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Safe Holiday Hunting

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By Don Mallicoat –

For thousands of North Carolinians the holiday season is spent with family and friends not only celebrating the season. For many it a traditional time to spend time in the woods, fields, and on the water with friends pursuing their favorite game. With waterfowl season starting back up this past Saturday, and cold weather pushing birds south, many will spend time on lakes and in saltwater bays hunting ducks and geese. Just as safety is important in the deer stand, there are certain safety considerations when on the water for ducks. This is especially true during cold weather.

The Home from the Hunt™ campaign of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding waterfowl hunters who use boats to practice both boating safety and hunting safety. “Statistics show more waterfowl hunters die from hypothermia and drowning than gunshot wounds,” said Maj. Chris Huebner, the state boating safety coordinator. “Hypothermia is the loss of body heat and, left untreated, can prove fatal. Exposure to extreme cold, such as being in cold water or wearing wet clothes in cold conditions, can increase the chance of hypothermia.”

Wear protective clothing and watch the weather, he said. Let someone know where you are hunting and an approximate return time. Additional boating safety tips include: Always wear a life vest, don’t overload the boat, especially with passengers, keep hunting dogs prone in the center of the boat, never move about the boat with a loaded firearm, in the event of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat. Waterfowl hunters should handle shotguns in a safe manner. Be aware of muzzle direction at all times. Before starting to hunt make sure everyone knows their safe zone of fire. Never shoot while standing in an unsecured boat.

With Christmas just around the corner you may be thinking about giving a firearm to a family member as a gift. Here are some important things to remember when making that decision. As hunters, shooters, collectors or just plain plinkers, it’s a natural instinct to want to share our enjoyment of firearms with others. What better way to do that than to make a gift of a firearm to a family member, close friend or relative?

The first thing to remember if you’re thinking about giving someone a gun is that . . . it’s a gun! You already know that ownership of a firearm brings with it some serious legal and ethical obligations that other consumer products don’t. So let’s look at some questions you may have about giving a firearm as a gift.

The first question you have to ask is whether the intended recipient can legally own the firearm where he or she lives. More than 20,000 different gun laws on the books, even the kinds of firearms that law-abiding citizens can own vary from place to place; for example, juveniles (under age 18) generally speaking are precluded by law from possessing a handgun. Don’t forget that you can never under any circumstances transfer a firearm to someone you know — or have reasonable cause to believe — legally can’t own one. That’s a federal felony, so be careful.

Instead of buying the gun and giving it as a gift, consider purchasing a gift certificate from a gun dealer. That way he or she gets exactly the gun they want, and there’s no question about who is “the actual buyer of the firearm,” which is a question any purchaser must certify on the Federal Form 4473 at the time of purchase.

You can only ship a handgun by common carrier (but not U.S. Mail) and a long gun by U.S. Mail or common carrier to a federally licensed dealer but not to a non-licensed individual. With all carriers, federal law requires you to declare that your package contains an unloaded firearm. To be safe, always consult your carrier in advance about its regulations for shipping firearms.

What if you want to give your favorite old deer rifle to your son or daughter as a Christmas gift? Again, in most states, there’s no law that says you can’t, but some states require even interfamily transfers to go through a licensed dealer. Remember, you can never transfer a firearm directly to another person who is a resident of a different state. In that case, you must transfer the firearm through a licensed dealer in the state where the person receiving the gift resides. Be safe and check with your dealer or local law enforcement before you hand over your prized possession.

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