As the nation grapples with the tragedy of Sandy Hook, our complicated relationship with firearms is on everybody’s mind. As if things weren’t already distressing enough, my quiet little town has recently been touched by gun violence, too. The victims, this time, have been animals. 

A Lyons, Colorado family is reeling from the brutal slaying of their pet miniature donkey named Kaitlin. According to police reports, early in the morning on Dec. 21 someone with a long range high-powered rifle stopped somewhere along a rural road and shot at two miniature donkeys who had probably, being curious and friendly, wandered closer to get a look at the stranger. Kaitlin was hit in the neck and chest and was killed. Her brother, Tucker, was frightened by the noise of the gun and ran back to the barn. When Tucker’s human saw him in the barn alone, she knew something was wrong because the sibling donkeys were inseparable. After searching the property, she found Kaitlin’s body.

I feel immensely sad for the human owners who have lost their friend. But what is even more heartbreaking about this event is the impact on Tucker. He and his sister had never been more than twenty feet apart, for their whole six years of life. Since Kaitlin’s death, Tucker has been in mourning. After the owners brought Kaitlin’s body up near the barn, Tucker stood watch over Kaitlin’s body until her owners took the body away. Since then, Tucker has been wandering aimlessly around the property.

I have to think the person wielding the gun was deranged. Why else would someone shoot at an innocent pet? Oh… but now I remember: We live in a nation where shooting animals is seen as sporting and macho.

On this note, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals this week called for Obama to stop justifying hunters’ gun violence against animals. In a letter to Obama and Joe Biden, the executive vice president of PETA took issue with Obama’s statement that “the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible—they buy their guns legally, and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.”

The letter says, among other things: “As the mother of a child in elementary school, I cannot imagine telling my son that killing for fun is wrong when the victim is a human but perfectly acceptable when the target is a member of another species, say, a deer or a dove. Children must be taught that all gun violence is wrong, no matter how different from them the victim appears to be.” I don’t always agree with PETA, but in this case, I must say that they make a good point.

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