A former restaurant critic turned social analyst named Frank Bruni has taken on hunting in today’s New York Times. Mr. Bruni doesn’t think much of it, or of hunters, or of guns. Mr. Bruni went to a “bird preserve,” where they raise game fowl as though they were chickens, and then release them by the hundreds for well-heeled customers. Mr. Bruni notes that, although is is a “lousy shot,” he bagged a partridge. “I killed,” he writes.
Mr. Bruni describes his foray into the wild thus:
…many of the birds weren’t so quick to use their wings. We would be within inches of one of them before it fluttered skyward, and it would be maybe 20 feet away when one of us took our shot.
Mr. Bruni, you did not go hunting. You may as well slip on some ice on the sidewalk and say you went skiing. So-called “preserves” are regarded by most hunters as little more than outdoor slaughterhouses. How would you react if someone told you they were conversant with haut cuisine because they once ate at a restaurant that “had tablecloths and everything?”
Mr. Bruni also has little use for fine firearms.
I had never used a firearm before, not even on a shooting range, and understood the allure instantly. My 12-gauge semi was black, sleek, elegant and Italian-made, as much an accessory as an instrument of death. The Vinci, it’s named, as in Leonardo da, the “Renaissance inventor, artist and thinker who shattered the technological boundaries of his world,” according to the Web site of the manufacturer, Benelli. This is how thoroughly a weapon can be romanticized and fetishized, as if it were a Rolex. As if it were a shoe.
Perhaps Mr. Bruni is under the impression that hunters nuzzle their weapons lovingly in secret and apart, stroking them and cooing in tender tones. Or perhaps Mr. Bruni just really likes shoes. In any event, he finds the concept of a beautifully-crafted firearm a form of perversion, ludicrous as a diamond choker on a gekko.
Yet Mr. Bruni, prior to his elevation from hashhouse commentary to the editorial page, was chiefly noted for his paeans to concoctions of eggs and air called souffles, prose poems about the mystical complexities of spoiled fruit juices and detailed descriptions of food emporia charging upwards of $100 or $200 per head without even throwing in the booze. Perhaps some people found this silly, disproportionate and more than a little redolent of Marie Antoinette. If they did, Mr. Bruni regarded them as Philistines, and quite rightly so. There is a place in this world for fine food and drink, and it would be a poorer life without them.
But hunting? Well, Mr. Bruni’s real objection is its place in the current national debate about guns:
Hunting is always coming up when the country is debating new restrictions on firearms, as we are now. Opponents of such basic gun-control measures as universal background checks and an assault-weapons ban talk of slippery slopes and raise the specter of parents’ being unable to lend shotguns to their children for a wholesome duck or deer hunt. They assert the importance to hunters of certain semiautomatics that might be prohibited. And it’s hooey.
This is classic misdirection. Mr. Bruni narrow s the gun control discussion to the hunting aspect, and since hunting is in no danger from background checks and national registries, why then, obviously we should have background checks and national registries. This is what happens when you take food critics and give them guns.
Mr. Bruni further notes that
the popularity of hunting has generally declined over the last four decades. According to a survey by the Fish and Wildlife Service, only 13.7 million Americans 16 or older hunted in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available. That’s in a country of more than 313 million people.
Thirteen million people seem like a lot to me — it’s more than the population of Florida, Illinois, or Pennsylvania, and a lot more than the populations of Greece, Sweden or Switzerland, but I don’t hear Mr. Bruni saying that we should throw Pennsylvania’s delegates out of the Congress or refuse to recognize Swiss passports.
Mr. Bruni concludes:
It was impossible for me not to be nervous around guns, even with Seamus [his host at the “preserve”] patiently teaching me and repeatedly urging vigilance. He’s 38 and has hunted on and off since his teens. I asked him if more stringent gun control would cramp his and other hunters’ style.
“A totally bogus argument,” he said without hesitation or elaboration,
There you have it. Seamus says so, and I guess that’s that. Mr. Bruni has given us the equivalent of a rube walking into a museum and cackling at the Picassos, not even dimly aware of the dunce’s hat he has just donned — a not uncommon fault of op-ed folks at the Times, to be sure, but irritating still.
And as for “bogus arguments,” Mr. Bruni’s stands almost without peer. It’s not about hunting, Mr. Bruni. It’s about being hunted.