By Hilary Hanson
Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled state Assembly has passed a bill that would get rid of minimum age restrictions on hunting as long as a child is accompanied by an adult who follows certain rules, the Associated Press reported on Friday.
Right now, minors in Wisconsin must be at least 14 years old to hunt alone, a spokesperson with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources told HuffPost. Children aged 12 and 13 can hunt with a parent or guardian if they have obtained a hunting safety certificate.
And kids who are 10 or 11 years old can hunt without completing a safety course if they are taking part in “mentored hunt.” That means they’re accompanied by an adult who has a hunting license and the pair follows certain rules, like the child only being able to hunt within an arm’s reach of the mentor.
But Assembly Bill 455 would remove any age restrictions from mentored hunters, meaning that children younger than 10 could participate. Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland warned that the measure would let “a toddler, a two-year-old” carry a gun, posing a major risk to other people in the woods.
While the bill has received a lot of attention on social media, Wisconsin is far from the first state to introduce such legislation. The AP notes that 34 other states already have no minimum hunting age, according to the Wisconsin Hunters’ Rights Coalition.
“We’re returning the choice to the parent,” the bill’s author, Republican Rep. Rob Stafsholt, told reporters on Friday, boasting that he could handle a .22 caliber rifle at 8 years old.
Parents in the state are very split on the measure, local news station WBAY reported.
“I think we’re losing sight of why the original law was put into place. It was put into place to protect children,” Joe Slattery, who opposes eliminating the minimum age, told the station.
But another parent, Jordan Schuld, said he believes parents are able to judge their own children’s limitations. However, he said that on a mentor hunt, he still thinks the adult and child should only have one weapon between them.
The state Senate will likely vote on the bill Tuesday, and it would need to be signed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) in order to become law.
Wisconsin previously loosened its age restrictions on hunting in 2009, when it became legal for kids aged 10 and 11 to hunt with a mentor. Before that, children had to be at least 12 years old to hunt with adult supervision.