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February 22, 2023

California, New York Show Contrasts Cultivating Youth Hunting

By Joe Bartozzi

California and New York have among the nation’s strictest gun control laws. The governors of each state often brag about forcing even more restrictions on law-abiding gun owners rather than getting tough on criminals who ignore those laws.

Both states have bans on the nation’s most popular and commonly-owned semiautomatic rifle, the Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR). Both are in the legal spotlight for overstepping the Constitution and face a myriad of court challenges.

There is one area where the two states on opposite sides of the country couldn’t be more different and in the case of New York, it’s worthy of praise.

North’s Newest

For all the bad gun control legislation the New York state legislature rams through, they did pass a three-year youth hunting pilot program in 2021. The law allowed the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to create a county opt-in program allowing 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt deer with an experienced adult mentor in eligible areas of the state. It also required the DEC to study each of the three years of youth hunting and report back to the state legislature. The data from the recently concluded second year is back and it’s promising.

“Once again, DEC is hearing from families across the state who were thrilled to share their traditions of hunting and wildlife conservation with younger family members,” New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos reported.

After the recently concluded youth hunting season, surveys show good signs. More than 9,400 12-and 13-year-old hunters in New York, representing nearly 9,200 families, participated. Those youth hunters submitted more than 1,800 deer harvest reports, more than the first year of the program.

When the law passed, five downstate counties surrounding New York City were excluded and only Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz vetoed his county legislature in Upstate New York after they voted to allow the youth program. Poloncarz stated in his veto message that youth hunting presented an “inherent danger” citing sparse incidents of hunting accidents.

The data from DEC’s recent report, as well as other media reports about New York hunters’ exemplary record of safe hunting, make it clear the “inherent danger” Poloncarz feared is all for naught.

“DEC’s review of data collected also shows youth hunters followed safety guidelines and showed both respect for wildlife and their fellow hunters while afield. I’m proud to see that New York’s environment is in good hands with this next generation of environmental stewards,” Seggos remarked.

The next generation of New York hunters are flourishing and should be celebrated.

Worrisome West Coast

The situation in California could not be any more opposite or concerning for the future of hunting. Hunters are already the target of an anti-hunting, anti-science legislature that imposed a ban on the use of traditional lead-based ammunition. Forcing hunters to use more expensive and hard-to-find alternatives creates difficult economic hurdles for hunters, especially young hunters wanting to take up America’s greatest pastime.

Those obstacles aren’t enough for California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom who is constantly looking for more ways to attack the lawful firearm industry and the businesses supporting the exercise of the Second Amendment.

The most recent attack on the future of hunting in California came in the form of AB 2571, Gov. Newsom’s broadside on the hunting and shooting sports industry that imposes $25,000 civil fines on “firearm industry members” for advertising “any firearms-related product” in a way that could be seen as “appealing to minors.” He even deemed WEE1 Tactical’s “JR-15” .22-caliber youth learning rifle a “weapon of war” when he announced his bill. That legislation passed last year and the repercussions were immediate.

The California State High School Clay Target League saw the governor’s attack and couldn’t take the risk of continuing operation. “As a school-based activity serving students from 6th-12th grade, these provisions serve to outlaw the very name and existence of the California State High School Clay Target League,” the group posted on its website.

Again, safety had nothing to do with Gov. Newsom’s law, as the league’s president John Nelson told The Reload. “The League is the safest sport in high school. Over 1,500 schools across the nation have approved our program. Hundreds of thousands of students have participated, and there has never been an accident or injury.”

Gov. Newsom has faced legal challenges and fierce pushback on his crusade against youth shooting sports.

Cultivating a new generation of responsible, educated and safe hunters and recreational target shooters is critical to preserving the traditions of America’s greatest pastime.  It’s also crucial for educating young Americans in the lessons of conservation, responsible and law-abiding gun ownership and respect for the entire Bill of Rights. New York and California, even while passing strict and unconstitutional gun control laws, show what and what not to do to encourage these young Americans in their pursuits.

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