Hunters Understand the Need to Restore Responsibility to Firearm Ownership


By: Elliott Davenport, Jr.

Growing up in Tennessee, I always looked forward to the month of September. It officially marked the end of summer and the return of the school year, but for me, the highlight of fall in Tennessee has always been the opening weekend of dove season.

My great uncle and aunt would send letters to the scattered branches of our family, inviting everyone to their north Georgia farm to hunt. Receiving my personal invitation felt like a rite of passage into adulthood.

It was also an invitation that came with responsibility. Our family’s safety on these hunts was always the priority, something I learned early from my father and in the hunter safety education course that we all take to secure our hunting license.

So, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that the majority of hunters and sportsmen that I know in Tennessee and across the country support pragmatic changes in gun laws that keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, those who pose a threat to themselves or others, and children who may accidentally access and cause harm – unnecessarily ruining lives forever.

As a hunter, securely storing your firearms becomes second nature. Gun safes in the home should be a given – especially with kids or grandkids around. I appreciate the state legislature making those safes tax free this past August, and for providing free gun locks upon request. We unfortunately rank third in the nation for unintentional shootings by children, clear evidence that as gunowners, we need to do more to responsibly uphold this right.

No one wants felons, domestic abusers, or the seriously mentally ill to have access to firearms. Yet today, those individuals can easily purchase a firearm with no background check at a gun show or through private, often online, sales. The average time needed to complete a background check is less than five minutes and can be easily conducted at your local gun store. A law closing those gaps could be written while exempting close family, so passing down hunting rifles to future generations won’t require a background check. Very few people who have ever bought or sold a firearm believe the process would hinder legal gun sales.

Knowledgeable advocacy groups like Voices for a Safer Tennessee have found that universal background checks, secure storage requirements, and temporary transfer laws that temporarily remove firearms from those found by a court of law to be a danger to themselves or others, are all issues with strong bipartisan support in Tennessee. From my conversations with fellow hunters, I’d agree.

I’ve spent time educating myself about these approaches because as a hunter, I’m concerned our right to responsible firearm ownership is being overshadowed, and even leveraged, by those who are abusing this constitutional right to bear arms, and consequently making our communities less safe.

Hunting has always been a passion for me. When the pace of life gets too fast, being outdoors with a rifle or shotgun is an important way for me to recharge my batteries and center myself, and this is what responsible gun ownership in Tennessee is all about. Guns should never be the number one cause of death for children and teens, which is the case today in our state.

Policymakers, especially those from rural Tennessee, may be worried about a backlash from voters if they choose to support pragmatic firearm safety laws, but many would be surprised by how strongly the hunting community supports reform that prioritizes responsible firearm ownership. Hunters know they have a right to own a firearm, but also a responsibility to ensure they do so safely. Supporters of responsible gun ownership will likely find they have strong allies among Tennessee’s hunters.

Elliott Davenport, Jr is a lifelong hunter and Hamilton County, TN resident.