cooking, and eating game strikes me as much more appropriate than does buying meat from a grocery store, but perhaps you're an out-and-out vegetarian, JS...

 
At 1:34 AM, Anonymous gline said...

I have to admit, when I read this story I thought "this will be a funny bullet-point for the gun control folks." That the vegetarians might get involved never crossed my mind.

To be honest, as a partial vegetarian myself, I can't even really bring myself to take too much issue with this sort of activity. The quails certainly live and die more humanely than they would on a farm and in a slaughterhouse respectively, and besides it must be that hunting accounts for a very, very small fraction of the total amount of meat consumed in this country. Best turn our efforts towards more widespread practices if we're going to proselytize...

As far as choice of implements is concerned, I suspect that if one is, as the vice president likely was, intending to eat the quail and not just play duck hunt with it, a shotgun isn't merely a luxury, it's a necessity. I imagine neither Cheney nor even Mr. Kavulla would be particularly likely to hit a bird in flight with, say, a rifle... Am I curious about the incidence of shotgun-related accidents while bird hunting? A little, but I also think we liberals could do a lot worse than allowing hunters kill off hunters, if that’s really what they’re wont to do.

And that brings me to my final point: the real statement here, I think, is about campaign finance reform. When the gentleman Vice President Cheney filled with quail shot donated $2000 to the Bush campaign, this was probably not the sort of reward he was expecting. Potential political donors beware: once the politicians you support don't need you anymore, they may just stab (err... shoot...) you in the back.

 
At 1:38 AM, Anonymous gline said...

By the way, I think the real victors here are going to be the snarky columnists, who have just been supplied with an enormous wealth of available puns. I made some above, but there dozens of others. Cheney will surely take a lot of flak for this in the coming weeks...

 
At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Greg Schmidt said...

As an out-of-touch northeastern liberal urbanite/suburbanite, I guess identity politics would compel me to be opposed to hunting, but it's always seemed to me that the only people who can be opposed to the practice with any credibility are vegetarians. I eat meat; the meat I eat comes from animals that have been killed, either in the wild or, more likely, a factory farm of some sort, and the more you read about the way animals are raised and killed on farms today, the more you think that getting shot in the wild would be far preferable. There's no easy way to justify how horrible the conditions the animals we eat are raised in; it's just one of the daily hypocrisies of our lives, like the way we'll give a quarter to a homeless man en route to spending $10 at a bar.

Also, what exactly is objectionable about "the wanton dominance that humans have over the lives of other natural creatures"? Granted, we should exercise responsibility in the way we dominate the earth, but would things really be better if, say, the wolves were running the show? This borders on parody of the occasional liberal discomfort with complete American hegemony.

The jokes about Cheney being the first VP to shoot a guy since Aaron Burr are fun and all, as (maybe) are conspiracy theories about the 24 hour delay in reporting this, but I feel like the main useful takeaway is this: when using guns, accidents happen. Dick Cheney has served as a White House Chief of Staff, as a U.S. Congressman, as the U.S. Defense Secretary, as a major corporate executive, and as U.S. Vice President. Isn't it reasonable to think that if he can accidentally shoot a guy with his own gun, a seven year-old who finds a gun in his father's desk draw might also shoot someone accidentally? Might this be an argument for bringing debates over gun safety regulation back from the political graveyard? (On the other hand, Freakonomics makes some good points about how backyard pools cause more deaths than guns.)

(Just read Travis's comment while writing this: all seems reasonable. Sure enough, I've only shot a gun a few times in my life, at Boy Scout camp in seventh grade. It was at a target, which I remember hitting with a non-embarassing level of proficiency, but I still had trouble seeing the recreational appeal.)

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

To Kuvalla: I'm not a communist but I am a Pan-Africanist.

I don't know of any smaller instrument for quail hunting but if engineers can make advanced computer chips the size of my finger nail (or smaller) they can make a more compacy, less dangerous weapon for quail hunting. If the pellets from this shotgun (a 28-gauge...the smallest, correct?) was able to knock a grown man down and put him in the hospital then we can imagine what it would do to a small quail on impact.

The killing of these wild animals in this respect is still unnecessary whether you eat it or not. It's not like we're back in the days of no supermarkets or refrigerators or CampusFood.Com. We have tons of access to food (especially at Harvard) and so killing extra animals for food is a matter of choice not necessity or population control. As far as feeding the hungry, much progress can be made on this front nationally and internationally but the meat donated to community food banks is good to hear.

Sadly, humans make up the most "out of control" animal population. Our need to dominate all corners of the globe, urbanize and industrialize up the wazoo in previously high-vegetation regions, and the like have pushed myriad species of animals out of their natural habits or even out of existence altogether. If humans have the ability or right or duty even to control animal populations as they get out of control who is going to control the human population as we expand and overpopulate areas and other species?

I don't know if I consider population control "natural" for humans. If you're referring to the Biblical instance in Genesis where humans are supposedly given reign over the other beasts of the earth, air, and sea then that's subject to acceptance on individuals bases.

If done on an individual basis then killing what we eat may be OK, but when systematized in the fashion of dining halls and factory farms for mass consumption with little reflection on the derviations of that which we eat then it's problematic.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger kyledeb said...

Alright,

Sorry for repetition, but I really got to point all these things out. Jersey, it is impossible to shoot a quail with something other than a shotgun, for the exact reason that I stated. A rifle shoots out one bullet, while I shotgun shoots out a spray. If ever shot a gun before you know how impossible it would be to shoot a moving bird with one bullet. The pellets used are less powerful and tiny for quails. The fact that it hit a 78 year old man right on, and didn't get close to killing him shows that it wasn't that powerful.

Kavulla is also right about the environmental benefits of hunting. For instance, let's put out nutria, an invasive species, Myocastor coypus, in the gulf area of the united states. They totally destroy wetlands and if they are not kept in check, they eat themselves out of house and home and then freeze to death during the winter. This happened when people stopped hunting the animals. The same situations are true for other animals, like dear, but this argument is entirely independant of quail, which are not close to being endangered.

As to the gun control, I don't think that there is much of a problem with shotguns, not even a hunting rifle. A 7 year old kid would hardly be able to pick one up, much let shoot it. You get blown backwards from the force. If you want to talk about handguns, assault rifles, I understand, but if people make a case out of this for gun control they better know the facts, and at least seem knowledgable about guns. Otherwise their going to alienate the very same people their trying to convince.

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Greg Schmidt said...

No argument with Kyle on that last point - I just meant that this, in general, makes it hard to argue that guns are completely safe and that regulation is unnecessary, both substantively and symbolically. Substantively, it doesn't break much new ground: accidents happen with guns, and people occasionally get shot who weren't supposed to. Symbolically, this makes it trickier for Cheney and the Bush administration to argue that there's no problem with letting gun regulations lapse, because Dick Cheney himself is now the poster boy for accidental gun accidents.

Just to put this all in context: in 1985, Dick Cheney was one of only 21 members of Congress to vote against a ban on armor piercing "cop killer" bullets. In 1988, he was one of only 4 members who voted against a ban on plastic guns (the sort that can be smuggled onto airplanes). Though he's sought to publicly moderate his stance on gun control since 2000, in fall 2004 his administration let the Assault Weapons Ban expire. Obviously, none of these bills would affect what happens during a hunting expedition, but it reflects a general opposition to any regulation of guns, no matter how reasonable.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what exact set of policies I'd advocate here, but it strikes me that saying that this demonstrates that guns are dangerous, and occasionally lead to people getting shot inadvertently, is so obvious as to basically be a non-statement. Should that lead to more legislation? Maybe, maybe not.

But the current responses to any mention of gun control/gun safety regulation (Democrats say "oh no, don't talk about that, it'll make us unelectable" and Republicans say "you're just an elitist out-of-touch pansy-ass latte-drinking tofu-eating urban-dwelling blue state liberal") doesn't seem all that productive.

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

I'll concede that perhaps quail can only be hunted in this fashion (e.g. with a shotgun) but I won't concede that it's still morally wrong to kill them for sport (which includes extraneous hunting out of want as oppose to need). On the environmental issues, there are many powerful humans who are doing more to destory the environment than these animals. I'm not saying that you should kill these people but if your argument is for killing animals to save the environment, then there are "bigger fish to fry"; these fish usually sit on the board of large energy corporations and biochemical companies and are disrupting things like global weather patterns in ways that animals could never do.

The guy was knocked down and sent to a hosptial, Kyle. I've had friends shot with smaller caliber guns and not get knocked down and barely feel like they needed to go to the hospital. As you may know, not everyone who gets shot with a bullet immediately feels it especially if a number of other thoughts are taking up their attention (i.e. I have to get away, which direction is the shooting coming from, is anyone around me hit, etc.). Sounds strange but this is a reality. Also, as you yourself stated in your first comment, it didn't hit him dead on but only in the side. If he had been hit dead on, he'd be...dead.

As Chris Rock once infamously said, "Gun control? We need bullet control. I think every bullet should cost $5,000."

I'm still hoping that Harrington presses charges against Cheney despite that being a long shot (no pun intended).

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger Pyrrhus said...

"I'm still hoping that Harrington presses charges against Cheney despite that being a long shot (no pun intended)."

Don't you worry that this sort of statement makes you look like a partisan hack and diminishes your credibility as an objective commentator? Or do you embrace that?

I'm interested to know what a Pan-Africanist is. Maybe you could do a post on that?

 
At 1:05 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

A partisan hack? What party would that be in? If you've been paying attention to the blog I (and other writers) have continuously said that our posts are all our individual opinions. This is a blog and not a newspaper so objective pieces are never what we claim to publish.

A Pan-Africanist post, eh?...one day...

 
At 2:21 AM, Blogger kyledeb said...

Chip,

I think everyone's had enough of the gun talk, but I'm not going to let you get me on the environment. The interractions that define the biosphere are much more complex than you or I can understand enough to make general statements like the one you made above. Every situation is unique and complex requiring a well studied solution. I put forth the nutria argument as one in which hunting is actually a viable solution for both the wetlands and the creatures themselves, which as an invasive species would actually destory their own habitat. I could go much further into your bigger fish to fry generalization, but I'll just leave you with what I always say. If you think you know something about the environment, you don't know anything.

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

My knowledge of the environment suffices to make the claim that I made above about there being bigger fish to fry. As is the case with the auto industry, the millions of vehicles on the road today in the U.S. has led to disastrous levels of dangerous fumes in the air we breath or see (i.e. in Los Angeles). Additionally, companies like Harvard that until recently held vast amounts of timber throughout the nation and New Zealand to cut down and sell are destroying vast amounts of the natural habitat of untold numbers of species not to mention continuing to deplete our global, natural oxygen supply while the population rises. The effect of this over the next 20 or 30 years is easily evident. As another Black American comedian once said (maybe it was Cedric the Entertainer in "Kings of Comedy"), soon people are going to have to start paying for air (like we do for other naturally occurring things that have been commodified such as water or some types of food). As you know, I study Africa and its political history and theory and thus don't concentrate in Environmental and Public Policy as you do. You may tear me to shreds on this issue, but I know a little something.

On a whole 'nother note, the victim Harrington (the guy Cheney shot) had a mild heart attack today as one of the pellets from Cheney's shotgun has now entered his heart and become lodged there. Happy Valentine's Day indeed...

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

Oh...here's the link to the heart attack thing.

 
At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even when you're obviously wrong you don't admit it. So much for dialogue.

 
At 12:34 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

I have admitted where I might have been wrong in previous posts. As for this one, I don't see where I was wrong. Is it on the environmental benefits of hunting certain species superseding my "don't kill animals unnecessarily" stance?

 
At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JS, no offense, but your posts on this topic demonstrate a striking absence of knowledge about guns, hunting, agriculture, population control, and the environment. You also seem to lack common sense. It is impossible to read your comments, and the comments of Travis and Kyle, without coming to the conclusion that you are hopelessly and willfully ignorant.

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

No offense taken, of course (?!?)...

 
At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JS, I think you're absolutely right. If you're going to make the argument that hunting certain animals saves the environment, then there are definitely larger, more environmentally-crippling factors out there.


PS. tell your loser mentee punk, that he can never replace me.

 

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