Eats Shoots And Lobbies

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?


Here’s why.

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.

Nothing earth-shaking.

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.

36 thoughts on “Eats Shoots And Lobbies”

  1. A group that repeats long discredited anti-gun statistics is supposed to attract gun owners?

    These people are fraudulent astroturf. They’ll quickly disappear.

  2. Looks like a Democrat attempt to put lipstick on a pig. I don’t think it will improve the pig’s looks. Even cosmetically.

    It also looks like the Dems are firmly for and against the war. And they want our troops home, by Christmas, or next June, or when the mission is completed. They are against cut and run, but favor leave soon and don’t come back, unless it is necessary.

    The party is breaking up.

    This is not a problem of just the center not holding, the edges are not cohesive either. Expect a route followed by strong pursuit.

  3. My guess: an “Americans for Gun Safety” retread. Fake and unsuccessful. Supporing DC rights is nice, but you said it: self-defense is the fault line, and a straddle is impossible. Attempting the straddle makes me highly suspicious.

  4. I’d be inclined to offer initial benefit of the doubt, as this is a group staking out new political territory. It usually takes time for those to define themselves fully – or more accurately, to have the type of folks they attract truly define them.

    Which means there may still be room for improvements to happen. Having said that, the presence of “Baghdad Bonior” in a significant role pretty much nixes it as anything other than a left-wing front group.

    At this point, I’d put the odds of a sane lobby that avoids the NRA’s over-the-topness without being a deceptive left-wing mouthpiece at 10-15%, no higher.

  5. 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.

    What about the fact that the president of the ASHA Foundation John E. Rosenthal is also the founder and was the chairman of Stop Handgun Violence, Inc?

    Trigger Finger has some rather revealing details about the other members of the board and the financing of the group and changing of the domain registration which you can read here:

  6. I’ve got some bones to pick with the NRA, but these guys aren’t even vaguely tempting me to change my membership.

    Between your work and Thorley’s refs, you’ve got the bill of goods, Marc, why not issue the indictment? What else do you want – send their board off for some upland birding with Dick Cheney and see what he says? ;)

  7. Sorry, I think you are kidding yourself that there is a position other than one of:

    “Ordinary people should be able to own guns”

    “Only specially privileged wealthy-connected people like Sean Penn or Robert Blake should be able to own guns.”

    Dems, Libs, the Left has decisively chosen the latter, and finding a “middle ground” or compromise is fruitless.

    The NRA exists as the ONLY group fighting to preserve the rights of non-elite and wealthy gun owners because no Democrat can be for anything other than abolition of gun ownership (exception for wealthy and stable people like Blake).

    [Lott’s stats have not been disproven. And the violence in New Orleans shows that depending on the police only works if you are wealthy … indeed the entire premise of Liberalism is constructing an elite privileged class and the vast underclass, of which gun ownership, patriotism (ala the Dixie Chicks loathing of same), mass illegal immigration, and surrender to jihad (by Dems) are all part of the same impulse]

  8. I can’t say that I’m not ambivalent about gun ownership in some circumstances. Apart from the need to prevent criminals from acquiring guns, it does make sense to disarm people in an area that has made crime a virtual institution (as in Karbala). Our troops, as well as Iraqi security forces, often utilize a disarmament policy to start sifting the dirt from the sand. I’m not sure how this squares with a strictly libertarian view about guns, but libertarians are sometimes a little naieve. So I’m not an absolutist, but it seems especially maddening if I have to walk through an area of New Jersey, or some other highly populated place that’s relatively unknown to me, without the security a concealed firearm. And more to the point, it makes the criminal’s world far too predictable if he can more or less count on the fact that I won’t be armed. Well, criminals and worse.

    That idyllic place to which the social democratic mind wanders, with it’s friendly multicultural livingroom lifestyles where everyone is disarmed and safe, is slowly losing its grip. One could see an organization like AHSA as a “stalking horse”, but it could alse be a sign of genuine slippage. I wonder which direction the rafts are headed?

  9. The Dems are no longer monolithic about hand guns.

    In fact the Dems are no longer monolithic about almost anything.

    The party at this point has no stable policy core. It is just a collection of interest groups looking for swag.

    It is just a matter of time.

  10. Well, for starters, try their opening statement:

    to be a pro-gun, pro-conservation, pro-safety alternative to the NRA

    Since the NRA is, in fact, all three of those things (<cough>Eddie Eagle<cough><cough>) why is an alternative even needed? It’s hard for me to read this other than as saying, we’re pro-gun like the NRA but better than they are on safety and conservation, which is just plain bunk.

    And it’s not like the NRA is partisan–they recommend pro-gun D’s all the time, Montana’s current governer merely being one case in point.

  11. A.L.:

    Strictly speaking there should probably be a comma or two in the title. It sounds a little like a gopher who eats the tender vegetable shoots and then lobbies for more.

  12. Going back and looking, I note you mention the possible coalition between hunters and environmentalists. It seems like a natural connection, but there has been considerable friction in the relationship in the past.

    The enviromental types tend to be a bit left-wing/PC and thus reflexively anti-gun (and a tad “blue” and thus nervous around “red” hunters). Some of them have had bad experiences with irresponsible/drunk hunters (I’m thinking of my kinda hippie environmentalist aunt here, a longtime rural resident who has had some closer calls than she would like with deer rounds).

    Hunters also tend to be pretty suspicious of weekend hikers with lots of opinions (we wonder how these folks can hike in cougar country unarmed, too).

    It could be a productive relationship, though.

  13. Once upon a time – not so long ago – there were these critters called ‘conservationists’, who were in favor of preserving large chunks of the landscape, flora and fauna, but weren’t so big on the nanny state. Most of them – and their descendent survivors, the land trusts – actually paid for what they wanted to take out of the market, rather than accomplishing their goals through backdoor regulations. They wanted species preserved, but didn’t blanch at harvesting a little venison or duck, especially if it can walking or flying into the back yard or field.

    Bet there’s still a lot of them out them amongst the trees, in variously orange, camo, and khaki. Perhaps one backhanded benefit of the last few years is the exposure of some of the ‘watermelons’ for what they are. With the hard left enviros discredited, perhaps we could get back to preserving what’s worth having, in the light of day?

  14. 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.

    Well there’s also a law requiring warrants before wiretapping the phones of US citizens.

    But hey, heaven forbid we should cross reference gun registrations with suspected terrorists.

    That alone shows the dishonesty of the “war on terror”.

    I own registered guns, and have no problem with the FBI perusing my registration records really. But if the use of gun records in anti terror investigations worries you and the NSA doesn’t I’d say you’re priorities are a bit twisted.

  15. Could it possibly be that having phone chats with known or suspected terrorists is an indicator that you might be one yourself, whereas owning and keeping a handgun or long arm is not? (Unless one believes that A.L., Davebo, and I are all more likely to go jihadi than your average Joe.)

    Nah, can’t be that simple. Must be a Bushitlerian neocon plot.

  16. There is also a confiscation agenda in existance, with no equivalent agenda involved in the interception of telephone conversations. The latter will not become the basis for the confiscation of my telephone.

    The analogy fails, Davebo.

  17. Lott’s stats have not been disproven.

    I may not be up to date on this, but having looked it his analysis back when he came out with it, the data seems pretty sound. The problem is that the percentage of legal gun owners in a district is highly inverse-correlated with population density, which in turn is highly correlated with crime. That doesn’t invalidate the findings, but it suggests that one has to be cautious about interpreting them. Is there an unbiased critique of Lott’s analysis somewhere?

    Has he attempted to “hold population density equal” in some fashion? That’d be tough, but not an insurmountable problem.

  18. “There is also a confiscation agenda in existance”

    So we shouldn’t confiscate weapons purchased by people considered terrorists by the government?

    I mean, if suspecting that someone may have spoken to a terrorists eliminates their right to due process, ie a FISA warrant, couldn’t it also be considered sufficient to remove their 2nd ammendment rights?

    Bottom line is we all know why the government won’t utilize these records in the WOT and it has nothing to do with protecting 2nd ammendment rights and everything to do with politics.

  19. Then again I suppose if I was truly concerned about my constitutional rights I’d spell amendment correctly!


  20. Sorry, that wasn’t a useful link (#18), let me repeat it with excerpts:

    bq. [T]he National Research Council . . . report has been years in the making, and features some of the top researchers in the country. Well, the report has been issued, it contains bad news for Lott: It concludes that “There is no credible evidence that ‘right-to-carry’ laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime.” They discuss Lott’s research at some length and find it wanting. Note that they do not say that right-to-carry laws increase crime. That may be a silver lining for those opposed to gun control who believe that in the absence of evidence of a benefit states should allow people to carry guns, but it doesn’t help Lott very much: He staked his reputation on his claim that the data showed a decrease. So much for his reputation. *(Bengamin)*

    bq. As to Lott’s work, I actually thought that the Council’s report was too generous to his research in spots. In particular, I thought that it failed to point out just how much Lott’s results are driven by poorly executed demographic controls, a point that Ayres and Donohue make effectively in their Stanford exchange. While the Council’s report raises a lot of questions about Lott’s use of control variables in general, particularly in its Appendix D, the Report does not seem to focus on the degree to these questionable demographic controls determine some of Lott’s results. *(Lindgren)*

    This “cite”: also inlcudes Lott’s response.

    Frankly, the study is probably too old for much policy discussion at this point, though weaving in and out of the above link is the suggested possibility that Lott has updated his study, but killed the result.

  21. Just to ensure I’m not leaving the wrong impression.

    Regardless of the viability of Lott’s research, I support conceal carry laws in any state that chooses to adopt them.

    They may or may not reduce crime, but each one seems to have reasonable requirements and I really can’t understand why any reasonable person would object to them.

  22. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that concealed weapons permits had 0 effect on crime.

    What is the objection to them?

    We know that people object vehemently, so what is the huge cost that they’re objecting to?

  23. Well, for starters…

    1) the huge cost to their sensibilities of getting freaked out when someone accidentally flashes or “prints” a weapon through their clothes. Especially if it happens in proximity and more frequently than they are accustomed to — which is mostly limited to TV and movies. It’s OK to see Sipowitz’s weapon. But not yours. It makes one feel bad to see a gun. Pistols on cop holsters are sort of tolerable. But that’s it.

    2) Plus the huge cost of untold sleepless days and nights as they wonder who-all’s carrying that they *can’t* see. As long as lawful concealed carry is NI[M]BY, they can pretend nobody (including bad guys) are doing it.

    3) Plus the huge cost of wandering around with their eyes glazed in fear waiting for the OK Corral gunfight[s] to break out. “I don’t want to live in a ghetto. I live in a gated community.” Usw.

    4) Plus the huge cost of feeling wickedly tempted to get a pistol and a CCW even though one’s the kind of person who talks trash about shooting people, etc., and really doesn’t trust oneself or one’s peers with “that kind of power”.

    5) Plus other factors too similar to be worth enumerating.

  24. “My guess: an “Americans for Gun Safety” retread.”

    Got it in one, and with all the accumulated evidence, it’s not a matter of guessing. They were exposed as a disinformation op almost a year ago. It’s just the usual Democratic front organization, intended to provide the media with positive statements about gun control bills from a supposed “pro-gun” organization, and to supply anti-gun candidates with endorsements “proving” that they’re not really bad guys. They seem to spin out a new one every few years.

    “The NRA exists as the ONLY group fighting to preserve the rights of non-elite and wealthy gun owners”

    LOL! Yup, the “only” one, except for all the OTHER ones, such as Gun Owners of America, or the Second Amendment Foundation. Gimme a break, it’s not enough for the NRA to be the “biggest”, you’ve got to pretend it’s the “only”?

  25. Demosophist:

    _Our troops, as well as Iraqi security forces, often utilize a disarmament policy to start sifting the dirt from the sand._

    Some years ago there was a letter in the New York Times whose author recounted approvingly his boyhood memory of American occupation troops going house-to-house in Japan and confiscating swords, as a model for what gun control in America should be.

    He missed a rather essential point: America is not an occupied country, not even by its own government.

  26. Months ago, I sent this group an e-mail expressing interest in membership but asking for their postion on several specific anti-gunowners bills, particular the odious McCarthy AWB “renewal” bill that repealed the hunting/sporting gun exemption list and banned some of the guns on the list.

    I NEVER received a reply. That says something itself — the NRA would always reply to an e-mail expressing interest in membership but asking for their postion on several specific bills.

  27. The existence of this organization proves once again that the leadership of the Democratic party takes average Americans for idiots.

  28. Just another group of liberal moonbats. This reminds me of Hillary after the ’04 election, dusting off the Bible, trying to fool people that she’s one of them.

  29. If there were a pro-hunting, pro-conservation group without the NRA’s absolutist baggage, I’d absolutely join it, just like I joined the Recreational Fishing Alliance. But I don’t see where there’s a demand for such a group to be actively supporting gun control, which is why I’m inclined to agree that this is astroturfing.

    In general, this notion of hunters as the new population of enthusiastic Democrats is so thoroughly a contrived talking point that I’m very skeptical of anything around it.

  30. Davebo,

    Where in the Constitution does it say I have the right to talk to Terrorists on the phone? Question, how does the Terrorist pass the background check?

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