Monday, September 26, 2005

Why a Hunting-Centric Focus Hurts Us All

Here's a perfectly fair e-mail question:

"Jeez, Bane! What's the big deal here? Hunting, shooting, we're all on the same side. I don't see what you're so worked up about..."
That deserves an answer, or at least my taking a shot (so to speak) at an answer.

The firearms industry's obsessive focus on hunting, as opposed to shooting, activities causes damage to the gun culture, RKBA issues and us individually as shooters because:

1) It limits the number of new participants coming into the gun culture to people who want to hunt, as opposed to just shoot. This is bad because we are locked in a game of numbers — the more people we have on our side, the easier it becomes to defend our rights. For the amount of money flowing into hunter recruitment and retention programs right now, we could easily recruit 10X that number into the shooting sports! You do the math — which puts us in a stronger position nationally, 1 million new hunters or 10 million sport shooters?

2) It ignores the larger, much more important goal of "normalizing" the use and ownership of firearms in a desperate effort to prop up revenues in hunting-related industries. Hunting is declining and has been declining for a decade or more, a reflection of four "megatrends" — increasing suburbanization of previously rural land; the social acceptance of broader liability responsibilities; the on-going assault on leisure time coupled with a much, much larger selection of activities to fill the shrinking leisure time and, finally, a "realignment" of the basic family unit that has shifted much of young people's leisure time activities to peer groups and away from inner family activities. Blunt trauma recruitment and retention efforts are mostly focused on creating more hunting consumers to keep fueling a large industry. That's all well and good. However, our social problem is not that there aren't enough people buying stuff, but that our enemies have succeeded in demonizing firearms ownership and use. The focus of our industry-wide effort should be "hearts and minds" as well as consumers. I see very little of that happening, even within the recruitment and retention establishment.

3) Taxation without representation is tyranny. It was when James Otis said it before the Revolutionary War; it still is. The Pittman-Robinson excise tax on all firearms and ammunition generates billions of dollars, which goes for land conservation, wildlife management and repopulation and hunter recruitment and retention...I'm not against any of those things. HOWEVER, why has not one penny of thhis tax gone to any other shooting activity? And why do fish and wildlife people go pale when anyone brings this fact up? The Pittman-Robinson money is the 800-pound gorilla hiding behind the curtain!

4) The hunting-only focus has clouded the more urgent political issues. Look at John Kerry running around capping anything he could find during the election, or Bill Clinton proclaiming long and loud how he loved to whack the occasional Daffy Duck. The left-wing spinners know the public at large can be confused on this issue, because we're often confused on this issue. Show me a Democrat who is "anti-hunting," and I'll have him canned and distributed as tuna. But our fight is not, never has been, and never will be about duck hunting!

5) The shooting sports and self-defense/tactical shooting are booming despite benign ignorance, but they need help at a national level. Here's how I view it — the shooting sports are the key, the shoehorn, to a hearts and mind program to make a major change in the national mindset. The self-defense/tactical emerging market is the rock upon which a lasting change in the national mindset is going to be made. But these emerging markets need help in marketing, in their own recruitment and retention efforts and in buildiing a solid infrastructure. None of that is happening right now.

If you think back to the 1950s, the image of a gunowner/gun user was a sportsman...a white. middle-aged man tramping the game fields with a shotgun slung over his shoulder and a dog at his heels. It captured our imagination then, and I understand the urge to make that image real again. But if we are going to succeed in undoing decades of antigun propaganda, we need more than an image of a man/woman, white/black/Hispanic/Asian tramping the game fields with a shotgun over his/her shoulder. We need the image of a professional woman with a CCW handgun in her purse; an Olympic athlete holding a shotgun, rifle, or pistol; a tactical trainer teaching Americans how to defend themselves; a practical competitor pushing the limits of what is possible with a firearm; the mile-long line of shotgun competitors at the Grand; the majesty of Camp Perry; the hard-core realism of Gunsite and Valhalla and Blackwater and, yes, a sportsperson tramping the game fields.

Hunting is no more the future of shooting than bicycling is the future of shooting.

SHOOTING is the future of shooting.

And I suspect that if the people lead, the leaders will follow...however reluctantly.


Anonymous said...

Were I given to conspiracy theories, I'd think this was part of a clever plan by the anti-gun folks-- make hunting the only 'legitimate' need for guns in the eyes of the uninformed public, then crank up the anti-bloodsport / anti-redneck-slob-hunter media machine...

Michael Bane said...

That "legitimate use" thing scares the crap out of me!


Anonymous said...

The P-R act has in it something to the effect of being also used for RANGE development.

See any new ranges lately? The P-R also gives the collected money to the states who - surprise!- give the money to the fish and wildlife people.

(Try and get some of this for a local range..)

The conspiracy theory is not all that far off base. If we default to only hunting, hunting guns are the only good guns.

Eliminate hunting, the next step, then you(Joe Schmo) no longer need your hunting guns.

Sometimes the self evident truth is so frightening as to evoke total denial.

Anonymous said...

To think that NSSF is blind to the shooting sports is stupid.

NSSF folks have very nice thank you sinecures in which they need to do nothing risky to earn their money. The anti gunners love them and the pro gunners are too fratricidal to do anything about them.

Anonymous said...

Michael: Right On! Another index to use in measuring just how out of date the 'hunting' culture is seen when examining what drives sales and advertising in all the popular gun-zines; specifically -- HANDGUNS.

Articles on handguns dominate the gunzine business and have for the last several years if you examine the number of articles in all the different magazines or the column inches of ad copy for products and services related to handguns. How many of those handguns are used strictly for 'hunting'??? Compare the typical article spread of today to that seen 40 years ago. Back then the major long gun manufacturers dominated the gunzine business and had press junkets every year to wine and dine the major writers at exclusive hunting preserves. How many do today?? To my knowledge, only Remington does and it is nowhere near the scale seen when Winchester and Remington were heads-up rivals.

Many people enjoy nostalgia and like to live in the past, but to continue saying that 'hunting' is the future for the shooting sports is a matra repeated by those who power their personal computers with steam.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Anonymous said...

As a hunter I agree with you 100%.
It always peeved me when hunters wouldn't back other gun owners. Some of us are very short sighted.
What ever happen to the "I am the NRA" campaign? It seemed to do just what you suggest

Anonymous said...

Take a guess at how much $$ NSSF puts toward the following and then figure out for yourself where their interst really is....

1) IDPA $0.0
2) USPSA $0.0
3) USA Shooting $120,000 (a guess)
4) SCTP $500,000 (good program for shotguns)
5) Steel Challenge $5,000
6) Hunting Heritage Partnership $1 mil+
8) Congressional Sportsman Foundation
9) Step Outside $180,000
10) 4-H Shooting Programs
11) Boy Scouts of America
12) Range Development
13) National Hunting & Fishing Day

Another question to ask is how many handguns can be found shown in pictures in NSSF publications. The handgun has gone MIA from the new logo which has everybody asking what is going on. Those who know the handgun market at NSSF are few and far between if they are there at all.

Anonymous said...

When I first saw the increase of outdoors and hunting shows I was inpressed, especially on ESPN and even OLN. Then I saw the warning about "impact shots shown for reality." After watching a couple of these shows, I realized that we are being taken down the garden path. This is truly a well planned long term strategy. Many sportsmen enjoy the hunt, many many more uninitiated are not so enamored at the results. Later they will be subjected to "brutality" of one small part of hunting.

Unknown said...

I really like your writing style. Nice Post keep it up.

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