Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dealin' Friends

"Oh, and it’s a hollow feelin’ when
It comes down to dealin’ friends
It never ends"
— The Eagles
"Tequila Sunrise"

You've all put up with my rants about the implications of the increasing split between the hunting and the shooting markets, especially in the light of the coming elections. Here's the Cliff Notes version for those of you who slept in:
I believe the hunting and shooting markets, long considered a single entity, have been diverging, which would be no big deal except that the firearms industry has 100% allied itself with the hunting side of the market to the exclusion of the shooters. As the markets have diverged, so have the things in our best interest split. In some cases, those interests are in direct conflict; for example increasing hunting access versus building shooting ranges. More troubling is the fact that the hunting side of the industry focuses on traditional hunting arm, rifles and shotguns, while the shooting side of the industry is overwhelming interested in self-defense handguns, "black" rifles and competition firearms.
Mostly I've focused on this issued from the Boston Tea Party — no taxation without representation — side of the table. The firearms industry collects money from us in the form of an excise tax on guns and ammo, plus membership in various trade organizations, plus contributions, etc., then uses that money for RKBA issues, lobbying, new programs etc.

I have no issue when our money is used to "fight the good fight." But more and more of that money is going into a hunting market-related agenda. As I've said before, one major honcho in the industry told me recently that "hunter access" was the single biggest issue facing the firearms community, and that hunting was the future of firearms, period.

Let me show you where that thinking ends up...

Charlie Meyers, the Denver Post Outdoors Editor and a very well-respected hook-and-bullet writer, this morning weighted in on the Colorado governor's race, which is a mess. The column's not up on the Denver Post site yet, so I'm going to have to do some fill-in for you.

The Colorado governor's race between Democrat Bill Ritter and Republican Bob Beauprez is as nasty as they come. Both men have accused the other as being Spawns of Satan who sacrifice babies every full moon...and those are the "nice" ads! Here's what's interesting from our perspective...

The Democrat Ritter moved quickly to blunt the "gun vote," which in Colorado (as in much of the U.S.) is the swing vote. He jumped on "my" issuesomebody in his office reads this blog — the U.S. Forest Service's on-going antigun campaign to shut down shooting in the national forests and pledged to fight for more ranges, blah blah. NRA gives Ritter an "F" as the man behind Denver's assault weapon ban.

Beauprez — depite my urgings in the early months of this year — took the gun vote for granted. I spoke to a Beauprez insider back in April, who asked me what the candidate needed to to to "nail down" the gun vote. I talked about the USFS issues, but mostly I said Beauprez needed to simply talk to us. I said I realized that the social conservative wing of the Republican Party looked at us, especially the "shooter" side of the vote, as somewhere between a necessary evil and looney Uncle Fester locked in the closet. All the candidate had to do to turn us out was tell us, publicly, that he was willing to work with us. That never happened, despite Beauprez's "A" rating from the NRA (which his office probably figured would carry the day).

Okay, here's where we are this AM with Mr. Meyers' column in support of the Democrat Ritter:
...Ritter has been attacked by the National Rifle Association as a threat to gun ownership, a reference to his stance against certain radical firearms as an article of public safety when he was Denver's district attorney.

The notion that Ritter, or any other Colorado politician, could or would take away our shotguns and hunting rifles is absurd. Last time I checked, nobody went hunting with automatic assault rifles or Saturday night specials.
Sort of takes your breath away, doesn't it? Let me just highlight a few phrases..."certain radical firearms"..."take away our shotguns and hunting rifles"...nobody went hunting with automatic assault rifles or Saturday night specials"...

Okay, just like you I have a reflex urge to correct the man...ARs are on the way to becoming one of the most popular hunting rifles in America, just like they took over long-range competitions...self-defense handguns are the largest sellers in the rifles are no different than hunting rifles...there's no such thing as a "Saturday night special"...blah blah...

But that is not the point!

Let me give you one more quote from Mr. Meyers' column for you to chew on:
This wrong-headed election rhetoric from the firearms lobby consistantly ignores the reality that it doesn't matter how many guns we own if there's nothing left to hunt.
And that, folks, is where our industry's obsession with hunting leads us!

Good lord, I own a lot of guns that I use constantly, and I don't hunt at all any more. The shooting sports are growing while hunting is shrinking. Firearms training is a booming industry, and a vast majority of states — including Colorado — allow CCW. The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting! But ..."it doesn't matter how many guns we own if there's nothing left to hunt."

Think about it, boys and girls. We're coming to a crossroads...I've been severely criticized by some traditional firearms groups for supporting a "dangerous division" within the gun lobby. I do no such thing; I want our voices — the voices on the side of the growing market segment — to be heard and our issues to be addressed.

We — sport shooting, self-defense, training, collectors — are the future of firearms in America.

We all know it, and the numbers prove it. I stand hand-in-hand with my hunting brothers and sisters, as long as they stand hand-in-hand with me!

I have no illusions that the majority of those on Mr. Meyers' side of the argument are perfectly willing to sell us out if the other side guarantees them "hunting rights." I am voting a straight NRA ticket, including Beauprez, in November, but I am not a fool. There is a limit to how long I will support a lobby that marginalizes what I do in favor of a shrinking "old guard." And I suspect I am not alone here.


Anonymous said...

Amen Brother.....whenever us gunnies are anything but quaint little hunters in bright orange hats...we're wackos w/ Militia intentions.At least in some people's view.Politicos like Kerry,out "hunting" is misleading eonough,w/ out "actual hunters"not backing the rest of us up.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember the NRA giving a rats butt about hunters until they got organized outside of Faifax's control. When it became apparent that hunters would spend money through SCI, RMEF, DU, QU, NWTF to get what they wanted the NRA took notice.

I can only speak from my limited experiance but state and local gun orginzations do not make the same positive impression when they want something and I think that is a problem we need to fix. In my home state, hunting organizations have given millions to the state for their causes. I have never heard of the gun group even offering to split the cost of a new range.

We did have 3 Gun shooters, SASA, Trap, Sporting Clay events at the Govenors Hunting Symposium in PA.

We need better organization, much better marketing.

Michael Bane said...

I'd like to point out that the "millions" hunter organizations have given to various states has come out of OUR pockets!

The Pittman-Robinson excise tax that we pay on all guns, ammunition and components, gets divided up and contributed to state organizations. P-R specifically mandated that those tax monies could be used, in addition to land aquisition, hunter access, conservation, etc., for BUILDING RANGES. To the best of my knowledge, not a penny of P-R tax money has been used to build ranges or any other sport shooting use.

Taxation without representation is tyranny...true then; true now.

We do indeed need much better organization and much better marketing!


PS: I keynoted a Governor's Symposium on Hunting a few years back...and said things they didn't want to hear. No subsequent invitations were forthcoming!

Anonymous said...


I was talking about the money donated from banquets. In PA our chapter of SCI averaged close to $50,000 a year and we were pikers compared to NWTF and RMEF who had donated over a million in 10 years. PA did build ranges and they were shot to pieces by idiots who left the place littered with broken bottles and 7.63 X 39 cases.

BTW we gave the NRA $5000 a year from our fundraiser for several years because we knew guns were for more than hunting.

Gerry Flanagan

Anonymous said...

PR dollars should be spent on professionally run ranges. Not "sportsmans clubs" that require a secret handshake and a waiting list to join. We need rnages that you can walk up to during normal business hours and put your money down and shoot on a monitored range.

I've shot at professionally run ranges and they are much better to shoot at than those that are run by volunteer.

As for the range being shot to hell, where was the range officer? THe manager of the range and the range staff when all this happened? In the future, take a page out of Oak Tree and go with all steel targets. They tend to be very difficult to shoot to pieces.

One more thing, DU banquets pull in money from peopel that aren't hunters. And DU ran into trouble several years ago when the leadership declared the organization wasn't about hunting but about conservation. You don't need to ever hunt to raise money for conservation.

catfish said...

Not gonna totally disagree with you - but on the other hand, how would you explain the Springer XD's and the new S&W MP40??

I think you can surely point to the idpa ssp/esp and/or uspsa production growth spurring a need for something to compete against the Glock blitzkrieg. And that's surely not directed at our hunting bretheren.

Anonymous said...

..."Where was the range officer"

PA has public ranges constructed with Government funds (From the PGC). There is no money to staff the ranges, they exist and it is up to the shooters to insure they are run properly. Staffing and running the type of range you advocate is just not in the cards. We in PA are fortunate to have the facilities.

In my experience folks from neighboring NY come and shoot the place up on weekends because their state shuts down their ranges with regularity.

At least PA makes an attempt to provide for shooters.

Geoff from PA

Anonymous said...

OK, I understand you point about the range. BUT, if you had some PR money to run the thing like a real business then you'd not have that problem.

That is the whole point of this entire discussion. Small black guns - and their longer blacker brother rifles - put money in the PR fund bank. But that money doesn't go to build or expand more ranges. And all those banquets didn't put any money into ranges - except for the Friends of the NRA but even then much of it goes to "clubs" with closed door policies.

me said...

well, if there's "nothing" left to hunt, I suspect that the most dangerous game will just need much more protecting. Perhaps that point should be made.

Which PA ranges are littered with 7.62x39, and is it reloadable? ;)