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Fear is a great stimulator. Politicians use it all the time to rev up the voters. In truth, many of our fears are based on faulty information and have no basis in fact.

For a simple example, take wolves, which many people think are dangerous. In northern Minnesota, we’d often see coyotes and timber wolves roaming the pasture across the driveway from our house. We had horses, beef cattle and calves in the pasture, pigs in the corral and, except in winter and the dark of night, chickens, geese and ducks wandered all over the place. Not one was ever attacked by wolves or coyotes.

It’s not like we had a ferocious guard dog, either. A mother mouse once stood up to her in the pasture and our dog slinked away. But I do remember one time when she saw a wolf at the edge of the woods and took off running after it. She ignored my calls to come back, and disappeared into the woods. I thought that was it… she’d never be able to survive. A few minutes later, out of the woods she popped, looking as good as new, and trotted up to me as if nothing had happened. I guess it hadn’t.

As for dangerous animals, cattle and other domestic animals kill more Americans every year than wolves, bears and cougars put together. The latest data I could find indicated fewer than five Americans had been killed by wolves since the country was founded, compared to many hundreds killed by domesticated dogs.

The real danger we found in Minnesota was in the fall when hunters from the Twin Cities came north and didn’t care where they trespassed or what they shot. They’d shoot at anything, moving or not: tractors, logging equipment, and even a friend’s pet fawn in an orange vest. Once, a car full of them stopped right in front of that friend’s house. A guy got out of the car and was taking aim at the fawn just as my friend burst out the door and screamed at him. At least he didn’t shoot her.

Unlike wolves and local hunters, all of whom ate the meat, many of the big-city hunters would kill the bucks and take only the head and antlers. I guess they wanted to hang them on their walls so people would think they were sportsmen.

I also don’t know why some people are so afraid they think they need assault rifles and high-capacity magazines to protect themselves. My friends and I are old and we sure don’t feel the need to arm ourselves with assault weapons. I have to chuckle when I see a photo of some big guy carrying one of those things. Instead of looking tough, they look like they’re terrified of being attacked.

What they should be terrified of are the statistics that show the majority of deaths and injuries by gunfire happen in the homes of people who own firearms. The chances of those accidents are 20 times higher than in homes that have none. If all gun owners took and passed a firearms safety course, locked up their guns and ammunition and made sure their kids couldn’t access them, those statistics would be a lot different.

And no, nobody’s going to come and take all their guns. That’s an NRA-sponsored, right-wing fear tactic. Remember when they were terrified President Barack Obama would take all their guns? To illustrate how unfounded that fear is, there’s a meme that shows the inside of a gigantic warehouse with the caption, “This is where they store all the guns that Obama took away.” The warehouse is empty.

For all their voiced bravado, many of those on the far-right are afraid of just about everything. They’re afraid somebody’s going to take their guns, afraid of going out in public without being armed, afraid of wolves, afraid they won’t be able to say “Merry Christmas,” afraid of dark-skinned people, immigrants, Arabs, science, liberals, the non-existent “deep state,” and much more.

It would make more sense if they were concerned about actual dangers to the well-being of our country and its people: The unavailability of affordable health care and prescription drugs, climate change, the highest ever level of income inequality due to unfair taxation and big money in politics, the integrity of our elections, the president’s incompetence and lack of knowledge of sane foreign policies, the multi-trillion-dollar national deficit during a supposedly “good economy” and corrupt politicians who lie to them about those issues.

If they thought about it, they’d realize only their votes, not their guns, will protect them against the serious, actual threats to their health, freedom and prosperity.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at patnash5149@gmail.com.

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