Over at Kevin Drum’s place, Christina Larsen links to the new “American Hunters and Shooters Association“, which she describes as aiming “…to be a pro-gun, pro-conservation, pro-safety alternative to the NRA…“.
In other words a less absolutist gun owner’s organization, premised on the notion that the NRA is so deeply involved in legislative affairs that it’s selling short it’s mission to encourage hunting and use of firearms in areas other than self-defense.
This ties to a Washington Monthly article by Larsen a while ago about “The Emerging Environmental Majority” in which she suggests that environmental concerns that impact outdoorsmen (and women) – those who fish and hunt – mirror those of environmentalists, and that a loose coalition may be forming.
It’s an interesting idea, and AHSA is a clear manifestation of it.
There’s a set of questions about the extent to which the organization is grassroots or Astroturf, and as those get answered, that’ll obviously have an impact on my view of it.
But I’m absolutely the target audience for a group like this – I shoot, I’m policy-oriented (i.e. not going to go ballistic because government proposes something), and I believe that in reality there is gun regulation that exists and could exist that’s a good thing both for society and gun owners.
I let my NRA membership lapse when I stopped competing in part because of my distaste for some of their political tactics, and even more because I do think it’s become a self-perpetuating bureaucracy, like many advocacy groups.
So what’s my initial reaction?
On the website, there’s a clear message sent by the images – all of which are orange-vested long-gun toting outdoor sportsmen. No target shooters, no precision long-distance shooters, no handgun shooters at all (not even handgun hunters).
Go to the “Gun Rights” section, and there are two links: Working With Our Legislators and DC Gun Law.
Working with our legislators involves a day of bonding and upland bird hunting (hey, I like bird hunting…).
DC Gun Law encourages (sensibly) that the District allow law-abiding citizens to purchase guns.
Then we go to the Law Enforcement section. Here’s the lede:
AHSA is an organization committed to supporting our nation’s law enforcement officers and first responders in their fight against easy access to guns by criminals, terrorists, and others who would abuse the right to keep and bear arms.
Reading down the policy proposals, what it looks like to me is an effort to broaden the data gathered and stored about gun purchasers and purchases.
There’s a huge and recent history around this, in which current law pretty clearly prohibits law enforcement from retaining gun sales data gathered during background checks. Some agencies kept it anyway, thinking that it would have some future utility and Congress and the Administration jointly slapped their hands.
In other words, law enforcement administration attempted to use records that are by law to be used only to vet gun purchasers and are supposed to be destroyed as a backdoor registry.
My feelings about registration are complex, but at the end of the day if the option is a single federal or state registry, I’m against it. Go see how well it worked in Canada.
OK, one strike.
Let’s go to the section headed A Gun In The Home For Self-Protection?
The American Hunters and Shooters Association does not promote nor do we discourage keeping a firearm in the home for self-protection. We believe it is inappropriate for anyone to make a one-size-fits-all recommendation that an individual in Maryland, Texas, California or Massachusetts should or should not keep a firearm in the home.
In deciding whether a firearm in the home is a risk or a benefit, four common sense factors must be considered:
1. Is a firearm in the home more likely to be used to protect its owner or is it more likely to be used against a member of the household?
2. How frequently are guns used for self-protection?
3. How effective are handguns when they are used for self-protection?
4. Overall, how safe are guns in the home?
There are certain factors that weigh heavily against keeping a gun in the home for self-protection. One of the most widely quoted statements about guns is that a firearm kept in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. This comes from the Journal of Medicine in 1986, following a six-year review of gunshot deaths in Seattle, Washington, conducted by Dr. Arthur Kellermann and others. The validity of this study in determining the value and risk of firearms for home protection has been questioned. The Kellermann study focused only on defensive gun uses where the criminal intruder was shot and killed. Instances in which intruders or assailants were wounded or frightened away were not included.
This is waffling at a level I would have thought only John Kerry capable of. Strike two.
I don’t believe everyone in America should own a gun. I don’t believe that people who don’t have guns in their homes ready to hand are in imminent danger because they refuse to arm.
But here’s a place where a clear stance should be taken – and we ought to know exactly where the organization stands.
because in reality, that’s the fissure point in American society around guns. Most Americans wouldn’t have an issue with the Savage deer rifle in my gun safe, or the classic Remington 53 shotgun.
But the Scattergun Tech police shotgun or the handguns probably give them pause.
Because the fundamental question is: do you trust me and citizens like me enough to allow me ready access to the tools for deadly force in order to defend myself?
And do you in light of the incontrovertible fact that many people misuse those tools with tragic outcomes?
It’s a bright line, and you’re typically on one side or the other.
When I’m clearer which side AHSA is on, I’ll know more about how I feel.
But at this point, the cynic in me suggests that it’s a stalking horse designed to try and split the shooting community. It feels vaguely like a ‘womens rights’ organization that is ambivalent about women working outside the home.
I’ll suggest two steps the organization could take that would make me feel a lot more comfy.
First, clarify their position on nonhunting, nonsporting ownership and use of guns. There’s language on the site which could be taken either way, and that’s bad. Assuming their position is close to mine, clarity here would buy a lot of comfort from me.
Second, take a position on ‘shall-issue’ CCW. While John Lott’s data supporting lower crime rates in states with policies that readily grant weapons permits to noncriminal citizens is pretty much out the window, I have seen no data that suggests any significant negative impacts – and I know people are looking.
Overall, my problem with that isn’t Ray Schoenke, the former Redskin who’s the president of the group (although his campaign donations to Sen. Kennedy, Sen. Feinstein, Sen. Boxer and others on the anti-gun side of the world would seem to put him clearly on one side of the issue), or Bob Ricker, the executive director who left the NRA in a Fury and participated in several of the lawsuits against gun manufacturers (a particularly odious thing to do, in my view), or their consultants who include former Congressman David Bonior, who has been a reliable antigun voter. It’s quite possible that they could come to the conclusion that gun rights matter, and that a different organization than the NRA could do a good – or even in some lights better – job of defending them. My problem is that there is a space to the left of the NRA, but it’s a narrow one. And I wonder if these guys haven’t stepped too far away.
If they haven’t, it’d be a great opening to the Democrats to the ‘guys who have Confederate flags on their pickups’ – men and women whose support they need if they are going to start winning elections.