We all know the NRA has no qualms about attacking gun owners who don’t agree with their "soldier of fortune" philosophy. Remember Jim Zumbo, the dean of outdoor writers whose 30 year career was destroyed by NRA because he had the audacity to write that AK-47s were not a good choice for deer hunting. Or Smith & Wesson, when they agreed with the Clinton administration that a free gun lock with a new gun is a good idea. Now the NRA wants to label AHSA as the "enemy in camouflage". The problem is most rational thinking sportsmen are beginning to understand that it’s really the NRA who is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of America’s 40 million hunters.
In the summer and fall of 2006 there was an emerging a hot button issue about public lands. The Bush Administration was proposing the sale of millions of acres of federal forest land, land that America’s hunters have had easy access to for decades. Predictably, the NRA was silent on the issue because they did not want offend their friends George Bush and Dick Cheney.
A large tract of land that would have been up for sale under the Bush proposal was a portion of the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. The incumbent Republican Senator, Jim Talent, who was in a tough race to hold on to his Senate seat initially supported the NRA-backed Bush plan to sell off the Mark Twain National Forest. Not surprisingly, that didn’t sit well with rural hunter s and shooters. Nor did it sit well with Talent’s opponent, Claire McCaskill, who had hunted the Mark Twain National Forest as a young girl with her father.
AHSA decided it was time to take on "goliath" and we went directly to Missouri’s hunters to expose NRA’s betrayal. We unleashed an award winning direct mail campaign that caught NRA operatives off guard, we endorsed McCaskill and we ran some strategic radio ads in rural Missouri to insure hunters knew what NRA was doing to their hunting heritage in the "show me’ state.
The NRA lobbyists don’t like to admit defeat. But in 2006, in Missouri, they had to. In a post-election analysis that appeared in NRA’s flagship political magazine First Freedom and on the website, NRA’s top lobbyist, Chris Cox described AHSA’s work in Missouri:
The first mailer arrived in hunters' mailboxes just days before the election, claiming, "The NRA is Selling Us Out." It attacked NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre by name and claimed that NRA is "supporting politicians who are trying to take away our access to public lands." The second mailing asked, "Why isn't the NRA standing up to Washington bureaucrats and politicians to conserve game areas and protect free access to public lands?" Laughable and false though these statements were, they were easily topped by the new slogan AHSA affixed to its mailings: "Protecting Our Gun Rights and the Lands We Love."
That AHSA slogan is probably laughable to the NRA leaders like Cox because they long ago sacrificed the hunting tradition for the DC power base. I will fight to protect the lands we love, but NRA leaders like Cox and LaPierre won’t. They just want to protect their place in the conservative Republican power structure.
It’s not in the nature of the NRA senior execs to acknowledge a loss. So when they do, it’s a big deal. That’s why it was significant when Chris Cox acknowledgedAHSA’s role in Talent’s defeat:
One thing is certain--Claire McCaskill went on to win the Senate race, and the NRA-PVF-endorsed candidate lost.
That’s right. And we have our eye on several swing states this year.
Sure the NRA consultants will attack us. That’s what they do. The NRA leadership had to react because they know AHSA poses a real threat to the NRA power base. The NRA’s leaders have lost their connection to America’s hunters and shooters who care about their communities and their environment.
None of this should come as a surprise to progressive who love to hunt and shoot. Hunters are extremely concerned about access to public lands. According to a 2003 Field & Stream National Hunting Survey, 85% of hunters think that their state should use public funds to acquire more land for public hunting. Public access and public lands matter.
Our research shows that there are millions of gun owners who share our progressive values. They need to know there is an alternative voice to the NRA. A voice that shares their concerns and puts their interests first.
There is no reason why progressives should lose the hunter and shooter vote to the right-wing NRA supported candidates. As a gun owner, hunter and conservationist I ask you who is the real "enemy in camouflage"?
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