MADISON (WKOW) -- Children of any age may soon be able to participate in the state's mentored hunting program.
The program is designed to let a child hunt with a firearm, as long as they are with a mentor who is a licensed hunter.
Under current state law, a child has to be at least ten years of age to participate in the program.
But the State Assembly approved a bill Thursday evening that would eliminate that age requirement, leaving it to parents to determine when their children are old enough to carry a gun and go hunting.
Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the bill, calling it dangerous and short-sighted.
"You know, think about the firearm deaths we have when a firearm gets in the hand of child who thinks its just a toy and we have a horrible tragedy as a result - I think you talk to hunter safety advocates and other instructors out there, I think they feel that this is horrible public policy," said Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), the Assembly minority leader.
But Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond), who authored the bill, said those fears are overblown.
"I would say there are some concerns that have been expressed and the data behind the statistics show that that's not necessarily founded well," said Rep. Stafsholt.
The only group that registered against the bill was the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
Whitetails of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association support it.
The legislation now advances to the State Senate.