A sampling of hunters and gun enthusiasts in interviews and in the blogosphere finds differing opinions about who was at fault in the Saturday shooting accident involving Vice President Cheney and Texas lawyer Harry Whittington.
Opinions — sometimes written in the upper case of high emotion — were available on the community blog forum of HuntingNet.com.
From blogger johnkeltgen: “They're making Cheney out to be innocent, like he did NOTHING wrong!!! Isn't it one of the BIGGEST rules of gun safety to be aware of your surroundings?!?! ... The vice president of the United States or not, Cheney screwed up! I've hunted quail, pheasant, grouse, and all matter of upland game and I've NEVER had a problem like this! I always know where my fellow hunters are and, if I don't, it is MY responsibility to NOT take a shot. Cheney was negligent, plain and simple.”
“How could this guy be in the line of fire and NOT be seen?!?! If something, or more importantly, someone were ANYWHERE in front of my shotgun, I think it'd be difficult to NOT see them!”
From the blogger Posted: “In all seriousness, he needs to take responsibility for this accident. ... he made a serious mistake in a sport where lack of awareness can mean the loss of someone's life. I'm not saying that I haven't made mistakes before and had close calls, but you can't lay the blame solely on the other guy. Maybe a little for not announcing himself, but nevertheless, Cheney is ultimately responsible for making sure his shot-path is clear.”
On the Web site of The Charlotte Observer, Scott Denham, an avid hunter and shooting instructor, commented: “One of the cardinal rules of any bird hunt: Don't shoot low birds. Why? It is more difficult to see birds against the ground than against the sky. ... This happened when Vice President Cheney shot his partner on Saturday evening.
Denham continued: “Cheney's hunting party broke several basic rules: too many in the hunt party; no dog, or at least not having the dog retrieve a downed bird ... shooting at a low bird and not being aware of the placement of his hunting party members.”
‘Kind of a 50-50 thing’
Other hunters and gun enthusiasts were split on who was responsible. Randy Simerly, owner of Accurate Arms & Reloading in Bonney Lake, Wash., said both Cheney and Whittington bore responsibility — Whittington for not making himself apparent, Cheney for firing without checking.
“It's kind of a 50-50 thing,” said Simerly, formerly a pheasant hunter. “It doesn't sound like either one of them was doing the right thing.”
On the trapshooters.com discussion board, comments were numerous:
“The guy who pulls the trigger is responsible for where the shot goes and what it does,” said Timb99. “Bottom line. It is the shooter’s responsibility to make sure he doesn’t shoot someone else, which is what happened here.”
On the same message board, Gargoyle disagreed: “It is my understanding that the other guy who got shot was out of place for the hunt. He fell behind and then came around Cheney and did not let him know where he was. One of the first things I was told was to let the other person know where you are at all times. You either wave to them to get their attention or you softly whistle. YOU DO NOT EVER WALK BACK IN WITHOUT LETTING OTHERS KNOW WHERE YOU ARE ... It was his fault and not Cheney's.”
Slide Action split the difference: “Sun light was fading some. Many hunting accidents happen at this time. While the final responsibility rests with the shooter, it is clear that the man who was peppered did not follow protocol and became separated from the group, then did not announce his presence when catching up to them.”
The quail hunting season in Texas ends Feb. 26.