Coming to a game reserve near you: Blind hunters   

Updated: May 14, 2007

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Federal law states legally blind people can't drive a car, truck or motorcycle.

I say, stop the lunacy!

I say, stop the prejudice!

I say, it's time for a change!

I say, Edmund Kuempel for president!

Yes, ol' Eddie Kuempel, the longtime representative from Texas District No. 44. Late last year, while other members of our government were chewing on such insignificant issues as, oh, Iraq, national defense, tax cuts and social security, the Austin Assassin (as Kuempel is called by, well, me) was busy tackling a problem that has plagued this nation since the day Washington crossed the Potomac:

Blind hunters.

Or, to be specific, how do we find more of them?

In a world where circus elephants stand on 3-inch stools and Wang Chung recently re-recorded its hits, Kuempel believes an America in which the legally blind cannot fire off slugs into a deer esophagus (or, in the case of blind hunters, within 500 feet of a deer esophagus) is an incomplete America. Kuempel has a dream, you see, that one day he will live in a nation where the blind will not be judged by the insufficiency of their retinas, but by the content of their meat bags. That's why, in December 2006, he filed a bill that would permit legally blind hunters (who, amazingly, are already allowed to file for hunting licenses in the state of Texas) to use laser sights, or lighted pointing instruments.

It read as so:

    80(R) HB 308 -- Introduced version
    BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
    SECTION 1. Section 62.005, Parks and Wildlife Code, is amended to read as follows: Sec. 62.005. HUNTING WITH LIGHT. Except as provided by Section 62.0055, no [No] person may hunt a game animal or bird protected by this code with the aid of an artificial light that casts or reflects a beam of light onto or otherwise illuminates the game animal or bird, including the headlights of a motor vehicle.

    SECTION 2. Subchapter A, Chapter 62, Parks and Wildlife Code, is amended by adding Section 62.0055 to read as follows: Sec. 62.0055. HUNTING WITH LASER SIGHTING DEVICE BY LEGALLY BLIND HUNTER. (a) In this section, "legally blind" has the meaning assigned by Section 62.104, Government Code. (b) A legally blind hunter may use a laser sighting device during regular hunting hours when assisted by a person who is not legally blind. (c) The legally blind hunter must carry proof of being legally blind.

"This," Kuempel said, "opens up the fun of hunting to additional people, and I think that's great."

Great is a relative term. Picnics on sunny days are great. Styx with Dennis DeYoung was great. Mint ice cream is great. "The Cable Guy" was great. Handing a rifle to a blind person and yelling, "Pull the trigger! The possum's over there! Nooooo -- over there!" is, eh, not so great.

Thing is, despite Texas being home to more executions than any other state (they have 12 of the 14 total carried out in the U.S. in 2007 to date) and, until the Supreme Court stepped in a few years back, anti-sodomy laws, there was no reason to believe HB 308 would pass.

Think about it. What type of sane lawmaker would endorse a bill encouraging the blind to hunt? Wouldn't the citizens be enraged? Wouldn't parents complain that it seemed a wee bit -- what's the word? -- unsafe for the kiddies?

Wouldn't the NRA release a statement saying, "Even we're not this crazy"?

Um, no.

Last month, HB 308 not only passed in the state house -- it passed with flying colors. "Look at it this way," says Kuempel, a gregarious sort who, in his defense, seems to represent the desires of his constituents. "We've never had an accident in this state involving a blind hunter. This is not just a sport for those with sight. You have to use all the senses."

In his job, a man like Kuempel surely uses all his senses (medical note: brain waves do not constitute a sense), and that's why I'm already envisioning brighter days for America. With a Kuempel-Heston administration ruling the White House, mute people across the land will be allowed to sing "Cosė fan Tutte" at the Metropolitan Opera. The deaf will scream, in one unified voice, "I believe you to be a tad off key!" The bald people who have long been denied can walk into any barbershop and say, with utmost confidence, "Perm it up."

Most important, the wholesome sport of hunting will be available to all.

Slightly psychotic? Shoot an elk! Out on bail? Shoot a bear! Convinced aliens are roasting cashews in your left cranial lobe? Shoot a fox! Hell, shoot six of 'em! Oh, and bring your Uzi.

This is not about hunting. This is not about blind people.

This is about the United States of America -- land of opportunity for all.

And on the first day of the next hunting season, I fully expect Edmund Kuempel to roam the woods of Austin or Goliad or Odessa with his new blind friends, basking in the freedom he has afforded them and bellowing, "Squirrel!" at the top of his Texas twang.

Just one bit of advice: Duck.

Jeff Pearlman is a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and the author of "Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero", now available in paperback. You can reach him at anngold22@gmail.com.


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