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AHSA President Ray Schoenke (left) and the AHSA Advisory Board (From lett, Bruce Smith, Barry Smith, David Stevens, Mike Mowbary, and Jody Powell) on a weekend dove hunt. Photo courtesy of AHSA.

American Hunters and Shooters Association Responds to its Critics

Editor’s Note: If you visit NewWest.Net regularly, you know I’ve frequently written about the gun issue, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the rival organization, the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA). Every time I mention AHSA, commenters claim the group is nothing but a front for anti-gun groups or the ultra-liberal wing of the Democratic Party, or both. To address these concerns, I asked the ASHA to respond in detail to these claims. The Advisory Board of the AHSA prepared the following guest commentary exclusively for NewWest.Net.–Bill Schneider

The recent national Slash and Burn: Why Does the National Rifle Association Leadership Support Congress’s Biggest Opponents of Conservation?”, a report prepared by the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) to shed light on NRA’s dismal conservation record, has once again fired up the old McCarthy-style, NRA-attack machine.

Rather than question the accuracy of the report, AHSA critics, once again dredge up old character attacks of AHSA leadership and guilt by association innuendo. In the past the AHSA leadership has not responded to the ridiculous NRA attacks, but now may be the best time to publicly respond to the absurd allegations that many NRA apologists on the internet feel compelled to repeat.

Quite simply, the NRA has lost touch with American hunters and shooters. What was once a mainstream organization that represented the views of a majority of gun owners has lost its way. Had NRA been fulfilling its stated responsibility there would be no need for an alternative organization like AHSA.

The NRA leadership knows we are right and that is why their attacks are based upon half-truths, innuendo and character assassination. That being said, let’s look at some hard facts.

Ray Schoenke, AHSA president, has been a gun owner and avid hunter all his life. He has been fortunate enough to have hunted all over the world. He owns a 300-acre hunting farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and is an outspoken advocate for preserving and protecting our precious wild resources. His notable professional football career with the Washington Redskins in the 1960s and 1970s as well as his success in building a multi-million dollar insurance business opened doors for Ray in the powerful world of Washington DC politics. Washington DC policy makers, including two presidents, have sought Ray’s counsel on conservation and business issues.

Critics say that Ray is anti-gun because he has made campaign contributions to some high profile Senate Democrats who are not considered pro-gun. What the critics don’t mention is that Ray has spent millions of his own dollars supporting pro-gun candidates like Congressman John Dingell, challenging Maryland’s notorious anti-gun governor Paris Glendenning, answering the call to serve on the governing board of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, serving on the transition team of Republican pro-gun Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich and, covering much of the start-up costs of AHSA.

Ray’s wife Nancy is also connected politically. Like many wives of gun owners she is an independent thinker and does not like guns. She took a seat on the board of the Brady Campaign but soon became frustrated with the group’s lack of progress. Ray told her that progress would not be made until gun owners were allowed to bring their common sense perspective to the table. As a result, Nancy closed the family checkbook, resigned from the Brady board, and encouraged Ray to start AHSA.

Bob Ricker, AHSA executive director, is a recognized expert on gun policy issues and the gun rights movement. He has served as a former assistant general counsel for NRA and top lobbyist for the firearm industry. From the nation’s capital to the west coast, Bob spent more than twenty years successfully representing gun makers and leading gun rights organizations before the United States Congress and various state legislatures.

Following in the traditions of the National Alliance of Stocking Gun Dealers (NASGD) Executive Director Bill Bridgewater and former Smith & Wesson CEO Ed Shultz, Ricker believes that the greatest threat to gun rights could be found in the reluctance of the gun industry to clean up its own act. Ricker’s courage in speaking out for change led some extremists to attempt to intentionally distort his motives.

When many of the nation’s largest cities started suing the gun industry, Bob’s expertise was called upon to defend the industry despite the fact that he no longer worked for the gun-makers. As we all know, witnesses can face perjury charges if they do not tell the truth, and Bob’s testimony cut both ways. In some cases it helped the firearm industry; in some it hurt. Critics have tried to allege that Ricker’s testimony meant he was a turncoat.

The fact remains Ricker took an oath to tell the truth and some bad actors within the gun industry got hurt. That does not mean he’s anti-gun; it means he’s honest. Some also criticize the fact that like most expert witnesses involved in litigation he was paid a reasonable rate for his time spent on the case. What the critics won’t say is that Bob was paid the same rate by both the industry and the city plaintiffs for the time he spent in court.

Many of AHSA’s critics like to mention that John Rosenthal an AHSA founding board member was also the founder of Boston based Stop Handgun Violence, a gun violence prevention group that has advocated some of the nation’s strictest gun laws. John, an avid skeet shooter, came to the shooting world in an unusual way. He’s a very successful urban real estate developer and saw first-hand how gun crime was not only destroying his city but also his business investments. Like Nancy Schoenke, he too served on the Brady board until frustration set in. John quit Brady and helped finance and build AHSA. In the spring of 2007, John resigned from the AHSA board over some fundamental policy issue differences and is now devoting his efforts to Stop Handgun Violence.

Critics also like to dredge up the old John Lott, a conservative pro-gun lecturer and author, allegation that AHSA is merely front group for the Democratic Leadership Council. Lott, ever the conspiracy theorist, reasoned that because the AHSA’s internet technology consultant, DCS Congressional, was located in the same large Washington DC office building as the DLC that AHSA was just a front group. The fact is DSC Congressional does cater to some high profile Democrat leaders, but its client list also includes pro-gun stalwarts like Ohio Governor Ted Strictland, House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Petersen and Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell. Moreover, the office building where DCS congressional is located is also the home base for the national Young Republicans and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Finally, some assert that AHSA is funded by George Soros and the Joyce Foundation. Again, lies that have no basis in fact.

Bottom line, if you are a hard-core NRA supporter you are probably not going to like AHSA. AHSA’s base is made up of those gun owners yearning for something more than the tired old “my way or the highway” philosophy. AHSA’s leadership understands NRA’s slash and burn tactics and we believe most straight-thinking hunters and shooters do, too.

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24 comments

  1. So the admitted FACT that the top leadership of AHSA all have ties with the Brady Bunch and other gun control groups is just “coincidental”? Don’t mind that man behind the curtain, eh.

    And being an Elmer Fudd “hunter” is supposed to impress us when we know that you’ll happily give up every handgun owner if you thought it would save your precious longguns.

    Let’s see an article from youpraising the virtues of an AK-47 as an appropriate hunting rifle in some circumstances and then one would be less suspicious.

  2. Wow, this is so two-faced…
    Let’s take S and W. Ed Schultz was running S and W for a British holding company. They knuckled under to the Clinton Administration and their sales went to near zero, a giant middle finger salute from their customers.
    New owners…I think they even build the M and P 15, which is a military and police AR/Stoner system rifle. You know, “assault weapons?” Company is profitable and making good stuff. I’m not mad at S and W any more.
    And this Boston develapah Rosenthal. The only reason he joined AHSA is because he thought it would be a good front…”Oh, we only want your handguns, so all you good shottie people help us shaft handgunners and we PROMISE not to come after you next!?”
    The frustration is that people aren’t stupid enough to fall for that kind of double-talk, toss-someone-else-to-the-crocs hooey, at least not fast enough to suit John.
    Or do I want to mention Ray’s run for the governorship against Paris Glendenning as a Democrat?
    I’m sorry that Ray doesn’t understand that the Second Amendment isn’t about bird hunting. But that’s HIS problem and I wish Mr. Schneider would not try to make it everyone else’s as well.
    By the way, I have a rant about SOME of this on Unfiltered because I’d never get it past Bill:
    http://www.newwest.net/citjo/article/hunting_for_an_angle/C33/L33/
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go fire up my reloader so I’m ammoed up before the election…just in case.

  3. Montana Libertarian

    The AHSA is a bunch of whores, bought and paid for by people who would gladly collect and melt every gun in America.

    Now that we have that matter straight, why don’t you guys stick to commentary on matters you know something about: latte, croissants and exquisite window treatments.

  4. Sounds to me like some Brady Campaign leaders recognized that they would not achieve gun control through overt means – that is, through an organization that was recognized as being anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment (and anti-American).

    So they looked for camouflage and found it in the AHSA.

    The Second Amendment is NOT about duck hunting. Sure, lots of hunters (being every bit as clueless as the average non-gun-owning citizen) don’t recognize the purpose of the Second Amendment (guaranteeing to the People the right and power to overthrow their government), but just because some hunters are ignorant doesn’t mean the rest of us are going to drink the Cool-Aid.

    Thanks for confirming that AHSA is primarily (if not exclusively) run by anti-gun types from the Brady Bunch.

    Those who love liberty (and hate totalitarianism) steer clear!

  5. Anytime the left gets popped by the truth they run out the charges of “McCarthyism” (despite the fact that McCarthy was correct) and “slash and burn” rhetoric.
    The backgrouond of the founders of AHSA cannot be refuted. Are we to believe that all of a sudden these people woke up and “saw the light”? We are known by the company we keep. The fact remains that ANYONE who thinks that the Democratic leadership, the Democratic candidates for president or liberals generally support the Second Amendment as an individual right is ignoring the truth.
    There are no reasonable gun control laws. There is only Constitutional freedom or there is not. AHSA lies.

  6. Ok, let’s assume for a moment that the leadership of the AHSA HAVE actually reversed their former opinions on firearms. I know, it’s a stretch, but work with me.

    Can anyone show anything, anything at all, that the AHSA has done to support ‘hunters’ and ‘shooters’?

  7. So the “shooters and hunters” wing of the brady campaign to prevent guns wants to whine about it being outted. Too F@@@ing bad. Anyone that believes their BS deserves what they get. ANY gun owner should know they are the target of the brady bunch, etal. Duck hunters and skeet shooters think if they throw the nasty looking semi-autos and handgunners overboard the anti’s will love them and leave them alone. Well, think again. There has already been legislation proposed to BAN all firearms with a bore of more than .50 caliber. GUESS WHAT DUCK HUNTERS, that means you can use a .410. You’ll get a lot of ducks with that.

    WE STAND TOGETHER OR WE HANG ALONE. It was true 200+ years ago and it’s true now.

  8. What was McCarthy correct about again?
    He accused the State Dept. and Army of being infiltrated by Commies. At the TELEVISED Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, McCarthy accused a bunch of good soldiers and Americans of things he couldn’t substantiate. He literally just called random people Communists without proof.
    The American people saw that he was full of it and his popularity tanked. For his smears, McCarthy was censured by the Senate. This is one of the few times in our history the Senate censured one of their own.
    As Edward Murrow said:
    “His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”
    I know some Bircher author wrote a book trying to restore his image, and I bet that is what you read, but actual historians laugh at the revisionist history.

  9. I still have to get my head around why the supposed supporters of “hunters and shooters” support banning (1) the most popular target shooting rifle in America, the AR15 series, and (2) the most increasingly popular type of turkey-hunting shotguns in America, the semi-auto 12-gauge, especially those with a pistol grip-equipped shoulder stock like the Benelli Steady-Grip series, and (3) the standard-capacity handgun magazines that are critical for adequate home protection? Perhaps Mr. Schoenke could anser those questions for us.

  10. The article merely confirms that the AHSA couldn’t lie straight in bed.
    They have been caught out so many times that any protestations coming from them is pointless, as nobody with any sense believes a word they say.

  11. Hey Flounder,
    What about the Rosenberg’s buddy Morton Sobell, denying until his near dying day that yep, Julius and he were, da, Commie agents working for Stalin’s government?
    So while Tailgunner Joe’s inquisition was a travesty, the fact remains that there were Communist true believers working in our government and they didn’t belong there.
    Kind of amusing how these AHSA people follow some of the same model, seeking to betray the Constitution while denying same. You betcha.
    By the way, here’s what AHSA really stands for: Actually Hate the Second Amendment.

  12. This was an attempt at damage-control, but it’s obvious it didn’t work. The Brady Bunch was supposed to be an anti-violence campaign which could very well have worked wonders in our society IF they also honored the Second Amendment. Who wouldn’t have supported them in such a cause, including gun owners? However, they made the mistake of becoming an anti-gun organization and lost most of their supporters. Few take them seriously anymore.

    Why in the world would any gun owner want to be associated with an anti-gun organization? Why would any gun owner (male or female) go along with the idea of having a spouse on the Brady Campaign?! This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever!!

    I believe it does make sense that the Brady Bunch had to do something to recover their support base, so the AHSA was born and staffed by some former Brady board members. Different name, same game.

    I agree with Jack Burton’s comments. I will allow the seemingly deceptive words of AHSA to penetrate my ears when I hear they are praising the benefits of AR-15 and AK-47 type rifles. I will begin to listen when they produce a massive campaign which fully explains why there is no difference between a Mini-14 ranch rifle and one that has been converted to a bullpup rifle using after-market accessories. They would also do well to protest the Brady Bunch efforts to weaken the Second Amendment.

    If AHSA want us to take them seriously then they need to prove they are REALLY on the side of gun-owners.

  13. I think the collection of rabid responses posted here pretty much sums up the issue. If the “all guns at all costs” mantra is what matters to you most, then the NRA, an organization that has already demonstrated that it will go the distance and do ANYTHING to further that goal, is exactly the organization for you. And that’s OK if that’s the ideology to which you subscribe. Feel free to send them all your money.

    If, however, you’re a actual hunter interested in actual conservation, you’d be better served by looking to organizations that view the environment as something other than window dressing, to be cynically exploited as an additional revenue pull from an unsuspecting and — as the ASHA report clearly demonstrated — uninformed membership.

    All this hunter can say to Schoenke et al is this: keep up the good work.

  14. So ‘caretaker’:

    I note that you need to resort to personal attacks and ad hominems to support your allegations.

    Perhaps you could tell me exactly what ‘good work’ the AHSA has done in support of hunters and shooters? Besides paying people to protest outside NRA conventions that is.

  15. Thirdpower,

    Actually, describing what the ASHA has done in its brief existence as “good” may have been inappropriate. In truth, just trying to make the case the a hunter’s interests have nothing to do with a Second Amendment, slippery-slope obsession that borders on the pathological (see majority of entries above) probably deserves even higher accolades. The attention they’re receiving (and more importantly, the ant-colony response from NRA apologists — talk about a mastery of the ad hominem arguments) provides all the evidence needed that they’ve achieved their initial aim.

    Btw, smart guy, “Caretaker” is a character from a movie, not a form of self-reference. Can I assume the same about your moniker?

  16. Dave, McCarthy had nothing to do with the Rosenbergs, except that he used the popularity of the trial to start his partisan witch hunts. And most everyone knew Sobell was full of it.
    As to the partisan witch hunts, his antics actually damaged the bi-partisan anti-Communist efforts. Many people at the time lamented that his lies, slander, and mistruths actually hindered efforts to catch real spies. McCarthy, by creating a carnival atmosphere, actually helped spies for the USSR keep their cover.
    If a spy-enabler like McCarthy is your idea of patriot, I guess that explains a lot about Republicans.

  17. Flounder,
    I’ll concede that McCarthy was a useful idiot for the Russians inasmuch as his wild accusations discredited legitimate ones. He was a counterproductive moron, not the first in the Senate and certainly not the last.
    But that doesn’t vacate the issue of whether or not there WERE true believers in the government, or disloyal citizens, trying to throw over the United States to a communist totalitarian state. There were, they tried, and haven’t won yet.
    And you AHSA supporters won’t admit the real issue about AHSA and why it even exists. I’d bet money they are being slipped funds from the usual greenie suspects as well as the usual leftie suspects in order to present a false front. The simple fact is that green politicians tend to be left tend to be anti-gun tend to be green. Their voting patterns prove that out. Any success AHSA has, electorally benefits all the agenda of all three (left, green, anti gun), so it’s out there, hoping for favorable press coverage that instills doubt in the minds of voters.
    And Caretaker, it would be nice to know who’s taking care of you so you can keep pumping AHSA. What’s YOUR bit?

  18. Caretaker:

    Thank you for proving my point.

  19. Don’t try to change the subject. One of you wingers tried to say how awesome McCarthy was, even though his actions make him a Comsymp of history. It was partisan baiting, of the same type that McCarthy himself indulged in. Way patriotic of you.
    Funny that the Republican policies of not paying for stuff and radical deregulation are going to push the U.S. toward more socialism than I would ever voluntary go for huh? Is that considered thrwing over the government? I think so. We are in a mess now. Tons more debt. $2300 per man, woman, and child. Thanks.

  20. So here’s the point:

    If you believe in the Second Amendment, support the NRA and other stalwart groups – not the AHSA – and stay involved.

    If you believe in hunting and conservation, join any of the myriad groups, at the local, state, regional or federal level, and stay involved.

    It’s really quite simple.

    The AHSA has an agenda, and it’s not to support the Second Amendment, hunting or conservation, despite the window dressing. Their only actual activities consist of press releases and endorsements, which you CANNOT say about the NRA. Simple as that.

  21. This is an anti gun group, plane and simple. Look at the founders, all friends or members of the Brady group. They are an enemy of the Constitution. Why would I wast my time joining? I come by to see what lies they are telling then move on to vote against anyone they support. . . .

  22. AHSA’s endorsement of Obama says it all for me: “Gun Grabbers”.

  23. The fact is that “guilt by association innuendo” is not necessarily a logical fallacy. If the Tyson Meat Company set up an orgainization to compete with PETA, wouldn’t that set off a red flag for you? Please don’t tell me it wouldn’t. That’s exactly what you would have us believe here, there are no red flags, despite everyone important in thos organization being associated with the Brady Campaign. In fact, here are more red flags here than in a red flag factory!

  24. Caretaker,

    The problem with the AHSA and the candidates they endorse is that they are also endorsed by the gun control groups (read gun ban groups). It was just a few years ago, that a bill was introduced into Congress that would have outlawed any firearms ammunition that would penetrate a police officer’s body armor – can you say all hunting ammunition? They’ve also been known to want to raise taxes on ammunition to a ridiculous amount. What’s the use of having pristine, undisturbed lands to go hunting if your ammunition is illegal or prohibitvely expensive? Some have also wanted to ban rifles that could be used as a sniper rifle.