My friend Mat took a trip home to Alabama and while there snapped a photo of this letter Jimmy Carter sent to his sister-in-law. Jimmy seems to have shot and killed her cat while trying to shoo it away from his bird feeders.

It made the rounds amongst the right-wing blogs with the expected responses, but I just saw it on Kottke so I figured I'd point some things out about it that were interesting to me.

Some facts you might not be aware: this is one way bird shot is used, in .22LR shells. It's not the most effective way to kill anything at a medium or long range. I've seen birds and squirrels hit by it and simply run to higher parts of the tree or fly off to another tree. The shot inside is extremely small and not having much mass it would likely bounce off your skin at a long range if it even managed to get that far.

When my dad and I hunted he'd keep the first cylinder in his .22 pistol loaded with birdshot for snakes. As you climb around hills with low brush you sometimes end up a little closer to rattlesnakes than you wish. Keeping something like that handy means you can stun or kill a snake that feels threatened.

But really, I don't want to defend what he did, it was stupid. The first rule of guns is never point it at something you don't intend on killing. Every 8 year-old kid getting his hunting license knows that.

What I wanted to say about this was Jimmy Carter, when confronted with his own stupid mistake wrote a letter(!) admitting such: "It may ease your grief somewhat to know that the cat was buried properly with a prayer & that I’ll be glad to get you another of your choice." and "I called & came by your house several times."

I think what he actually wrote says a lot more about him than one dumb mistake. He could have done any number of things to shirk responsibility but he admitted it and even allowed it to be displayed in a museum of his letters. I hope when I'm facing a situation like that I have even half that amount of decency as he did.