Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Wed, Feb. 26

Column: Shooting snakes, rats like bringing cannon to knife fight

Few things raise the hair on the back of your neck, and make you jump up and down, like a rat crawling up your pants leg.

That’s what happened to my brother one summer when we were visiting the family farm in Vernon, Texas.

We were about 17 and 12 (I’m the younger one) and had been exploring the barn. We found a nest behind some hay bales; I can still hear J.R.’s instructions: “I’ll hit ’em with this stick, and if they run shoot them with the shotgun.”

The stick, which was like a baseball bat, worked really well – only to stir them up. Holding the 16-gauge, double-barrel shotgun, which we had loaded with bird shot, I took aim at the scurrying critters only to hear my brother’s screams of “Don’t shoot. Oh, no, don’t!”

One or more had taken off toward him, and a sizeable rodent was making its way up the inside of his jeans. With the stick still in his hand, he started beating his legs.

Thankfully, the rat did not make it very high up his leg – and, well, died from the blows of the stick. J.R. nearly broke his shins from beating himself.

I have experienced similar fearful moments in my own barn. Years ago a rat had made its home under the alfalfa, and when I went at it with a rake it ran. Those little things are quick!

OK, like the farm in Texas, I live in a more rural part of the Prescott area. Thus, I was encouraged by reports that the state House has advanced a bill to allow city dwellers to kill snakes and rats without having to trap or bludgeon them to death.

Under House Bill 2022, they could fire a gun loaded with “rat shot’’ or “snake shot,’’ which are pellets smaller than grains of sand.

Not going to do it.

Allowing use of a gun for this will lead only to problems. I would not want to accidentally shoot those around me. And that rural area I live in? I am still within a quarter mile of nearby homes and neighbors’ livestock. Imagine gun use allowed in some of our more urban neighborhoods, where you could hit any number of houses by throwing a rock.

That’s why we have “Shannon’s Law,” the statute approved in the wake of the death of 14-year-old Shannon Smith, who died when she was hit by a bullet fired into the air. These bills would amend that law, enacted in 2000.

I agree with the bill’s critics that snakes are not a nuisance. You just have to know how to manage them. As for the rodents, I favor traps and other methods. A gun, even loaded with snake shot, is like bringing a cannon to a knife fight.

Further, another bill (HB 2287) was advanced one week ago by the House Judiciary Committee to legalize “criminal negligence’’ in discharging a weapon within a city. If it becomes law, the state could not prosecute people who have “accidents’’ with their guns.

Folks, I support the Second Amendment, but this is overkill (no pun intended) and government overreach.

Now, if you can teach me how to dispatch groundhogs – let me know. Still, I don’t want anything crawling up my leg.

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