(Wash. Post) NRA Pressured To Resist Bush Energy Policies


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JohnBT
January 7, 2007, 05:39 PM
My favorite quote: ""I believe that we have reached a tipping point where the majority of hunters and shooters realize the NRA isn't representing their interests," said Rosenthal, who is a longtime activist for handgun control.

The group [AHSA] concedes that, so far, the NRA has more executives than the new group has members."
_____________________________________________________________
NRA Pressured To Resist Bush Energy Policies
Hunters Wary of Limited Land Access

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 7, 2007; A03


SEATTLE -- After years of close association with the Republican Party and hard-nosed opposition to federal land-use regulation, the National Rifle Association is being pressured by its membership to distance itself from President Bush's energy policies that have opened more public land for oil and gas drilling and limited access to hunters and anglers.

"The Bush administration has placed more emphasis on oil and gas than access rights for hunters," said Ronald L. Schmeits, second vice president of the NRA, a member of its board of directors and a bank president in Raton, N.M.

The new emphasis on the issue of access to public lands, which Schmeits said is at the "discussion" level among the NRA's directors, would represent a strategic shift for the NRA, whose leadership in Washington has long maintained that its 4 million members were not complaining or even asking questions about access to public lands.

But, during the past six years, an increasing number of the country's 46 million hunters and anglers, including Republican-leaning shooting organizations such as the Boone and Crockett Club, have been grumbling about the Bush's administration fast-tracking of oil and gas drilling leases on public lands.

"We find that our members are having a harder time finding access to public land," said Schmeits, who recently pushed the NRA to lobby for congressional protection of the game-rich Valle Vidal forest on federal land in New Mexico. "Gun rights are still number one, but there will be more time and effort spent on this issue [by NRA leaders] as we move forward."

Such a change in policy could undercut a key argument that the NRA uses to raise money, sway voters and help elect candidates. It has long warned its members that many environmentalists are advancing a subversive gun-grabbing agenda masterminded by liberal Democrats.

Andrew Arulanandam, the group's spokesman in Washington, said he agrees with Schmeits that members are voicing increasing concern about access to hunting land and that the NRA is focusing on the problem.

This comes at a politically challenging time for what has long been one of the most feared lobbying groups in Washington. The NRA is increasingly being criticized as out of touch by some members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. A new gun ownership group is trying to win the support of disaffected hunters. Also, there is some complaining within the gun industry that NRA policies might be bad for business.

"The core, the dream, the passion that drives gun ownership is hunting and getting out on the wide open spaces," said a senior gun company executive who did not want to be quoted by name for fear of retribution from the NRA. "In the same way the Bush administration has overreached on Iraq, the NRA has overreached on gun rights. We are losing our grip on this green environmental thing."

The NRA found new strength and increased membership with its battles against gun control during the Clinton era, while cementing ties with the Republican Party. An NRA official was videotaped boasting in 2000 that the association would open an office in the Bush White House. No such office opened, but close identification now with an unpopular president and a party that has lost control of Congress may be hurting the NRA.

"If Republicans have a bad year, the NRA is going to have a bad year," said Charlie Cook, the political analyst who runs the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "The Democrats have learned in recent years to shut the hell up about guns. Once they did, they started to win some elections."

In November's midterm elections, a number of prominent NRA-backed Republican incumbents were defeated, including Sen. George Allen of Virginia, Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, Sen. James M. Talent of Missouri and Rep. Richard W. Pombo of California.

Top Democratic leaders appear to have taken the shut-your-mouth-about-guns lesson to heart. Aides to the new speaker and majority leader in the House said that Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland have no intention of bringing up gun control in the coming year.

For six years, the NRA joined the Bush administration in opposing the Clinton-era roadless rule, a broad land-protection measure that put nearly a third of the national forests off limits to most development -- while keeping them open for hunters and anglers willing to walk or ride horseback into the backcountry.

The 2001 rule, which was overturned by the Bush administration but reinstated by a federal judge in September, had little initial support from state fish and game agencies, Western governors or many major hunting groups. The NRA opposed the rule, arguing that it was too broad and prevented older, less mobile and disabled hunters from using prime hunting lands.

But years of aggressive oil and gas leasing on prime hunting areas in the federal lands of the Rocky Mountain West seem to have made those protections more attractive. Fish and game agencies in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana now support the roadless rule, as do most of the region's governors and more and more hunters.

"It is a no-brainer," said Hal Herring, a contributing editor for Field and Stream magazine and an avid hunter who lives near Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, the only area in the lower 48 states where grizzlies, elk and bighorn sheep still come out of the mountains to feed on the plains.

"The NRA stance on the roadless rule is a mistake," Herring said, echoing the view of many prominent outdoor writers. "There are no more roadless areas being produced."

A reader poll in 2003 by Field and Stream found that 41 percent of hunters saw shrinking wildlife habitat as the biggest threat to hunting in America, while 25 percent saw anti-gun legislation as a major threat to hunting.

Trying to seize on these sentiments, a rival gun group, the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), was founded two years ago by former Washington Redskin Ray Schoenke and John Rosenthal, a real estate developer in Boston. "I believe that we have reached a tipping point where the majority of hunters and shooters realize the NRA isn't representing their interests," said Rosenthal, who is a longtime activist for handgun control.

The group concedes that, so far, the NRA has more executives than the new group has members. That has not stopped the NRA from attacking the AHSA in its magazine, America's 1st Freedom, as a "cold, calculated attempt by the gun-ban lobby to thieve the hard-earned political credibility of gun owners and hunters."

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin in Washington contributed to this report.

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JerryM
January 7, 2007, 06:17 PM
One could argue whether the NRA should be engaged in such policies. They have enough to do to maintain RKBA.

Although I do belong to the NRA now, when the Sagebrush Rebellion was taking place the NRA sided with those who wanted to turn over the Fed lands to the states. I did not agree, and did not belong to the NRA for many years as a result.
It is my opinion, that the NRA and gun owners groups, should stick with fighting for RKBA, and not get embroiled in other issues that will bleed the resources.

Jerry

Spot77
January 7, 2007, 06:26 PM
The NRA is looking for friends any place they can find them, and the more they distance themselves from President Bush, the better chance they have of maintaining influence over a possible 3 way Democratic rule in 2008 (Senate, House, and White House.)

Lone_Gunman
January 7, 2007, 06:42 PM
I agree with Spot. The Republican party is, for the moment at least, politically impotent. Bush is so confused right now, he doesn't even know what his agenda is. All he can seem to do is babble on about "staying the course".

The NRA needs to look for friends where ever they may be. Right now, distance from the Republicans is a good thing.

JohnBT
January 7, 2007, 07:30 PM
I'm guessing you don't like the Republicans. Pretty astute observation, huh?

The article, the way I read it, is more about what this group and that group would like to see the NRA do and less about what the NRA is actually pursuing. After all, it is an article in the Washington Post.

John

LAR-15
January 7, 2007, 07:36 PM
It has long warned its members that many environmentalists are advancing a subversive gun-grabbing agenda masterminded by liberal Democrats

This is probably true. Most enviro whackos hate hunting, shooting ranges and trapping. :mad:

This is not a partisan issue. Many good hunting lands are being developed for oil and gas leases.

I think there should be some kind of balance (energy vs environment) and I am sure the NRA does too.

Norton
January 7, 2007, 07:48 PM
Just another attempt by the anti-gunners to try and drive a wedge between gun owners in this country. They will do anything they can to divide the clay shooters, hunters, IPSC/IDPA, black rifle owners and CCW holders so that they can pick us off one by one.

nico
January 7, 2007, 08:04 PM
^^ Exactly!

This isn't a news article, it's a propaganda piece. The AHSA is even more of a wolf in sheep's clothing than Americans for Gun Safety. Their board of directors is entirely made up of gun grabbers, two of which are on record as supporting HCI financially and legally. They can only be considered pro-gun if you believe all semi-autos should be illegal and all other guns should be registered and kept at a government-licensed club. Calling them a "rival" to the NRA is nothing but a shrill attempt to make them appear legitimate. They are closer ideologically to the brady bunch than the NRA.

I am a shooter and a hunter, but the Constitution doesn't address a right to hunt, and the AHSA doesn't speak for me.

Here's the first paragraph in the "Who we are" section of their website:
According to a 2003 Field & Stream National Hunting Survey, sportsmen overwhelmingly support reasonable gun safety proposals. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of hunters support proposals like background checks to purchase guns, keeping military style assault weapons off our streets and the elimination of cop killer bullets.

Their entire site reeks of gun-grabbers trying to sound pro-gun.

antsi
January 7, 2007, 08:43 PM
------quote---------
They will do anything they can to divide the clay shooters, hunters, IPSC/IDPA, black rifle owners and CCW holders so that they can pick us off one by one.
--------------------

Bingo: Norton hit the nail on the head.

Division of the opposition into antagonistic factions is always good news in politics. This article may be wishful thinking for the anti's, hoping the gun rights lobby will become paralyzed by infighting.

However, anti's fantasies aside, there is a real danger of infighting among gun rights supporters. The black rifle, hunting, and sport shooting factions do not always support, respect, or understand each other. Many times on this forum we have seen things like gun owners bashing the NRA, black rifle-ers pitted against skeet shooters, or as in WI recently, a "purist" organization working against a "compromiser" organization and helping to defeat CCW.

In general, it is probably the best strategy for the NRA to try to represent the interests of all gun owner groups as best as possible. If I could write the script, I'd like to see all the different gun owner sub-groups come together whenever the interests of any sub-group are threatened. If AWBII starts coming down the pike, we will definitely need the support of the hunters and skeet shooters to defeat it. If the PETA-environmental crowd starts trying to bury hunting in a heap of red tape, we'll need the black rifle and CCW people to defeat that.

The NRA's difficult job is trying to hold all these disparate groups together, convincing everyone that a threat to one is a threat to all, and presenting a strong united front against the anti's.

In general, I do think it is a bad idea for the NRA or any gun rights group to get too far in bed with any one political party. The NRA should support whichever party is most able and willing to help gun owner rights. On the national scene, the Democrats have been the drivers of most of the gun control agenda, so I don't fault the NRA for opposing them. However, it should be clear, that if a Democrat is willing to support gun owner rights, he or she will get support from the NRA. That could help divide them, instead of them dividing us.

LAR-15
January 8, 2007, 10:01 AM
The NRA supports folks in both parties.

Manedwolf
January 8, 2007, 12:02 PM
All things aside, you can certainly be both a pro-2A sort and an environmentalist, as well as a hunter and an environmentalist.

Otherwise...where are you going to hunt, wal-mart parking lots and McMansion subdivision streets?

As far as the NRA distancing itself a bit from the Bush administration, that just makes good political sense. Since "the decider" can't come up with, as someone else said, any strategy besides "stay the course, stay the course", at this point, it'd just be pulling the ejection handles on a political affiliation going down in flames.

Nobody said they had to distance themselves from Republicans of the Goldwater sort, if there's any left...just from Bush's extremely public failures.

LAR-15
January 8, 2007, 02:13 PM
What does Bush have to do with this?

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