Wisconsin prof. thinks hunters should voluntarily register guns

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Should hunters voluntarily register their hunting rifles with wildlife agencies? A Wisconsin professor thinks so. (Dave Workman photo)

A professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and an accomplished hunter in this country and in Sweden, where he was a guest professor, thinks American hunters should voluntarily register their hunting firearms to “distinguish us from other gun owners, not in words but in deeds.”

We would be taking the first step toward universal gun registration by registering our hunting firearms,” Prof. Thomas Heberlein admitted. “Non-hunting gun owners who want to prove that they are responsible might want to join the hunting registration system.”

He proposed this move in a piece published Aug. 8 at Vox.com, based on his experiences with the Swedish system.

We reached out to Heberlein via e-mail. He replied that he has received “about 50 e-mails in response” and that “about 25 percent are favorable.” He noted “Strong support from individual hunters in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Washington, Missouri and Ohio.”

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On the other hand, he added that, “There are a number from (Second Amendment) supporters who don’t like the idea. But the Second Amendment doesn’t deal with hunting.”

Heberlein was a guest professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies. According to a brief biography, he now “divides his time between Sweden and Wisconsin.”

Heberlein candidly acknowledged that self-registration may not save lives. His point is that registration “could lead gradually to requiring safe storage by locking all hunting guns in gun vaults.”

“That would prevent tragedies in our own homes,” he asserted, “which does mean saving lives. Ask the hunter who has lost a child to an accident or horseplay with an unsecured rifle or handgun.”

The professor’s essay describes how a couple of longtime hunting buddies are no longer welcome at his hunting camp in Wisconsin due to some carelessness with firearms.

“But in my hunting camp,” he explained, “gun rights don’t exist — just gun responsibilities.” 

He also talked about the strict requirements for getting a hunting license in Sweden. His explanation was confirmed independently by another American citizen who has lived for many years in Sweden, and is also an accomplished hunter.

Heberlein also noted that registration “won’t make hunting any safer – hunting will be just as safe whether the gun is registered or not.”

“But,” he added, “it will signal to the vast majority of Americans who support responsible gun ownership that we hunters are willing to make a visible step as responsible gun owners.”

His e-mail amplified this, observing, “My argument is that hunters are essentially ‘responsible’ gun owners and by registering their hunting firearms with their wildlife agencies (which is easy to do) they essentially establish this in the public eye.”


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