Hunting in America has entered a long twilight. The number of license holders—roughly 15 million through 2004—has actually shrunk by about 2 million people since 1982, when the population was 230 million (versus 300 million today). Since 1990, the number of license holders in Massachusetts has dropped by 50,000, or 40 percent; in California since 1980 the number has fallen by almost half, from 540,000 to 300,000. In Michigan, there were 1.2 million licensed hunters in 1992—but fewer than 850,000 in 2004. Hunters are aging: about seven in 10 are older than 35 (in 1980, only four in 10 were over 35). The reasons for hunting's decline are pretty basic: fewer fields and streams and hills full of game to hunt (Census data show that urban America more than doubled in acreage from 1960 to 1990); more restrictions and lawsuits; more videogames and diversions to keep junior (and his dad) on the couch.You all already know what I'm going to say next...I was raised a hunter; walked the fields with my father, various uncles, grandfather; schooled in the joys, the trials, the ethics of the hunt. I have fought long and hard against the hypocrites — including those in my own family — who rail about the "inhumanity" of hunting while "enjoying" a double patty Big Mac with bacon.
...I have a son and daughter of my own now, and I would like the chance to pass on some of what my father taught me. It's hard to write this without sounding a little mawkish, but what I learned from hunting is that things in life aren't always black and white, and that they're not always easy, but the effort put in has a direct correlation to your success. You have to do it right. You respect the gun, you respect the animal and you respect the rules, and that translates to real life. It's hard to kill something, but you develop deep appreciation of animals and the outdoors when you do it regularly. I know nonhunters think that's absurd logic, and I understand why. But if it's part of your culture and part of the road to being a man, you find a way to face up to the hard parts and the raw emotions of it and you do it honorably. Shooting an animal is often a gut-wrenching act, and not one that's taken lightly by anyone I know. You respect it, you honor it and you never waste it. Most of all, you just give thanks for it.
But I unconditionally believe that it is suicide to hitch all our RKBA wagons to the one horse of hunting! Especially with the Democrats now running the store. The best-selling rifle in America is the AR-15 platform black rifle; the numbers are are harder to come by, but I would wager that the second best-selling rifle in America is the AK-47 and its variants.
As I travel around the country, I have the unique opportunity to go to ranges and talk with shooters...what I hear and see are self-defense handguns, ARs and AKs. Virtually the only context in which I hear hunting mainstay bolt-action rifles even mentioned is long distance precision — sniper — competition; the venerable Winchester '94 30-30, which gave so many young people, including me, their introduction into bigger game hunting, is no longer manufactured...indeed, the "old" Winchester is dead as the dodo...and if you want to talk lever actions, you've got to take up cowboy action shooting.
Self-defense, training and competition reign unchallenged as the drivers for the firearms industry and our best hope of both increasing our numbers and preserving our rights.
We — that is, us as individuals and our representatives in and from the industry — must start making the case that shooting and hunting are not synonymous. We need to promote the vibrant growth of all forms of shooting competition, and we must keep reminding both the nonaligned and our enemies — and those nattering idiots at the New York Times — that our firearms rights have nothing to do with duck hunting.
Why does the industry resist this so vociferously?