Taking aim at the Constitution ... or not?
Some year back, I got a missive about a new organization being formed called the American Hunters and Shooters Association. Could I look into it?
So I did.
Upon cursory inspection, it looked to be nothing more than a start-up organization that eschewed the right-wing paranoia of the National Rifle Association. The pitch was that this new organization was going to talk "common sense and conservation."
But I am natural skeptic, and so when I drilled a bit more, I found John Lott's piece which suggested the organization was something a bit different that it at first appeared to be. According to Lott, the American Hunters and Shooters Association was really a false front operation of the Democratic Leadership Council, which hoped to use it as an apologist for politicians willing to join the ban-all-the-handguns crowd.
Lott and others noted that the American Hunters and Shooters Association seemed to be located within the office of an internet public relations shop called "DCS Politics" whose client list
Was it an accident that DCS Politics was located in the same building as the Democratic Leadership Council itself? Hard to say.
What one can say is that even to this day, if you go to the web site of the American Hunters and Shooters Association, you find it's like a Hollywood western town: one board thick, with nothing but the desert behind it.
If you look carefully, you find no address and no phone number for the organization
Look deeper, and you will find that no staff is mentioned.
Look at "Our Programs" and you find a lot of verbiage
The Executive Director of the American Hunters and Shooters Association is Bob Ricker. Ricker knows a lot about guns because he is a former 20-year employee of the NRA. Now, however, Ricker is the principal behind "Ricker & Associates," which is a consultant to anti-gun groups. Apparently, being Executive Director of AHSA is not his fulltime job.
Look over the web site of the American Hunters and Shooters Association, and you find no pictures of handguns, and little or no mention of guns being used for self-defense purposes or target shooting.
Bottom line: Lott's characterization of the American Hunters and Shooters Association as a "front group" for the gun control lobby seemed to hold up in 2005, and it seems to hold up today.
So imagine my surprise, when I was emailed a piece stripped from The Daily Kos
And get this: the organization is going to file "a brief supporting the position that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to own firearms."
But of course, as I said before, I am a natural skeptic, and so I read the whole thing.
And yes, more words did follow.
You see the American Hunters and Shooters Association was going to support the position that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to own firearms HOWEVER (emphasis added), "we also support reasonable public policies so that all Americans can enjoy the benefits of this crucial and historic liberty."
Huh? What does that last bit mean?
I'm not sure.
But one thing is for certain. It means something.
Is the American Hunters and Shooters Association going to boldly say we should not give guns to criminals or the deranged? We hardly need a new organization to tell us that!
Is the American Hunters and Shooters Association going to tell us that the state should require folks to take a gun safety course? Of course, and already in place!
Is the American Hunters and Shooters Association going to suggest that it should be against the law to fire a bazooka in downtown Washington? Well yes, existing law is pretty clear on that point, and it's not too controversial, so far as I can tell.
Is the American Hunters and Shooters Association going to give us a nice feel-good lecture about how we all have a "civic responsibility to make our communities safe?"
If so, go ahead -- but recognize that those words mean nothing without action, i.e. a lot of hard (and expensive) on-the-ground lobbying to make them so.
And making our communities safe, as I have noted in the past has very little to do with gun laws, but a lot to do with alcohol and drug treatment programs, funding family-crisis and anger-management programs, locking up abusive husbands, and providing for community-based mental health centers and outreach facilities (to say nothing of affordable mental health care).
And so, with baited breath, I look forward to the the American Hunters and Shooters Association amicus curiae brief.
I am not pre-judging it. In fact, I may agree with it.
I am, I suspect, the kind of person the American Hunters and Shooters Association would like to court -- a centrist-lefty hunting conservationist with a solid track record on issues like forest protection who can articulate a liberal case for gun ownership.
I am not an NRA member and I do not hesitate to sneer at their macho (and mostly fake) posturing on the environment.
That said, I am interested in how the first half of the sentence ("the Second Amendment provides an individual right to own firearms") actually connects to the second half of the sentence which says there must be "reasonable public policies" so that I or anyone else can "enjoy the benefits of the crucial and historic liberty" of owning a firearm.
What, exactly, is this organization trying to protect me from? And why do they think gun legislation is the first (or second, third, or fourth) action needed?
And as for connecting America's shooters and hunters to conservation, why do we need the American Hunters and Shooters Association any more than we need the National Rifle Association?
It seems to me that a solid working "Guns-and-Greens" organization already exists in the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. This organization has been a terrific success (I have blogged about it in the past) and I stand four-square behind this initiative.
But I am skeptical about the American Hunters and Shooters Association.
You will pardon me my skepticism; it is my natural condition.
Experience has shown me that when people obfuscate too much, I should use one hand to grab my wallet, and the other hand to grab my ass.
That said, I am always happy to be surprised.
Right now, however, I am keeping my expectations low.
As one of my old farmer friends once observed, "You hear a lot of 'yeah buts' from the folks up there in Washington, but down here on the farm nothing follows a butt except bullshit."
True, brother, true.
But let us see. Maybe this time it will be different. Past is not prologue ... even if it is the best way to bet the ponies.