While the nation worries about gun safety education, the NASC is trying to scrap it for beginning hunters.
And while the nation tries to mentor children academically, NASC is trying to mentor them in hunting.
The new proposed laws are part of the NASC's Families Afield initiative to fight the declining number of hunters--there were two million less hunters in 2004 than 1982--by making it easier for young hunters to pick up the sport. Specifically the laws repeal regulations that prohibit children from hunting until they're 12 and have passed a hunter safety course--barriers to hunting NASC calls them.
Similar youth hunting laws have sailed through 13 other state legislatures--fast tracked by the many hunting groups that comprise NASC--and are in the works in 21 more.
Besides lowering the hunting age, Families Afield legislation legalizes "apprentice" hunting licenses--the apprentice can hunt under the direct supervision of a licensed adult hunter before completing hunter safety training--effectively putting "training back into the hands of Uncle Joe," charges hunter safety instructor Dave Dalton in the Detroit Free Press.
And new hunters?
"I lost my son for about six years to a little red sports car and blond girls," laments William J. Klein, a backer of Pennsylvania's Families Afield legislation and supervisor for the Ruffed Grouse Society. "They hit 17, 18, they'd rather go to a football game than go out hunting."
It's less easy to see why hunting should be kept alive.
Though State Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) author of Wisconsin's eight-year-old hunter bill and a gun shop owner denies it--"We're not doing this for money. This is about getting kids involved in hunting at a younger age [so they] participate for the rest of their lives"--most admit Families Afield legislation is about the money.
"We need this law because for every 100 hunters who retire, only 62 take up the sport," said Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell at a ceremonial signing of Families Afield legislation at the Pitcairn-Monroeville Rod and Gun Club in Allegheny County. "If this trend continues, our ability to manage wildlife will be severely affected and Pennsylvania's economy will suffer."
("Controlled" or canned hunts of hand raised, tame birds are so lucrative, New York State even enlists area youth to raise pheasant chicks for them.)
But there's also good old American values.