Kevin Lake admits that he’s rabidly anti-gun and summed up his views on hunting as such: “It always seemed that only uncaring bad guys would go out and shoot Bambi’s mother.”

Lake is chairman of the Conservation Commission for the city of Northampton, Mass., a town with a tiff brewing over whether city-owned conservation lands should be open to hunting.

The topic has made the normally mundane Commission meetings a bit livelier. The Commission was originally expected to rule on whether hunting would be allowed on the city-owned parcels at its Oct. 10 meeting. But that ruling was delayed when a crowd of citizens filled the meeting room to make comments.{C}

Rather than render a decision immediately after the public comment period — where it was apparent not all in attendance would have time to speak — the Commission decided to hold off and allow more opportunity for residents to have their say. Which is a commendable action for a governing body.

Chairman Lake’s anti-gun and anti-hunting admission came in the form of a guest column he wrote for a Daily Hampshire Gazette. Lake’s comments, taken on their own, should seem a bit strange. The chairman of a CONSERVATION board doesn’t believe in hunting? Hmm… perhaps there needs to be a basic lesson in the difference between conservation and preservation.

But before we jump too hard on Lake’s head, we should carefully consider the other words that he wrote in his column. It’s those words that I found startling. And refreshing.

In his piece, Lake systematically lists the excuses and fears that he and other non-hunters have listed in support of a hunting ban. The standard rationales of “hunting is cruel,” “hunting is unsafe” — Lake lists them all and then provides hard, statistical data that debunks each and every myth.

“For years I have assumed hunting was cruel, damaging, dangerous and unfairly limited my enjoyment of being in the woods. In going through the learning I’ve just described, however, I realize that there is little basis in fact for my feelings,” Lake wrote. “My next reaction is ‘OK, maybe it isn’t as bad as I thought, but it is still scary to me. It makes me uncomfortable to see hunters or just to know they might be out there. I don’t want to feel that fear and discomfort. I don’t want them out there.’ Ahh … so, am I saying that, in spite of evidence, others are responsible for my fears and discomfort and they should stop doing what they do, so I won’t feel that way? This, I’ve come to think, is a definition of prejudice.”

Lake stops just short of stating that his mind has been changed and that he will advocate for opening city-owned lands to hunting. And, truthfully, I’m okay with that. Because it’s not his place to do so.

His job, as chairman of a committee to manage public lands that residents of Northampton pay for, is to respond to the legitimate concerns and desires of those he serves.

By pointing out the truth about hunting and refusing to allow myths, lies and rhetoric to rule, Lake is doing precisely what our political leaders should do. And that’s to consider the facts, weigh the options and then make the decision that’s best. By writing his piece, Lake has proven that he will not allow anti-hunters to simply fabricate reasons as to why hunting should not be allowed.

Such a novel concept, eh?