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Voting allows sportsmen to exercise their greatest freedom

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- REGARDLESS OF their politics, this is a time when all sportsmen of voting age should be choosing candidates to vote for on Nov. 6.

We live in the freest nation in the world. We enjoy freedoms that people in other "free" countries don't.

Case in point: Citizens in Great Britain are allowed to own firearms, but only under certain restrictions. Following is Wikipedia's synopsis of that nation's gun laws:

"Except for Northern Ireland, fully automatic (submachineguns, etc.) and self-loading (semi-automatic) weapons of calibre larger than .22 rimfire are totally banned, pistols are limited to .22 calibre in short barrel, while calibres up to .357 magnum are allowed in long barrel pistols (of total length at least 60 cm).

"All other rifles and their ammunition are permitted with good reason, which may include target shooting, hunting, historic and black powder weapons, but not self-defence. Shotgun ownership and use is controlled, and even low-power air rifles and pistols, while permitted, are controlled to some extent.

"A firearms certificate issued by the police is required for all weapons and ammunition except air weapons of modest power (of muzzle energy not over 12 ft-lbf for rifles, and 6 ft-lbf for pistols). Shotguns with a capacity of three rounds or less (up to guns with a magazine holding no more than two rounds, in addition to one in the chamber) are subject to less stringent licensing requirements than other firearms; shotguns with higher capacity require a Firearms Certificate.

"Possession of a live firearms round can lead to severe penalties. Shotgun cartridges can be possessed by anybody over the age of 17 but a Shotgun Licence is required for purchase."

Here in the United States, we also have the freedom to hunt and fish on public and private lands. In Europe, hunting is largely for the well to do - people who can afford the exorbitant fees most landowners charge to hunt on their properties. In Europe, wildlife belongs to the person who owns the land on which the animals live.

Here in the U.S. and also in Canada, wildlife belongs to the public. Landowners are free to control the number of hunters they allow on their properties, but they don't own the wildlife. Management of game animals and other wildlife has been kept in the public trust.

We Americans are also free to enjoy shooting sports, and we're also free to invite our kids to enjoy them.

I hate to keep using Great Britain as a bad example, but folks over there have gone bonkers over "protecting" young people from firearms and the perfectly legal things adults are allowed to use firearms for.

Case in point: Earlier this year, in the months that led up to the 2012 London Olympics, the games' organizers created a program that provided 125,000 Olympic event tickets to British schoolchildren. The mayor of London raised a stink when he decreed that shooting-sports tickets would not be given to kids for fear of "encouraging young people to use guns."

The Brits' nanny-state tendencies reached an absurd new level recently when the country's largest magazine distributor barred the sale of hunting- and shooting-related magazines to anyone age 14 or younger.

As you might guess, animal-rights activists are behind this one. Animal Aid, Britain's equivalent to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, claimed the magazines' "lurid, pro-violence content" could have a "corrosive, long-lasting effect on impressionable young minds."

Thank goodness we haven't yet lost as many freedoms as have our friends in Great Britain and elsewhere throughout the world.

Voting gives us the ability to elect officials who will protect those freedoms and to fire those who don't. On Nov. 6, let's all go and exercise our most precious right - the right to vote.


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