Who Needs Another Alternative To NRA
Monday, April 16, 2007
BY CHRIS W. COX
NRA-ILA Executive Director
American Rifleman readers know well the background behind the
recent emergence of the American Hunters and Shooters Association
(AHSA), an outfit that shamelessly promotes itself as an
"alternative to the NRA." But this billing reminds me of the old
saw: "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" The AHSA staff
and leadership roster read like a Who's Who of the gun ban lobby
and its financial supporters, and the group is performing
AHSA's debut performance was in the 2006 Missouri Senate race,
when the AHSA Foundation financed a direct-mail attack on NRA with
a piece that screamed from its headline, "The NRA Is Selling Us
Out!" It falsely alleged that "NRA is supporting politicians who
are trying to take away our access to public lands" when in fact
NRA is leading the charge to protect hunter access to public lands.
Ironically, Missouri is a showcase of NRA's conservation work. As a
proud partner of the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, NRA-ILA is
working specifically to save hundreds of thousands of acres of
wetlands throughout the state from going under the developers'
AHSA, on the other hand, claims a few hundred members and has
done precisely nothing to protect wildlife habitat and hunter
access. So it should come as no surprise that AHSA's debut in the
Second Amendment debate featured AHSA President Ray Schoenke
standing shoulder-to-shoulder with New York City Mayor Mike
Bloomberg in a Washington press conference, where the mayor
demanded that Congress lift critical privacy protections from BATFE
trace data. Schoenke proclaimed "we are a gun rights organization"
at the same time he supported destroying your right to privacy by
exposing your retail gun purchase records to fishing expeditions by
The bombast of their direct-mail attack on NRA proved that their
promise to avoid "angry political rhetoric" is as empty as their
slogan "Protecting our gun rights and the lands we love." AHSA is
no more than a shell operation for laundering the personal wealth
of major gun control backers into the battle against our rights.
The group is a decorative bauble on the emperor's new clothes,
ready to be shined up and trotted out whenever the enemies of
freedom perceive a tactical need to claim the support of the very
groups they are working against.
So is it mere coincidence that recently yet another group has
formed to promote itself as (you guessed it) an "alternative to
NRA?" A recent article in The Washington Post breathlessly
announced the formation of the Union Sportsmen's Alliance (USA). A
joint effort of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
(TRCP) and some 20-odd labor unions, the USA is intended "to lure
the political allegiance of gun-owning union members away from the
NRA and its political agenda."
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association
of Fire Fighters, told the Post, "We know that the NRA is
communicating to our members what clearly are anti-union positions
and urging them to support anti-union candidates." He went on to
say that USA "is about connecting with our members, doing good
conservation work, and offsetting some of these anti-union messages
they are getting from the NRA."
I challenge Mr. Schaitberger to cite one instance of an
"anti-union message" from NRA. He won't find one, since labor
issues are well outside our single-issue mandate. As for supporting
anti-union candidates, that is purely the result of political
reality. The truth is that the vast majority of union political
support goes to candidates who actively work against our freedoms.
There's nothing we can do about that except continue to oppose all
candidates who would diminish Second Amendment rights and continue
to speak the truth to union members.
Here's the real rub--the unions conducted a poll and told the
Post: "The poll found that about a quarter of union members said
they belonged to the NRA, an affiliation that displeases some
Democratic union leaders."
The substantial support that NRA enjoys from America's working
families is not something that strikes me as a problem. What is our
problem is the growing field of entities--even if they exist just
on paper--who claim the support of gun owners and hunters, while
quietly admitting their true agenda of working at cross-purposes to
our mission. Even the jaded cynics at the gun-ban group Violence
Policy Center are giddy about the prospects for the USA, while
admitting that the "alternative to NRA theme" is now thoroughly
discredited. VPC's Josh Sugarmann wrote in his blog: "The gun
debate is littered with defunct organizations that promised to
represent the views of traditional hunters and shooters and stand
as 'the good NRA.' "
Littered yes, but they are not all defunct. AHSA and USA are
merely the latest false claims made upon the stake of our rights
and our hunting heritage. These groups are no more an "alternative
to NRA" than censorship is an alternative to free speech.