Italy's hunting season opens with 46 shooting accidents
Toll of 13 killed, 33 wounded since last month prompts new calls for changes to gun laws
Italian hunting enthusiasts have killed 13 people and wounded 33 others in shooting accidents since the season opened last month, increasing pressure to reform antiquated hunting laws.
The casualty toll swelled this weekend when a 16-year-old was killed by a friend, a pensioner was wounded in his garden and a cyclist was injured by grapeshot.
Hunting groups agree with environmentalists that the law, which allows hunters to roam on private land and discharge firearms within 150 metres of a house, should be changed. But the sides have become entrenched in a long-running stalemate over how to best do that.
Among those calling for an outright ban is Daniela Casprini, head of the Association of Hunting Victims. "The question is no longer about who is for and who is against hunting. This is to stop a true massacre," Casprini said.
Less than one in five Italians considered hunting to be an acceptable pastime in a survey by research group Eurispes last year.
Pro-hunting groups point to a need to control species like wild boar that damage agriculture. Yet the shooting of deer, rabbits and birds in woodlands is the subject of a rift between a more ecologically sensitive younger generation and Italy's ageing hunters.
The number of hunters has declined to about 700,000 from two million three decades ago, with most aged 65 to 78, farming association Coldiretti says.
The head of animal rights group Animalisti Italiani Onlus said the accidents proved that legislation to protect rare wildlife was ineffective. "This explains why wolves, bears, hawks and other protected species are found killed by firearms," said Walter Caporale. "They shoot because something moves."