Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is hunting an adult activity?

In class we discussed whether a child's conduct should be evaluated using the reasonable prudent person standard or a special standard that takes into account the child's age and other characteristics. Today I read a report on a case from a town in rural Pennsylvania where an 11 year old killed his dad's girlfriend. What I found interesting is that the kid reportedly used "a youth model 20-gauge shotgun — a gun designed to be used by young children." Take a moment to think about that sentence: "a gun designed to be used by children." Here is a link to the Orange County NY Shooters with a list of guns for children and take a look at how they make fun of those who claim there is something wrong with giving children a gun. Also, take a look here for a comment on a proposal in South Dakota to lower the legal age for hunting to 10.

If there are guns designed for young children (as there are snowmobiles, ATVs, and motorcycles), and if hunting is an activity that can commonly be done by minors, should we still be talking about "adult activities"?  Are there any activities that we can say are exclusively "adult activities"? 

Some jurisdictions have abandoned the terminology of "adult activity" and instead refer to "inherently dangerous activities".  In those jurisdictions, children engaged in inherently dangerous activities can be held to the standard of care that would apply to an adult.  But here is a question:  can an activity in which children participate using an instrument specifically designed for children be considered "inherently dangerous"?

If you think that the underlying policy behind the notion of "inherently dangerous" activities is that the activity is somehow "inappropriate" for children then the answer should be No.  But I think that inherently dangerous means something else.  I think we should think of the underlying policy as one related to the risk involved.  If the activity creates a high level of risk when children engage in it, then the child should be held to the standard of care of an adult.


Emily said...

I lived in San Antonio, TX, when I was in high school, so I'm familiar with this kind of "guns are a way of life" culture, and I have learned better than to argue with it, nor do I believe that hunting is never a valid bonding exercise for families. If done correctly, it can teach children about the responsibility of stewardship of the world around them (not that I hunt or ever have any desire to do so, I'm just saying it's valid argument).

However, while those who take their children hunting may or may not be able to make a valid argument that hunting is not a strictly adult activity, firing (or cleaning/carrying/loading/touching) a gun is undeniably an inherently dangerous activity, so children engaged in any activities involving guns should be held to an adult standard of care.

So, while I wouldn't necessarily argue that it is an "adults only" activity, I do believe that it is a dangerous activity and, therefore, children engaged in it should be held to a standard of care that is equivalent to the level of responsibility that using a gun entails.

Unknown said...

I think that in terms of policy, we need not look at the high level of risk created "when children engage in [the activity]." The activities that by some might be considered "adult activities" and by others as "inherently dangerous activities" are dangerous activities even when adults engage in them. I think that is what requires a child engaging in such an activity to be held to the standard of care of an adult.

Handling a firearm and driving a powerful motorized vehicle are inherently dangerous activities when adults engage in them and therefore the standard of care of an adult should be required of children engaged in them, even if the children are using equipment designed specifically for children.

On the other hand, swinging a baseball bat or golf club, downhill skiing, and similar activities create a high level of risk when children engage in them, but that is not to say the activities in and of themselves are inherently dangerous. Even though a high level of risk is created when children engage in these activities, the children should not be held to the standard of care of an adult.