For awhile in September, it looked like the Michigan Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs was finally going to get around to voting one way or another on a bill that passed the House in December 2003 that would lower the minimum hunting age from 14 to 12. Instead the bill was suddenly dropped off the committee’s schedule and it is once again in limbo.
The bill is almost certainly the victim of election year politics. Even in a state such as Michigan where hunting is very popular and even Democrats outside of Wayne County have to run on pro-gun positions if they want to get elected, lowering the hunting age to 12 might be an issue that many simply didn’t want to raise just a couple months before upcoming elections.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, for example, had indicated for most of the year that it supported the bill. When it was passed in the House in December 2003, then-DNR director K.L. Cool said of the bill,
We commend Rep. Tabor for this effort to increase youth participation in deer hunting. This bill provides increased hunting opportunities, helping to ensure the future of Michigan’s hunting heritage without jeopardizing our state’s outstanding hunting safety record or overwhelming our statewide network of volunteer hunting safety instructors.</p
The DNR suddenly changed its mind when the bill looked like it might actually make it to a committee vote in the Senate.
Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle opposes the bill, telling the Associated Press in September,
You have to be 16 to drive and 21 to drink. It just seems inconsistent and inappropriate to have 12-year-olds handling firearms and shooting animals for recreation.
The bill would require children who hunt to pass safety classes and be accompanied by an adult. The full text of the bill can be read here.
Youngsters may get OK to hunt. David Eggert, Associated Press, September 14, 2004.
2 Michigan issues on hunting making news. Steve Pollick, Toledo Blade, September 19, 2004.
Tabor critical of DNR decision. Press Release, Michigan Bear Hunters Association, September 17, 2004.
Hunting Age Limit Stalls in Legislature. Associated Press, September 2004.