Friday, April 23, 2021

We must be vigilant!

| December 31, 2020 12:00 AM

2020 has been a tumultuous year with the pandemic, violent protests and riots, very bitter national and state-wide elections, and lots of natural disasters.

We, who live in Montana, have been largely spared from most of those disruptions to our daily lives. Only the pandemic and elections have impacted our beloved outdoor life style.

The projected blue wave or Democratic capturing of the most important political offices did not take place, except for the most important political office, the presidency.

In Montana, it was a red or Republican wave that captured all the key elected positions. Republicans also strengthened their majorities in both the state House and Senate.

From the perspective of Montana citizens that love to recreate in the outdoors, especially fishing and hunting, we are lucky to have a new governor, Governor-elect Greg Gianforte, who is a real hunter and fisherman.

That will likely mean a new Director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Helena and a shakeup of its top administrators. I believe we will see a change in FWP management that will mean more fish in the creel, and deer and elk on the landscape.

I see nothing wrong with that.

In recent years we’ve seen FWP management digress from their traditional role of providing for more game fish and game animals to what is termed “holistic” wildlife management including critters such as bats, voles, prairie dogs and left-footed meadow mice.

It is hunting license and fishing license revenues, plus associated federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear, that fund most FWP operations.

I don’t mind paying more for my licenses if that means more fish to catch or elk to pursue. But I don’t want my elk license dollars used to fund bat research.

FWP funding and FWP management should be like highway funding and management. I don’t mind paying more gas tax at the gas pump because that means better roads.

FWP should follow the same funding and management concept.

On the national basis, the democratic capture of the White House will likely mean more federal efforts to implement more gun controls. For those of us that own multiple guns for hunting and self-protection, that could be a problem.

Our new President and many of his supporters ran on platforms that include more gun controls for law-abiding citizens. They believe that fewer guns will mean less gun violence.

Citizen gun ownership in America is guaranteed by the second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There is no definitive tally of gun ownership in the United States. But most authorities estimate there are over 100 million guns owners in America with an estimate of at least 300 million firearms. Some gun authorities estimate that the actual number of guns may be 400-600 million.

Ammunition ownership is likely in the trillions of rounds. Wow, that’s a lot of fire power!

A recent letters to the editor in the Daily Inter Lake suggested that the Second Amendment right of gun ownership only pertained to ownership of firearms as members of a Militia. That writer said that Second Amendment of gun ownership was never intended for self-protection.

I disagree. No one would disagree that freedom of speech, freedom to peaceful assembly and freedom of the press are very important rights. But what can be more important than the right to protect yourself, your family and your property?

Self-protection has to probably be the most basic of all human rights.

But some light on gun rights can be taken from Montana’s 1972 Constitution. Section 12 is labeled as the Right to Bear Arms. “The right of any person to keep or bear arms in defense of his own home, person and property…shall not be called in question.” Later in the Montana Constitution, “Section 13, Militia. (2) The militia forces shall consist of all able-bodied citizens of the state except those exempted by law.”

So, it seems that virtually all able-bodied Montana citizens have a right to bear arms as militia members. So, the right to own and keep firearms for self-protection and hunting seems solidly protected.

As a further protection, we now have a very conservative U.S. Supreme Court that seems ready to protect all our constitutional rights.

Overall, I believe our right to hunt, fish and keep firearms is very safe in 2021.

But we have to be ever vigilant!