On Monday, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported on the ongoing problem of potentially dangerous target shooting going on in the Hyalite drainage area near Bozeman. After months of research, a temporary ban, and a public comment period, the Forest Service decided to permanently ban shooting to protect other people using the area for recreation and the environment, both of which were threatened by irresponsible shooting.
Despite the opportunity for people to comment, despite the research and work done by the Forest Service, and despite the feelings of many in the area, including gun enthusiasts, Congressman Zinke jumped immediately into demagogue mode, writing and promoting a letter on behalf of his “infuriated” constituents that this research-based decision would somehow create the potential for a slippery slope leading to reduced use of public lands. On Facebook, he went a step further, dishonestly suggesting that the public was not given the opportunity for input and arguing that this limited decision somehow threatens our entire legacy of hunting and fishing.
Incidentally, it’s hard to square Zinke’s claim that the decision was made “without input” when the Forest Service asked for comment and the Chronicle reported that they received 200 comments on the issue, one the Forest Service has been working on for at least three years.
That’s Ryan Zinke in his purest form: demonizing government officials in a climate where they already face hostility from the kind of extremists he promotes, lying that the public wasn’t involved, and unironically invoking a massive logical fallacy to scare voters that a reasonable decision can only end in the destruction of hunting and fishing. It’s always politics; it’s always about Zinke angling to cover for his own weak record on public records and the Second Amendment; it’s always laughable hyperbole that not only doesn’t seek solutions, but makes them less likely. Polarizing rhetoric might generate more successful fundraising appeals for the tiny percentage of Zinke’s voters who are from the state, but leadership it is not.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. The majority of the comments on the Chronicle site, from gun enthusiasts and local residents, make it clear that Zinke’s barking doesn’t represent them. They note that the “vast majority want a safe, quiet recreation area and the density of use precludes safe target practice” and that “Hyalite is the absolute worst place for one in southwest Montana.” The Forest Service didn’t come to this decision lightly; instead they looked at the danger of continuing to allow unregulated target shooting in such a heavily used area and decided it wasn’t sensible to just, as Zinke argues, “make human life a priority,” but the priority.
In contrast with Zinke’s bombast, Denise Juneau responded like someone who will represent the state and not herself would, offering simple logic and the spirit of compromise instead of bluster. From the Chronicle again:
Zinke is up for reelection this year. His Democratic opponent, Denise Juneau, said in an emailed statement that the Forest Service should “find new opportunities for target shooting to ensure that Bozeman sportsmen and women can fully enjoy the outdoors.”
It’s such a refreshingly adult response. In a political word increasingly defined by the childish tantrums of man-children who see every disagreement as a reason for inflammatory rhetoric only limited by their fevered imaginations and limitless ambitions, isn’t it nice to imagine being represented by someone who simply suggests we look for a solution that can make as many parties as possible happy? And actually protect human lives while doing it? Call me crazy, but I’m more than ready for someone like that to represent us in Washington.
I’m incredibly excited that someone like Denise Juneau is making this run, one that’s leading Congressman Zinke to an increasingly negative tone in his out-of-state funded advertisements. I’m most excited about it because I know, if elected, Congresswoman Juneau will work for solutions for Montana, not continue the cynical ploy for attention that has characterized Congressman Zinke’s tenure in office.