Babies Issued Gun Licenses After Minimum Shooting Age Eliminated By Wisconsin Law

By Linley Sanders, Newsweek 

Babies have a lot to master, including crawling and talking—and now, some are even preparing for hunting season before they are able to walk.

There were 10 hunting licenses sold to babies in Wisconsin in November, just two weeks after the state eliminated its minimum hunting age. Overall, more than 1,700 gun hunting licenses were purchased for children ages 9 and under, including about 50 for those under 5, according to the Associated Press. As of Sunday, there were eight deer kills registered to children under 5, but it is unclear whether the youngsters actually shot the animals.

The shooting allowance comes through the state's mentored hunting law, which allows anyone to hunt—without completing an education course—as long as the individual is accompanied by a licensed hunter. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said the licenses "remove barriers" to hunting and allow veteran hunters to "pass on their passion for the outdoors."

Other Republican-led states, including Kansas and New Hampshire, have similar laws, and some parents purchase hunting licenses for babies and use them as keepsakes, according to the AP.

Representative Katrina Shankland, a Wisconsin Democrat, said the law is concerning because children are not always able to focus on instruction or understand the potential dangers of guns. A 2017 study in the medical journal Pediatrics showed that an average of 5,790 children receive emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year in the United States, and around 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional.

"To allow...a toddler, a 2-year-old [to carry a gun], and I'm not being hyperbolic because someone will allow it, is dangerous," she told the AP. "Other hunters in the woods are not going to choose to get hurt by a child with a rifle."

There were seven nonfatal hunting incidents reported during Wisconsin's opening hunting weekend, but no reported incidents involving children.