Patiently awaiting the Golden Years

Please wear orange

By Randall Poulton | Nov 25, 2017

Unfortunately, I saw the tragic shooting death of Karen Wrentzel coming. The following story is in no way intended to exonerate the hunter, who apparently mistook a human being for a white-tailed deer, and shot Ms. Wrentzel. That action will remain an unimaginable horror for all involved. But it is intended as a commonsense, wake-up call to the non-hunters who spend time in the woods during November. Here is my story:

It was the opening day of the 2017 deer season. My son and I were bird hunting on state-owned land west of Bangor. We were miles from the nearest house. Our 9-month-old golden retriever, clad in an orange vest, was doing his best to find us a partridge. (Working a new bird dog is gratifying and has its funny moments but there will be no levity in this story — this is a serious wake-up call.)

Suddenly, our hunt was interrupted by two large husky-type dogs running through the woods. One dog is mostly white, the other brown and grey. After a minute or so we could hear people calling the dogs — calls the dogs largely ignored. So we walked toward the voices, and the dog owners quickly appeared. A youngish couple. She was wearing a brown barn coat. He was dressed in blue jeans and a grey sweatshirt. Not a speck of red or orange on either of them.

Once they get their deer-colored dogs somewhat under control, they asked us, “Are you hunting?” OK, I get that some people are ignorant, but to ask two men clad in florescent orange carrying long guns if we are hunting struck me as absurd beyond words. During the short conversation that followed, it became apparent that these two folks had no idea that it was hunting season. I do not know if it ever registered with them that their choice to hike in the woods, sans any orange clothing, was really dumb.

Later that day, upon further reflection, I knew we were in trouble; the behavior of these two people was very likely indicative of a whole new demographic. A cohort that is expert at “texting” but clueless about hunting (unless, of course, it involves a video game). Unfortunately, my concern was soon validated, and an innocent woman is now dead.

Karen Wrentzel, like the young couple with the deer colored dogs, was not wearing any orange clothing. Again, this in no way excuses the actions of the hunter who accidentally killed her. But, were Ms. Wrentzel wearing orange, she most likely would be alive today.

To hunters I say: Do not point your gun at something you do not want to kill. It is that simple. To non-hunters I say: Stay out of the woods during Maine’s four-week deer season or wear orange. Remember, you can safely enjoy the great outdoors 11 months of the year; November is a different story.

My guess is the couple we encountered would not walk down a road at night attired in dark clothing. A little common sense goes a long way, and the life you save could be your own. Wear white at night and orange in November. Oh, and put an orange collar on your dog!

This month’s did you know:

The recent mass murders will no doubt spawn another round of gun control debate. So, do gun control laws cut down on murders? Here is a case study: The city of Chicago (population 2.7 million) has mega gun control. For residents to get a license to carry from the State Police, they must complete a 16-hour training course, which includes a session on the shooting range where applicants must pass a competency test. Applicants are also subject to a criminal background check and must pay a $150 fee. Given this high bar for a license, guns are functionally illegal.

Yet Chicago has the highest murder rate in the United States. In September, there were more murders committed by firearm in Chicago (59) than people killed in the Las Vegas shooting (57). For the year, Chicago, a gun-free zone, will see well over 700 fatal shootings (not including suicides). By comparison, last year, Maine (population 1.3 million) recorded 16 homicides (I assume not all these murders were gun-related but I was unable to find a breakdown).

To summarize: adjusted for population, the murder rate in Chicago (a city with mega gun control) is about 30 times higher than in Maine (an open carry state). Think about that the next time you hear someone suggest more gun control laws will stop mass shootings.

And, once again, it seems the Texas Baptist Church shooter had a known history of both violence and mental illness. For example: A prior girlfriend called him “very sick in the head.” He had threatened his mother-in-law. He had been caught smuggling firearms onto Holloman Air Base after making death threats against military superiors. Unfortunately, the many red flags were missed or ignored.

Even then, had the Air Force followed the law, and properly reported that the church shooter had been court-martialed and found guilty for two charges of assault, it would have been at least more difficult for him to obtain his guns.

Lastly, my guess is little mention will be made of the fact that the church shooter would have killed even more innocent people if not for the heroic intervention by an armed citizen. The hero, Stephen Willeford (a former NRA instructor), risked his life to stop the carnage. After grabbing his own rifle, Willeford successfully shot and wounded the murderer, causing him to flee.

It bears repeating: the only person who can to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Randall Poulton lives in Winterport. He writes a monthly column for The Republican Journal.

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