No, It’s Not Ironic Justice That A Hunter Was Murdered By A Jealous Husband With A Handgun

Illustration for article titled No, It’s Not Ironic Justice That A Hunter Was Murdered By A Jealous Husband With A Handgun

Gregory G. Rodriguez was having a glass of wine at a friend's home when her husband showed up and shot him to death. The husband, Wayne Bengston, pictured above, then beat up his wife, took their 2-year-old kid to a relative's house, and drove away to kill himself. This is all according to police in Whitefish, Mont., who called it "an open-and-closed case."


Rodriguez was the host of a Sportsman Channel show called A Rifleman's Journal . He also worked for such magazines as Shooting Times, Guns & Ammo and, most cringe-worthy in hindsight, Dangerous Game. The police said they don't suspect that he and the wife had a romantic relationship, but they are assuming the shooter, Wayne Bengston, was reacting out of jealousy. I don't know what beyond Rodriguez's presence would give Bengston cause for jealously, but then I also cannot crawl inside the thinking of a man who murders someone in his house, assaults his wife and then shoots himself in the head. Pending an as-yet unknown kink in the story, this looks like a horrible, violent act carried out by a person in the throes of the worst sort of rage.

What it isn't, is some comeuppance that Rodriguez courted as a member of the firearms press or as a hunting show host. I've seen this view floated on Twitter a few times; these are representative:

The public gun debate right now has swollen to such mass that it pulls all gun violence into its orbit. Good. Every time someone gets shot to death with a pistol, we should try to figure out how to keep that from happening again. But that doesn't excuse people for blaming, in this case, a murder victim. While Rodriguez' affiliated media organizations would likely support the ability of citizens to own and carry small arms, that doesn't suggest he was asking to be shot to death for little apparent reason. Saying "live by the gun, die by the gun" makes as much sense here as suggesting that, were Jeremy Clarkson to be struck and killed by a drunk driver, that he had lived by the car and died by the car. By the same coin, I have no idea as to whether Bengston's wife was a kickboxing enthusiast, but I can tell you that fact has no bearing on whether or not she deserved to be assaulted by her husband.

The lumping in of hunters with psychopaths is particularly galling. I say this as someone who covered the outdoors with ESPN for years, and hung out with lots of hunters: they're almost all tightly regulated, licensed, responsible killers who embrace a code requiring them to minimize pain to animals and to eat what they kill. To my calculus, shooting a mature deer that spent its life eating acorns and clover is a far more ethical way to feed your family than buying factory-farmed beef, brought to you with heavy inputs of fossil fuels and antibiotics. The connection a hunter feels with a buck he had to ambush and shoot and gut by hand is more intimate than the connection you feel to the tuna you ate rolled in rice or the chicken whose fried wings you dipped in spicy butter. Almost unique among all us North American omnivores, hunters are the ones who actually face up to the killing that puts food in the fridge.


Guys who hunt animals and who visit friends are not the problem. Guys who shoot those guys to death and beat up women are. Also part of the problem? All the goddamned guns.