Toledo Blade

It is time, Vice President Cheney, to walk up to the podium, stare America right in the eye, and admit you accidentally shot your hunting buddy while quail hunting in south Texas last weekend.

No excuses. No more spin-doctoring, no more delaying tactics, no more elaborate deflections and obfuscation.

You flat out, undeniably, violated one of the Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety: Know your target and what is beyond.

The National Rifle Association, arguably the foremost teacher and promoter of firearms safety in America with its superlative, extensive education and training programs, includes this expanded explanation beneath that commandment:

“Be absolutely sure you have identified your target beyond any doubt. Equally important, be aware of the area beyond your target. This means observing your prospective area of fire before you shoot. Never fire in the direction in which there are people or any other potential for mishap. Think first. Shoot second.”

Mr. Vice President, it cannot be said any more clearly than that.

Potential young hunters and shooters and other newcomers to firearms learn just those words — or ones very similar _ in mandatory training courses required before obtaining a hunting license. We veteran hunters and shooters are expected to know them to the point of second nature.

It may have been an accident, human error, of which we all are guilty from time to time. Your buddy possibly should have hollered.

But, it was your warm, live finger on the trigger, not Mr. Whittington’s or anyone else’s, and you pulled it.

You are held up as a role model for the NRA, have been their esteemed banquet guest and a recipient of a valuable flintlock rifle given in your honor. But your evasive behavior now and the White House’s pathetic attempts to muddy the waters is a poor example of what a good, ethical hunter is supposed to be: honest and forthright.

It is a bad example and by association shows all hunters in a bad light. Young hunters and shooters will not look up to you for it.

So accept responsibility and any liability before God and country. Give us that patented John Wayne tough-guy stare and make it count. Americans are a forgiving people, to a fault, if they deem the supplicant sincere.

Admit it and soon enough we’ll forget it. Otherwise — shame.