Friday, September 19, 2014
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By Bill Schneider While at the annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America last week, I attended a press conference put on by a new nonprofit group called the American Hunters & Shooters Association. The first thing the executive director said was his group planned to compete with the National Rifle Association. Wow, I said to myself. That would be a little like starting a little retail store and planning on competing with Wal-Mart or writing a computer program at home at night to compete with Microsoft. But he was serious--and you have to admire a guy with ambitious goals, right?

Saving Hunters From the NRA

While at the annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America last week, I attended a press conference put on by a new nonprofit group called the American Hunters & Shooters Association. The first thing the executive director said was his group planned to compete with the National Rifle Association.

Wow, I said to myself. That would be a little like starting a little retail store and planning on competing with Wal-Mart or writing a computer program at home at night to compete with Microsoft.

But he was serious–and you have to admire a guy with ambitious goals, right?

Bob Ricker, AHSA executive director, didn’t pull any punches. He came out swinging and claiming, “our hunting heritage has been destroyed by the most powerful lobby in Washington, D.C.”

Austin Dorr, an AHSA board member, joined in the NRA roast. “The NRA has lost its way,” Dorr insisted. “It’s too focused on forwarding a political agenda and not concentrating enough on things that matter to me like conservation.”

Ricker admitted that his group had almost no members and a mere half-million in the bank, but planned on an aggressive membership drive. And aggressive it must be to make any dent in the NRA’s body armor. The save-all-guns-at-all-costs organization has 4 million super-active members and 200 million in its bank account and the power to make U.S. senators and presidents bow before them.

OWAA members gave the organization a mixed response. Some members liked the new groups plan to listen to hunters and then develop policy instead of the top-down approach used by the NRA. Also popular was AHSA pledge to support Wilderness. “Yes, we support designating Wilderness to protect hunting land and wildlife habitat,” Ricker answered.

I must admit it was refreshing to hear, for once, a straight answer to that question.

On the negative side, some OWAA members criticized the new group as being “in favor of gun control.”

Ricker disputed that, of course, saying AHSA only wanted to get guns out of the hands of criminals and that hunters didn’t need machine guns to hunt.

Ricker also noted that America has 80 million gun owners, but the NRA only has 4 million members. He interprets this as a failure by NRA to represent gun owners and hunters because the vast majority has not joined.

NRA has been frequently criticized for its ultra-narrow focus on protecting Second Amendment rights even if it meant supporting the election of conservative, mostly republican, politicians who work hard to destroy the last wild habitat available to hunters. NRA does not support Wilderness designation and even supports more roads in roadless areas so hunters can have more access with jeeps and ATVs.

The NRA’s support for anti-environmental politicians has been in the outdoor press frequently of late. At the press conference, AHSA handed out one article from the Milwaukee Shepherd Express where outspoken outdoor writer Pat Wray expressed his criticism. “Right now, the NRA is actively working against the best interest of hunters,” Wray insisted. “It’s never been so dangerous as it is now. The NRA is using hunters, misleading hunters, and using their money in ways that will work against their best interests.”

AHSA seems to want the middle ground, to be pro-gun and pro-conservation. On the surface, that should sound good to most hunters and gun owners, but we’ll have to wait to see if the new group gets any real traction.

Hardcore gun owners will remain skeptical, but many hunters who feel burned by the NRA will probably be hopeful this is reality instead of hype.

About Bill Schneider

Comments

  1. cwk says:

    Carl is correct. ASHA is a front-group trying to put a soothing face on gun bans. The line between hunters and Second Amendment activists is a divide the Democrats have been working for a long time. I’d like nothing better than to see the Democrats field some genuinely pro-gun AND pro-environment candidates. But if a candidate thinks my Remington Model 1100 (that’s a shotgun, for you fly fishermen) is an “assault weapon,” and needs to be banned, then I don’t have much to say to or for that candidate.

  2. Derek says:

    The NRA does not represent gun owners, it represents gun manufacturers, and has functioned as little more than a Republican front group. No one is trying to take away our hunting rifles and shotguns, rather the NRA has used these scare tactics to build its membership.
    Irrespective of AHSA’s position on gun regulation, they are absolutely right about the NRA working to elect people who have helped bring about the the loss and degradation of game and fish habitat.

  3. Truth says:

    Frankly if you listen to many supporters of our Bill of Rights, they refuse to join the NRA because they are too focused on hunting issues. They join the GOA and JPFO instead. Sure no one is trying to take away your precious hunting rifles and shot guns…. YET. Once they take away military pattern semi-auto rifles, and self defense handguns, and police pattern shotguns THEN they will take away the hunting (read sniper) rifles and dangerous (street sweeper) shotguns. The NRA is the biggest kid on the freedom block. Fact is liberals will not be happy until all small arms are banned. Your hunting rifle and shotgun is NOT safe, it will just be the last to go. AHSA is a gun-control front organization. This article has inspired me to make another donation to the NRA. The NRA is not perfect, and never will be. But it is our best shot at preserving our Bill of Rights freedoms.

  4. straightarrow says:

    Awaiting your apology. Either for lying or for sloppy journalism. One way or the other you have written an article that is as misleading and false as any I have read. And I have read a lot of propaganda in my time.

    If you have been duped, you can apologize for lack of effort, otherwise apologize for lying.

    I know this isn’t considered polite commentary, but to be honest, I am tired of always needing to either educate the intentionally ignorant or refute the intentionally dishonest. It’s your turn to get it right. I’m all out of understanding. It’s wearing on me and insulting to you when I must make allowances that I don’t make for my grandchildren.

  5. M1Thumb says:

    I, too, am angered and saddened to see lies and ignorance so intentionally propagated by someone purporting to be a friend of gun owners.

    Bill, the Second Amendment isn’t about lever-actions and over-unders, just like the First Amendment isn’t about newspapers and books. Both Amendments speak in terms of absolutes, not in terms of degrees of freedom.

    It’s downright pathetic that someone like yourself is willing to give ground just so you can continue with your beloved sport. Owning an AR15 for the sake of preserving freedom is every bit as legitimate as owning a Citori for wingshooting.

    I don’t mind one bit if you tout your newfound love (AHSA) for what they are – recreational hunters that don’t care if every other type of gun is banned, just so long as they can still take out their benign politically correct guns. But don’t sit there and pretend that they’re friends of freedom.

    Saving “all guns at all costs” may sound ridiculous to you.

    What’s ridiculous to ME is that anyone could duped into believing that the gun-grabbers will stop with “assault rifles” and “Saturday-night Specials.” They want them ALL, Bill, and you’ve got your head in the sand.

    For shame.

    http://the-subversive.blogspot.com

  6. nauer says:

    just like the first amendment is not about the right to trade cooking recipe’s, the second amendment is not about duck hunting. like it was said by another poster: hunters, your single shot shotgun is not safe, it just is the last weapon on the ban list. wake up, america and join the NRA!.

  7. Kristopher says:

    M1-thumb:

    AHSA is simply a front organization. It has no real membership, except for a few fools that made the mistake of sending him money … it’s just a way for Bob Ricker to get paid to screw with gun-owners.

  8. Craig Moore says:

    Bill, given the brickbats thrown your way over the AHSA kerfuffle, I suggest you take a look at the TRCP (Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership) http://www.trcp.org As a hunter and fisherman for over 50 years it sets out three things I wholeheartedly agree with: 1)enhance wildlife and fish environment, 2) enhancement wildlife numbers, and 3) broaden public access. I know of no hidden agendas. Those 3 goals seem to have a broad appeal. No need to run down the NRA or the AHSA when the TRCP just has too much good to talk about.

  9. GBlack says:

    It appears that Bill may well have been misled in believing that he had found a gun rights group that actually contributed something aside from protecting our right to own weapons.
    Some of you NRA members, and I’m not attacting the NRA, please enlighten me as to conservation, restoration, land acquisition, wilderness protection or any NRA sponsored or supported projects that benefit wildlife management so that hunting will be available to my grandchildren.
    I think that’s what Bill thought he had found in AHSA.

  10. Bill Schneider says:

    Guns sure are a touchy subject, and I suppose I should follow up this article. For all of you who took the time to comment, thank you. As far as AHSA is concerned, I went to a press conference and reported what I heard there. The reps sounded genuine and I admit I like the idea of a group supporting both conservation of wildlife habitat and gun rights. I really do not see that happening with the NRA. I suppose AHSA could be a front for some hidden agenda, but they are saying the right things. I have never heard the NRA support roadless lands, our best wild hunting land we have left, but I have heard the NRA support more ATV access to these lands and I have frequently seen them support the politicians who are constantly trying to destroy these wildlands. I’m not saying AHSA is the answer to this problem, but it’s safe to say NRA isn’t doing it and somebody really needs to do it before it’s too late. Yes, we can’t hunt without guns, but likewise, we can’t hunt without game….Bill

  11. cwk says:

    NRA does admirable work in the conservation arena (http://www.nrahq.org/hunting/index.asp) however, I’ll be the first to admit that they tend to favor the Republicans, just as Sierra Club favors Democrats. That is because by and large, Democrats tend to favor the anti-gun side, and the allegedly pro-gun Republicans tend to favor industrial and development interests. What we need is more genuinely pro-gun AND pro-conservation politicians from both parties. Get the gun issue off the table and we can debate conservation and land-use issues on their merits.

    There is plenty of room for debate among hunters and conservationists regarding land use and access. We all know the issues. But there should be no debate among hunters and other gun owners that any gun ban only leads to more bans. AHSA supports gun bans, (see the “Who We Are” link on their page http://www.huntersandshooters.org/).

    My Remington Model 1100 semi-auto bird gun is identical to my combat match shooting buddy’s 1100 except for some interchangeable cosmetic features (stock, barrel shroud and pistol grip). Likewise, the demonized AK-47 has very similar ballistics to the .30-30 Winchester. In some states the AK has replaced the Winchester as the rifle of choice for deer. Like the Winchester, all it needs is a magazine plug to limit capacity to five rounds and it’s ready to go.

    Nobody wants to ban my hunting gun? Having learned to read, I know better.

  12. Craig Moore says:

    Bill, you wrote: “Yes, we can’t hunt without guns, but likewise, we can’t hunt without game.”

    Bill, it seems that you want a “one size fits all” organization to do everything. Perhaps its better and more effective that different organizations do certain things very well than all things very badly. The NRA stands up for the 2nd Amendment. They have been very effective at protecting those rights. Every gun owner needs to understand that. Just look at Australia. As for conservation goals look to some other organization like the TRCP. http://www.trcp.org/issues.aspx From that URL:

    “Below is a listing of the primary initiatives the Partnership is engaged in, each in their respective issue category. Please click on the title to learn more about each individual initiative.

    Expanding Access

    Guaranteeing Public Access For Hunting And Fishing Through “Open Fields”
    Conserving Habitat

    Conserving Fish and Wildlife in the Face of Energy Development on Federal Lands
    Improving USDA Conservation Programs in the Farm Bill
    Improving Fisheries and Marine Resource Management Through the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA)
    Conserving Roadless Areas in the National Forest System
    Conservation Funding

    Funding State Wildlife Grants
    Protecting Conservation Tax Incentives
    Achieving Conservation Benefits Through Transportation Policy
    These are the eight primary policy goals for 2005 designated by the hunting and fishing groups represented in the TRCP. The TRCP’s Board of Directors and Policy Council have designated other Policy Initiatives for Partnership work and the TRCP will be working on these and other consensus priorities of its partner hunting, fishing and conservation organizations, but the agenda items listed above represent TRCP Policy Initiatives most in need of attention and most ripe for progress.”

    Regarding cwk’s info on the AK being used for deer hunting see http://www.ak-103.com/home.html. I would think that those banana clips would get stuck on those pickup truck windows. Hugo Chavez recently bought 1000′s of Russian AK-103 Kalashnikov rifles. He must have a terrible deer problem with his coca crop. ;)

  13. cwk says:

    Craig Moore, you’re correct that the long magazines tend to get in the way. But changing that is as easy as swapping magazines, and five-round mags are readily available, e.g. http://www.smallarmsreview.com/june.htm. Or if a guy really likes “the look,” he can plug the magazine just like you do the 6-round tube on a .30-30 or Winchester Model 12.

  14. Alan Gregory says:

    I’m a hunter and conservationist and gun owner. I wouldn’t dream of becoming an NRA member. Not even close. Not even.

  15. ReasonEngaged says:

    Alan, I can understand not wanting to be a member of the NRA. They’re just not tough enough when it comes to protecting the 2nd Amendment. I reccommend JPFO or GOA if you want to continue to be a gun owner for ANY reason.

    To Mr. Schneider:
    You got duped, so why don’t you just own up to it?

  16. Alan Gregory says:

    Dear ReasonEngaged,
    You misread my note. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in expressing my thoughts. So I’ll try again now.
    I’m not afraid of seeing a UN rep or a federal agent at my door anytime soon – to take away my rifle, at least. I’m more afraid of a Bush clone (a.k.a. troglodyte) taking away my privacy by snooping on my phone calls, my credit transactions, my postal mail and the theft of my veteran’s data, which the federales still haven’t fully explained.
    I won’t have anything to do with the NRA for this reason: It’s not a conservation outfit. If the organization wants to continue to scare gullible firearms owners into believing that some Democrat or Clinton-loving librul somewhere is about to take away their handgun or AK-47, well that’s just fine. But to pretend that you’re somehow somewhere a conservation outfit is a flat out lie.
    The NRA has arguably done more to put anti-conservationists into public, elected office than any other group, rightwing or leftwing, over the last two decades, at least.

  17. Craig Moore says:

    Alan, I don’t get the reason for the “whack a mole” routine with the NRA. They are what they are. There are several very fine field sports organization that may suit your conservation requirement. Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Pheaseants Forever, Walleyes Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership,… Just pick one that suits your tastes. Choice is a great thing we have in our country.

  18. Alan Gregory says:

    Craig, you’re absolutely right. That’s why I belong to TU and several regional- and state-level conservation organizations. Regarding the NRA: Yes, it is what it is. But too often it pretends to be something it isn’t. If it just stuck to what it does best — scaring members of Congress into voting a particular way — then that’s fine with me.

  19. Bill Schneider says:

    For those of you who commented on this article, I thought you might be interested in this follow up column I posted today….Bill Schneider

    http://www.newwest.net/index.php/topic/article/10050/C146/L41

  20. dave says:

    So Bill, do you give donations to The Brady Campaign or just help change Mr. Brady’s diaper?

  21. john bodnar says:

    what a back door org.you are. no truly outdoorsman and target shooters would bad mouth tha NRA. your org. seems to me to have origionated in england where as you know very few people have firearms and you will be arrested if you defend yourself with a weapon. i’m 71 years old and a retired usaf nuclear weapons technician who gave the best part of my life to defend my country and keep it free.you basterds want to take away my freedom and keep it for your own selfish self. i dispise people like you.