In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of Americans to possess guns, I thought now would be an appropriate time to revisit a story I read on CNN.com a few months ago, about a 5-year-old boy who killed a bear while hunting with his grandpa. I remember being surprised at the time that there wasn’t more of a “national debate” on the subject.
The bear, weighing in at 445 pounds, was 12 times the size of little Tre Merritt, who, unsurprisingly, hailed from Arkansas County, Arkansas. After the successful hunt, which literally brought tears to his eyes, proud grandfather Mike Merritt had this to say to Arkansas’ KATV 7:
“His 10th great-grandfather was Davy Crockett. And Davy supposedly killed him a bear when he was 3. And Tre is 5 and really killed a bear. I really doubt if Davy killed one when he was 3.”
If you include Tre’s father and grandfather as generations, that works out to 12 generations dating back to 1807, when Davy Crockett’s eldest son was born, giving the Merritt family men an average breeding age of about 16.75 years — higher than I might have guessed.
It also wouldn’t be surprising to find out that Tre’s ancestors consider it a rite of passage for each child to make an attempt on Davy’s hallowed record, as Tre’s father apparently started teaching him to shoot when he was just 2 1/2 years old. In 2006, at the age of 4, Tre killed him three deer.
Mind you, KATV 7 and CNN.com, and many other media outlets were reporting this story like it was some great, newsworthy milestone that we should all be proud of. That seemed a little odd to me.
Not that I’m against hunting or guns, but I knew I couldn’t be alone in thinking that, as a society, we might want to question the wisdom of giving guns to 2-year-olds. Not to mention the wisdom of teaching 4-year-olds to slaughter deer.
So I decided to go back and see what kind of debate the story had generated in the intervening months. I went to KATV 7’s website, only to find that I could read just the two most recent comments without becoming a “member.” Thankfully, those two comments summed up both sides of the debate quite succinctly.
The second-most-recent comment eloquently stated the position of the right: “I thought this was a good story. He may be the youngest person, ever to kill a bear. I guarantee if he were my grandson or son, I would be very proud for him. I wanted to respond to some of the negative posters who don’t understand wildlife management, and don’t understand that hunting is a sport. This is just a good family story. For all you naysayers, and liberal idiots who don’t know better…………..GET A LIFE!”
The most recent response very rationally summed up the view of the left: “This is the most responsible (sic) thing I have ever seen. Teaching a boy to kill for sport at this age is criminal. He has not developed the sensibilities to take on such a responsibility. Shame on his parents and his grandfather. They have no idea what the psychological consequences of these actions will be in the future. Did the local officials issue a license to this child to hunt bear? Or is this not done in Arkansas County? Idiots.”
And they wonder why America can’t have a reasonable, levelheaded discussion about gun control.
The part that bothers me most, though, is that both sides are playing into this media-generated, liberal-versus-conservative, red-state-versus-blue-state crap.
The first guy sums up everyone who thinks giving guns to toddlers is a bad idea by calling them “liberal idiots who don’t know better.” That guy probably has no idea what the word “liberal” actually means, but he’s heard it on TV so many times by now that he knows it stands for any city-slicker jackass who disagrees with him.
And the second one, the more recent poster, is obviously buying into this outdated, snobby, elitist stereotype that everyone from the South is somehow an imbecile, which is not only untrue but also mean-spirited. That’s pretty stupid, though, considering I’d be willing to bet that the most recent poster hailed from the South themselves. I mean, just look at the way they referred specifically to Arkansas County rather than just the state. They wouldn’t write it that way if they weren’t also from Arkansas.
That, and — as one might expect from some uneducated hillbilly from the South — they wrote “responsible” when they meant to write “irresponsible.”