NRA is the hunter’s greatest enemy

The image and reputation of responsible gun owners has been tarnished by the NRA's ludicrous positions and statements. We need to speak out and regain our communities' respect or the shooting sports will continue to diminish.

The image and reputation of responsible gun owners has been tarnished by the NRA’s ludicrous positions and statements. We need to speak out and regain our communities’ respect or the shooting sports will continue to diminish.

If you support the NRA because you think it is promoting the future of hunting you are sadly mistaken. The NRA is not a conservation organization; it is not a wildlife organization; it is not a hunters’ organization. It is strictly a firearms ownership organization. What that means in the grand scheme of social and political trends is that the NRA has become a powerful driver to end traditional sport hunting and recreational shooting.

NRA is the hunter’s greatest enemy

Hunters, recreational shooters, firearms collectors, historic reenactment hobbyists – if you support the National Rifle Association you are shooting yourself in the foot. Opposition to the shooting sports, and anything connected to the shooting sports, has increased dramatically over my lifetime, and the NRA is the main cause of that opposition.

Appalled by the thousands of firearm homicides every year, and saddened that all political and social discourse on the issue is becoming ever more confrontational and polarized, I do not expect that any rational solution to firearm violence will be achieved anytime soon. But incrementally, opportunities for traditional sporting and recreational use of firearms will decrease precipitously over the next several years, and the decline of these avocations I have pursued all my life is being hastened by the madness of the NRA.

Although the NRA clamors it is protecting the rights and privileges of gun owners, the organization is in reality speeding us along the road to an era when the country is awash in guns that have no purpose except to kill people, and the shooting sports and activities that we have enjoyed all our lives will be lost. Not that the NRA is concerned about the future of our shooting sports and hobbies. It is only concerned about gun sales by its primary constituents, the firearms manufacturers. The NRA could not care less about hunting or recreational shooting.

If you support the NRA because you think it is promoting the future of hunting you are sadly mistaken. The NRA is not a conservation organization; it is not a wildlife organization; it is not a hunters’ organization. It is strictly a firearms ownership organization. What that means in the grand scheme of social and political trends is that the NRA has become a powerful driver to end traditional sport hunting and recreational shooting.

If you believe that today’s NRA has any interest in your opportunities to hunt or shoot, you have a short memory of the shooting sports and of the NRA. Unlike 50 years ago, you will find few NRA-operated, or even NRA-sponsored, shooting facilities in your area. In fact, you will almost certainly find none. You will also find that, except for appeals for unrequited monetary and political support, the NRA has no interest in conservation, wildlife, or hunting organizations.

There has been an unfortunate change in public perception of firearms in my lifetime, caused by vastly increased private ownership of semi-automatic handguns and assault rifles – the so-called “black guns.” As the mouthpiece of firearms manufacturers, the NRA sold us a fantasy bill of goods: every home needs a few semi-automatic weapons for “protection.” We apparently need to carry them, concealed or open, in all public places too, to protect ourselves from… well, you know, the “bad guys.”

If the NRA expected that placing these weapons of war in the hands of private citizens would somehow promote more widespread understanding and acceptance of firearms, it was sadly mistaken. These black guns have had the opposite effect: creating steadily growing fear, revulsion, and opposition to ALL firearms.

The NRA also claims that increased gun ownership actually makes us safer; that too is a falsehood. Numerous studies have shown that states with increased ownership of firearms, especially handguns, have experienced increased numbers of homicides. Among those most recently published studies: (Harvard Study http://m.livescience.com/51446-guns-do-not-deter-crime.html)

The number of firearms in private ownership has increased over my lifetime, but the percentage of households that are gun owners has decreased. That demographic trend is ongoing, and if the NRA continues its tactic of promoting ownership of black guns based on fear and paranoia, an ever larger percentage of citizens will oppose all firearm ownership, including sporting firearms, and opportunities for recreational shooting, will only decrease. To get a sense of the growing public sentiment against guns and the shooting sports, imagine going before the city council in your town and proposing that the parks and recreation department construct and operate a shooting range.

Admittedly, I do not really understand the fascination with black guns. These are firearms that have but one purpose: to kill people. I have heard the argument that some back gun enthusiasts “accurize” a gun for target shooting. My own observation is that not one in a hundred black guns is used for that purpose. Not even one in a thousand.

The NRA insists that we need home defense weapons because “crime is out of control,” but in point of fact violent crime in every category has been decreasing markedly over the past 20 years, with the exception of firearm homicides. Nevertheless, the NRA rants that we have to defend ourselves, with deadly force, from the hordes of murderers, rapists and assailants who are lurking on every street corner. Not to mention the shadowy terrorists ready to kills us with weapons of mass destruction. The unsubtle suggestion is that a citizenry armed with black guns will be better able to identify and deal with criminals and terrorists than will local and state law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security and the FBI.

The basis of this argument is not that we need to prevent unstable and criminal people from obtaining handguns, but that we need to be armed and ready to kill these people. So, the underlying reason for owning these black guns is to shoot it out with “bad guys” (or according the NRA line, the mythical “they” of foreign and domestic terrorists and federal agents when they come to your front door and announce that they are taking over the country). And we must be ready to defend ourselves every minute by means of voluminous gunfire, so having several black guns in the home is not enough, we are told. We must have the right to carry, open or concealed, any firearm, any time, and any place: city streets, parks, restaurants, churches, libraries, college campuses, school grounds, playgrounds.

The most bizarre, and the most polarizing, of the NRA disciples are those screwballs that appear in surveillance photos and videos taken in stores, restaurants and other public places, AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles slung over shoulders while they shop. If you have the temerity to ask what they think they are doing, they will tell you they have the right to go armed and intimidate people. My view, shared by the many responsible gun owners I know, is that open carry of a deadly weapon in a public place, by a person I do not know and have no reason to trust, is a violation of all civic courtesy. The NRA suggests I can calm my worries by carrying my own firearms, because (and I quote the official NRA statement) “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.”

By that logic, when I am watching my grandchildren perform at a public school music concert, and a person unknown to me walks in with an assault rifle, should I, as a “good guy,” pull out my concealed carry semi-automatic pistol and take down this apparent “bad guy”? It would have to be an immediate “good guy or bad guy?” decision, because once he starts shooting it will be too late for me to take any action that would prevent dozens of deaths and scores of injuries.

The idea that “A good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” is ludicrous. Understand something about the human psyche: every single person considers himself a “good guy.” The Columbine High School shooters thought they were the good guys; the Sandy Hook shooter – another person who considered himself the good guy; the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooter – another self-perceived good guy. The Charleston, S.C. shooter – his online postings show he regards himself as the good guy.

Every person who picks up a gun with the intent of killing another person considers himself the good guy. The NRA’s solution to that dilemma, it appears, is to encourage every single person to carry a deadly weapon and let them make the snap decision on the “good guy vs. bad guy” call, and then shoot it out, Wild West style.

Except that instead of shooting it out with the Wild West’s single-action Colt Peacemakers that had a capacity of six rounds and took minutes to reload, or Winchester lever-action rifles that had a capacity of maybe eight rounds and similarly were slow to reload, we will be shooting it out with AR-15 and Glock-style semi-automatic weapons, guns with magazine capacity of dozens of rounds, that can be reloaded in a few seconds by ejecting the empty magazine and inserting a new one.

But the NRA is not interested in community safety and security; it is interested in only one thing: the aggrandizement of the NRA. That is not my observation; it is that of Aaron Zelman, founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, a zealous gun rights organization, who has utter distain for the NRA. In addition to serving as a promotion and marketing agency for the manufacturers of black guns, the NRA has only one real purpose – to keep itself alive and thriving. It long ago abandoned its mission of firearms education and training.

In a nutshell, the NRA was willing to accept 22 dead elementary school children as reasonable collateral damage in their drive to put evermore black guns in the hands of private citizens. It has no qualms about its role in the firearm homicides that take more than 25 lives each day, on average. This year, expect several thousand more people to be killed by the semi-automatic weapons for which the NRA is a rabid advocate, nearly three times the number of fatalities caused by the World Trade Center attacks, more fatalities, in one single year, than the entire American military has sustained in 12 years of warfare in the Middle East.

A much lesser but still lamentable tragedy caused by the NRA’s rants against even the most modest and reasonable restrictions on the ownership of firearms (requiring a background check for the sale of every firearm, for example) is the vilification of the shooting sports. If you are a hunter, recreational shooter, historic reenactment buff, or a collector of military or historic weapons, you will encounter ever greater negative attitudes and opposition to your once-respected pastime because the NRA has distorted public perception of all firearms and induced a knee-jerk reaction to the word “gun.”

Your muzzle-loading Brown Bess musket from 1776 may be the furthest thing from an AR-15 as a threat to public safety, but the NRA has created such an aura of fear around all guns that you will be seen in the same light as the black gun intimidators.

There is no hope the NRA will make any concession to the gun safety proposals advocated by the majority of the population. The NRA’s economic and political power, in fact its very survival, depends on continuing its delusional rhetoric about federal agents scheming to seize all firearms, and the wildly exaggerated threat of criminal assailants lurking in every neighborhood. Down in the ranks, those NRA members who buy into the movie hero fantasy that they are the “good guys” ready to shoot it out with the “bad guys” are not going to change their skewed concept of reality.

But if you are a hunter, recreational shooter, collector, historic reenactment buff, or partake of any of the pastimes that involve responsible use of sporting firearms, distance yourself from the NRA. It is undermining your avocation and devastating the tradition, ethic and image of the shooting sports. You, as a responsible gun owner, need to participate in the development of reasonable regulations for gun sales. We need to regain our reputation as conscientious citizens and overcome the image of dangerous fanatics that the NRA has foisted upon us.

__________________________________________________________

More of the curmudgeon’s tirades and grumblings are published in the collections of essays Crazy Old Coot and Old Coots Never Forget, available in both paperback and Kindle editions from amazon.com.

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About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer; indifferent wing shot. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Novelist and short story writer. Freeholder: 50-acre farm with 130-year-old log house. Husband, father, grandfather. Retired teacher, coach, mentor. Vicious editor. Blogger.
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4 Responses to NRA is the hunter’s greatest enemy

  1. Jim Shaver says:

    Jerry,

    I usually love your writings. I enjoyed your book and can’t wait until the next one. BUT on this issue of the NRA I think you overreact. Let me tell you why I disagree. I am a 70 year old certified 4H Shotgun Program Instructor here in Missouri. The guns that our kids shoot were obtained through a grant from the NRA. That’s shotguns! Remington 1187’s and 870’s. In addition to the assistance from the NRA for a Shooting Program that includes Trap, Skeet and Sporting Clays, the NRA works together with Missouri 4H Shooting Sports and we sell annual calendars for $50 which are basically raffle tickets for 104 guns that will be given away by the NRA to purchasers of the calendars at the rate of two per week. We split the receipts with the NRA and the Missouri 4H gets thousands of dollars each year from these calendar sales. So as one who is personally familiar with the real hard cash that comes into the Missouri 4H Shooting Sports Program through the NRA – I know you’re wrong on this one. The Shooting Sports program of 4H is the fastest growing program in 4H nationwide and the NRA is an active participant in that growth.

    Now your remarks about open carry and the proliferation of guns in America is another issue that has been a reaction to gun control politics which has accelerated out of control during the Obama presidency. Yes, it is alarming – but no more alarming than the alternative which is the Australian Solution – with all semi-auto shotguns and pump shotguns being ground up as scrap iron.

    Yes the NRA is excessive in it’s unwillingness to compromise – and it has to be to combat the extreme excesses of the gun grabbers.

    Changing the NRA happens when MEMBERS participate and vote. It’s hard work and it takes all to make it happen.

    PS – Check into the increasing numbers of Minnesota High School Students who are taking up the Shooting Sports – Then get involved!

    http://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/education/item/21244-fastest-growing-high-school-sport-trap-shooting

    • Jim,
      Thanks for your reply and the valid points you make about responsible gun ownership and use.
      Glad that you read my blog and that you enjoyed my novel. I am at work on a second novel, but it is not a sequel to “Hunting Birds.” Hoping to publish it in early 2016.
      Thanks also for the links to the online articles about increased participation by young people in the shooting sports. This is a good thing; I see nothing in my blog essay that suggests otherwise.
      I think we agree rather than disagree on most tenets of firearm ownership and use, but there is a significant difference in our stand on a few issues.
      Most certainly, I applaud your volunteer work with teaching and coaching youth shooting programs. This is exactly the type of responsible gun ownership my article speaks to. For the record, I teach and coach at my shooting club’s annual youth day, and was coach and advisor of the shooting sports club at the college where I worked. One year after my retirement, the club folded, for exactly the reasons cited in my essay: a negative image of all firearms, even including skeet and trap guns.
      I also encouraged every student worker in my department to come to my farm for at least one introductory shooting session with shotgun, rifle, and handgun. More than 150 did so. As our population becomes increasingly urban and less rural, most of these students would never have had other opportunity to do this and would retain many of the misconceptions about firearms that the entertainment industry has foisted on them.
      You are fortunate to live in a rural area (of Missouri) where the culture and attitude fosters and supports youth shooting sports. The number of high school students participating in trap shooting has also increased significantly in Iowa, my state of residence. However, the board of education in my town flatly refused to allow a trap shooting team, again because board members (reflecting the prejudices of their constituents) have a negative opinion of all firearms.
      I wish high schoolers’ interest in trap shooting translated into more young hunters, but unfortunately it has not. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey reports that Iowa resident hunting license sales declined from 184,551 in 2007 to 160,474 in 2013, a 13 percent drop in just seven years. Sales of Iowa hunting licenses to nonresidents have declined almost 50 percent, from 37,795 in 2007 to 20,313 in 2013. The survey is conducted every five years, so we will see if that trend continues. My anecdotal observation of the decrease in hunting opportunities and the decline in shooting ranges in my state makes me suspect it will.
      Regarding better training for gun owners, I heartily agree. I submit that before a person can own a firearm, he/she should be required to take a firearms safety course, pass a test on safe and ethical use of firearms, demonstrate competency in handling and shooting the weapon, and undergo a background check. Odd that we do this before we permit people to operate a motor vehicle but allow them to carry and use deadly weapons with no training or testing.
      Iowa’s concealed carry permit legislation could serve as a loose model for training, testing and background check for firearm ownership. I took the course and have a CCP, and while the process is a bit “weak tea” on requiring a gun owner to demonstrate competency in handling a firearm, it is certainly better than no training at all.
      I also think that every transfer of a firearm should require a background check of the person acquiring the firearm; at the very least this should be required of every handgun transfer.
      I admire and appreciate your service in Vietnam; you certainly have earned the right to own an AR-15-style rifle, if you enjoy it as a reminder of your service. The fact remains, as you make clear, that these rifles are military weapons intended not for sport but to kill enemies on the battlefield. The number of these “assault rifle” style weapons in private ownership in the United States is unknown; estimates range from 3 million to 5 million; it is unlikely that most are acquired as military service memorabilia. The two most infamous AR-15 style rifles were used in mass murders in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
      That said, the number of people murdered in the United States each year by assailants using rifles is small compared to the number murdered with handguns. According to FBI statics, of the 8,454 homicides committed with firearms in 2013, at least 5,782 (68.4%) were handgun homicides; another 1,956 were listed as “firearm type not stated.” Rifles and shotguns combined accounted for fewer than 600.
      While I support your efforts for grassroots programs for firearms training and am glad you have garnered some financial assistance from the NRA, the NRA does not really spend much of its annual budget to support these programs. The organization’s annual revenue exceeds $250 million (source: Bloomberg Business). What it does spend a whole lot of money on is influencing legislators to oppose legislation that would require universal background checks: every firearm (or at least handgun) buyer/acquirer should go through a background check via a licensed firearm dealer.
      The NRA’s real grassroots success is driving more and more people into the anti-gun ownership camp. Responsible gun owners, not just the hate group lunatics, appear to be callous dolts when Wayne LaPierre makes a ludicrous statement such as “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” while parents in Newtown were burying their six-year-old children.
      So we will have to agree to differ on our opinions of the NRA.
      – Jerry

  2. uplandish says:

    Per usual I agree with you, the only thing I have to ad is for that for all their preaching and pushing for shoot to kill home defense they seldom talk about the consequence and reality of using your firearm to kill someone even if you are in the right. Or mostly in the right or barely in the right or not in the right at all depending on how good the lawyer against you is. Chances are unless the situation is extremely cut and dry if you shoot someone in your own home you stand a good chance at losing your guns. Not to mention the mental consequences… all bravado and machismo aside killing or shooting a person wether they deserve it or not “should” leave a mark on your psyche.

    I theorize (unless someone can convince me otherwise) that this love affair we are having with black guns and to a greater extent school shootings is directly or at least mostly related to videos games, it amps some people up with no outlet to let off steam and teaches through the game format that life is meaningless and death is without consequence. The kids grow up and all the black guns that they grew up shooting are now readily available in their very own reality.

    • Uplandish,
      One of the first things my CCP instructor said was, “This permit will give you the right to carry a concealed weapon; it will not give you the right to shoot ANYONE at ANY TIME.”
      He also cautioned that proficiency with a handgun in a life or death situation will depend on continuing practice at the range and enacting “scenario” situations (much like the tabletop drills we conducted at the college where I worked to prepare for an “armed intruder on campus” emergency). However, he stated, almost no CCP holders ever do this, so “your chances of warding off an attacker and the chances you will shoot yourself in the ass trying to unholster your firearm are about equal.”
      His third bit of wisdom: “Do everything you possibly can to avoid an armed confrontation; whether you shoot someone or someone shoots you, the rest of your life is almost certainly going to be ruined.”
      Both the video gaming industry and the motion picture industry should be ashamed of their glorification of violence, especially firearm violence, and for their blatant misrepresentation of the realities of firearms and gunfighting. They do it for the same reason that black gun manufacturers promote “buyer panic” on false premises of “increasing crime” and “pending gun seizures” — it makes them a lot of money. Reprehensible.

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