Anti-Hunters Should Face Legal Consequences For Online Threats

   In response to growing concerns over cyber-bullying, Colorado recently passed and enacted anti-bullying statutes.  The laws make it an offense to harass or threaten a student (the law came into effect under Title 22 of the Colorado Revised Statutes under education policies) over the internet.  While the legislation’s advocates used stories of middle school teasing to advance the measures through the legislature, can we expect these laws to have far reaching impacts to other bully situations outside of education?

   Every year hunters and outdoorsmen are attacked and vilified over the internet for posting pictures of their latest hunts.  The attacks are not peaceful protests of a differing world view, but rather take on the tone of actual threats of physical and emotional harm.  This year was Cecil the Lion’s hunter, Walter Palmer (who, we should note, was found to NOT be in violation of any hunting laws during his hunt).  Last year was Kendall Jones, the Texas Tech cheerleader famous for her African safari hunts.  That particular situation escalated rapidly, including one animal rights advocate ponying up a cash reward for nude photos of the hunter to post on social media.  Hunting world staples like Eva Shockey endure hatred and threats on an almost daily basis from uneducated anti-hunters. 

   Regardless of how you feel about hunting, it is a legal activity engaged in by millions of American citizens every year.  I could wax about the benefits that hunters have had on animal restoration and habitat conservation for, literally, days.  I could give you hard data, numbers, studies, and overwhelming evidence that hunters are the largest group of true conservationists on the planet.  However, the discussion here turns on the legality of the activity and not its worldwide benefits.  For the time being, hunting is not only legal, but a state-encouraged activity. 

   The Supreme Court recently weighed in on the topic of internet threats (Elonis v. US, 2015) and merely muddied the water on what qualifies as a threat issued over the internet that is punishable by law.  The overwhelmingly vague and unclear decision centered on theories of “recklessness” vs. “negligence” and what mental state a person who makes the threats must have when making them.  Having remanded the case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a new decision from them may answer the questions posed by the high court.  The trouble for hunters, is that Facebook has overwhelmingly decided that threats of harm to hunters that use its site are not at all concerning.

Dallas Safari Club posted this photo of the comment they reported after it was posted on their page and the response they received from Facebook regarding the threat.

Facebook's response to a page calling for the senseless murder of a hunter being reported

Facebook's response to a page calling for the senseless murder of a hunter being reported

   In point of fact, the Dallas Safari Club, at the height of the Cecil Hysteria received an actual terroristic threat.  When the group reported the threat to Facebook, the company responded that those particular words did not violate the company’s “community standards.”  The post was eventually taken down after DSC posted the picture of their response. Additionally, the page, “Kill Kendall Jones,” was left up after being reported several times and only taken down after significant public backlash.  It is beyond ludicrous that this behavior is tolerated and even accepted as the standard response to hunters in the world today. 

   What message do those anti-hunting advocates that threaten to maim/kill/rape/torture/skin/hunt/decapitate hunters (all actual threats issued by thousands of individuals) via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts send to their kidsThis person does something I disagree with, therefore it is ok to threaten their lives and make them feel unsafe in their own home.  Is that really the community standard we strive for? That’s how we want our middle and high school aged children handling disputes or people with different world views in their school?  If you think that your child will NOT use the post you made on a hunter’s Instagram picture about how you would “love to come and hunt and kill you and your whole family because hunting is disgusting" to justify why he constantly teased and shamed his overweight, nerdy, or shy classmate on social media, you’re absolutely kidding yourself. 

As an attorney and avid outdoorsman I would welcome the opportunity to hold an anti-hunter accountable for any outrageous threats made towards a fellow outdoorsman or woman.