Interesting article reposted from Paddling.net...
By Tamia Nelson
March 7, 2017
Many years ago—William Jefferson Clinton was still living in the White House, and Farwell and I were just starting to write for what was then Paddling.net—I was skimming through a not-very-good book on waterfront photography when I came to a chapter titled "You Can Shoot Them From Shore." The subject was photographing boat races with long lenses, but I couldn't help thinking that the title hinted at another, darker meaning. And no, I wasn't being alarmist. I'd already come under fire when I was on the water. A young man—the son of a neighbor, as it turned out—decided to amuse himself by sending a few rounds over our heads as we took the Tripper out on the 'Flow for an evening paddle. He'd apparently concluded that he could shoot us from shore with complete impunity. He was right, too. The long arm of the law often proves to be pitifully short in the Adirondack foothills. The "jes' havin' a little fun" defense may not figure prominently in the statute books, but it commands respect from many rural cops and courts to this day.
In any event, we escaped unharmed from the shoreline shooter. (It helped to have a bowman with no small experience in assessing—and evading—incoming fire.) Nor did the incident recur. But it served to remind me that paddlers can easily pass for sitting ducks. Deliverance may have been fiction, but almost any one of us could someday share Drew Ballinger's fate.
I hasten to add that this isn't very probable. Though something like 30,000 Americans die of gunshot wounds every year, very few of them die with a paddle in their hands. To keep things in perspective, it's important to remember that a steering wheel is our usual companion when we meet a violent end: The automobile is the reigning champion in America's trauma stakes. Back-of-the-envelope extrapolations suggest that one in every 115 Americans will be killed in or by a car, with two out of every three of us sustaining crash injuries that require medical attention at some point in our lives. And far too many of these injuries will lead to crippling disabilities. My conclusion? The most dangerous part of any paddling holiday is the drive to and from the put-in.
That being said, there's still a chance that you'll someday find yourself on the wrong end of a gun. A case in point: Only a month ago, four kayakers came under fire in Arizona. You can read the details in the Mohave Valley Daily News, but here's the executive summary: The kayakers incurred the wrath of a waterfront property owner, who allegedly expressed his displeasure by shooting at them. One quick-thinking boater made his escape downriver, but his companions were less fortunate. According to newspaper accounts, they were held at gunpoint and forced to leave the water. Luckily, none of the four was injured or killed, but the property owner now faces an impressive roster of felony charges.
Could you someday find yourself in the same boat? Yes. Most navigable rivers pass through private lands, at least now and then, and many rural landowners keep a gun within easy reach. But is it likely you'll ever end up in someone's sights? No. There's comfort to be had in statistics. Still, given the often life-changing (or life-ending) consequences of stopping a bullet, it pays to be prepared. You could add body armor and a Kevlar helmet to your gear list, of course, but unless you're paddling down the Tigris, this would be…er…overkill. The best way to avoid trouble is—you guessed it—to avoid trouble. In short,…