We understand the sentiment driving legislation to increase penalties for hunters who accidentally kill someone.
When someone dies in an accident, the human tendency is to want to do something.
The key is whether the something is preventive or punitive.
Missouri senators have endorsed a punitive measure that would allow the Conservation Commission to impose a 10-year suspension of hunting privileges for a hunter who accidentally kills someone. Commissioners now can suspend privileges for up to five years.
The increased sanctions were proposed by Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, prompted by the death of a constituent's husband in a hunting accident.
If an accident is caused by negligence, carelessness, intoxication, etc., the punishment should fit the severity of the offense.
But, sometimes, accidents happen - in homes, on highways and in the woods.
Safety instruction, awareness and preparation help prevent accidents.
That's why we emphasize hunter safety courses, avoiding distracted driving or practicing home fire drills.
Hunters don't intend to injure other hunters.
Anyone involved in an accidental death will be haunted forever by the incident, constantly questioning what could or should have been done differently - even though no fault or blame exists.
Legislative action to intensify safety education and avoid accidents is preferable to sanctions imposed after the fact.
If lawmakers want to do something, we urge enhanced prevention, not increased punishment.