AHSA vs. The Big Bad NRA:
Who Are These Guys?
By Don Jordan
I read the press release criticizing the National Rifle Association for
its lack of interest in supporting conservation and environmental politicians
and bills, my first reaction was "Who are these guys and what's their
agenda? Is this some kind of backdoor PETA movement or something like
After all, anyone in media is thinking twice nowadays before saying anything that might cross the mighty NRA. Outdoor writers now have a new word that explains exactly what can happen if the NRA is offended by something you say or write. Long-time hunting and shooting writer Jim Zumbo of Outdoor Life lost his job, his television show and firearms industry sponsorship. What got Jim Zumbo "Zumboed" is that he wrote on his blog that he didn't think AR15 and AK47s used to shoot prairie dogs was a good public relations thing for hunters and shooters. The boom fell instantly. Zumbo was gone in less than a week.
So I made some calls and spoke via telephone with the Executive Director of the American Hunters and Shooters Assn., Bob Ricker. Ricker explained that he was general counsel for the NRA in the 1980s. then served as chief lobbyist for the firearms industry in Washington during the 1990s. He quit when the industry consolidicated its lobbying arm with the National Shooting Sports Foundation which the industry also controls. "I disagreed with the direction they were taking," he said. That disagreement was over the complete politicalization of the shooting sports program and failure to back conservation legislation and pro-conservation candidates.
AHSA's president is Ray Schoenke who played professional football for the Washington Redskins back in the 60s, then became wealthy in the insurance business before selling it. In the 1990s, Schoenke and some others began the process that created the AHSA. Joe Vince, former chief of the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco and Firearms' weapons division was another who thought the NRA wasn't doing hunters and hunting any good by ignoring conservation and environment.
According to Ricker, the group formed to provide a different voice for those hunters and shooters who do not feel served by the NRA. "We want to represent that broad gray area of people who hunt but do not belong to the NRA. The NRA has 4 million members, and there are 70 million guns owners out there."
Supporting and defending the second amendment is one of two aims of the AHSA.
"Gun rights are not the sole determinant for our support and work. Conservaton is equally important," he said.
Ricker said his group was especially offended by the NRA's failure to oppose a Calif. Congressman who sought to sell off our national parks. And, the NRA did not support the so-called "roadless rule" written during the Clinton Administration. That rule, he explained, was aimed at stopped corporate rape of the wildernesses of America through mining and oil exploration. These millions of acres were only but off limits to wheeled vehicles, not to foot and horse traffic, but the four-wheeler industry and the snowmobile industry didn't like that, so the NRA, as always told its members to vote Republican.
"The NRA has got some real credibility problems with so many big time conservative Republicans on their board," said Ricker, including fellows like Larry Craig, the Idaho Senator who was arrested for homosexual behavior in a public restroom. So, to NRA members who say the AHSA's president, Ray Schoenke, has donated money to politicians whose voting pedigree doesn't match their ideal pol and that this therefore taints the entire organization, I ask: Does the presence of the homosexual troller Craig on the NRA board reveal that the entire NRA as homosexual friendly? As usual the NRA's logic is filled with fear-mongering and little reasoning. Does this sound familiar? The ruling strategy of the Rove-Cheney-Bush Republican Party is identical.
As Ricker pointed out repeatedly, the AHSA has TWO aims: gun rights and conservation. This orientation has led the AHSA to support Republican Arnold Schwartzenegger in Calif. and Democrat Bill Richardson in New Mexico. The NRA has only one aim: gun rights and the right wing politics its board members favor, and only suppports Republican candidates for public office.
You can find out more at the AHSA's website and see
exactly why they are offering something besides the NRA's tired old