The National Rifle Association claims on its website to be the largest pro-hunting organization in the world. As a hunter, not to mention as a human being, the NRA couldn’t represent me less.
The NRA isn’t for hunters any more than AAA is for bicyclists. Sure, some hunters are NRA members, but first and foremost the NRA serves gun fetishists and the firearms industry. (fetish: 1. An inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit. 2. A course of action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitment.)
In 2011, nearly 14 million Americans hunted, while NRA members number about four million–fewer than half of whom actually hunt.
Unlike a lot of gun fetishists, hunters actually use their guns as the killing tools that they are, as a means to an end. I don’t shoot for the joy of killing, or for the thrill of a loud explosion an inch from my head, or for the antlers. I do it for healthy, clean meat to feed my family. The gun is not a toy that we have a constitutional right to play with, but a tool to which we’re guaranteed access.
While most hunters don’t have the formal firearms training of law enforcement or military personnel, a hunter’s experience nonetheless imparts a significant level of competence with a gun. Hunters know the feeling of jitters while trying to shoot, and we shoot in all kinds of uncomfortable and less than ideal circumstances. We’ve seen what bullets can do to a body, and can vouch for the lunacy of hunting with an assault rifle. We can contemplate, in a somewhat informed way, questions like how or if an armed civilian might stop a mass murder. And if for some reason a non-government militia had to be organized, it would doubtless be composed largely of hunters, along with military veterans–and, alas, the gun freaks.
The NRA wants desperately to welcome more hunters into its ranks, but fewer than one in ten hunters are members, and most hunters who haven’t joined by now probably won’t. Like me, many hunters consider the NRA a bunch of paranoid old men, and their families, with an increasing volume of innocent blood on their hands.
The legal scholars at the National Rifle Association, of course, claim they only aim to defend the 2nd amendment. Meanwhile, the NRA’s volunteer cyber-militia is attempting to get CNN journalist Piers Morgan deported for his outspoken views on the NRA. In other words, to protect the 2nd amendment these folks are ready to throw the 1st amendment under the bus.
When I say “Fuck the NRA,” as I do quite often lately, it’s for a host of reasons both personal and political, but has nothing to do with my feelings for guns or the 2nd amendment. I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories that Barack Obama and his henchmen are coming for my guns. Or the UN. These are lizard-brained ideas; Taliban-level thought process; the words of paranoid schizophrenics.
I hate to admit it, but it’s kind of scary to say “Fuck the NRA.” After all, they have a lot of guns, and the organization appears to keep track of who does and says what—ask any politician or gun-control activist. One can’t help but wonder if this tracking extends to individual hunters like myself.
When I take my gun to the store to get it worked on, the information slip I fill out includes a line for my NRA number–despite the fact that only about 4 percent of gun owners are NRA members. Should I wonder if the gunsmith treats my gun with less love if I leave the NRA line blank? Does the NRA keep track of who services which gun when–even as it decries federal attempts to keep track of guns?
I face the same blank field requesting an NRA number when I buy a membership at my local shooting range–some ranges won’t sell membership to non-NRA members.
Speaking of NRA ranges, I recently received a letter from a homeowner that was powerless from stopping an NRA rifle range from being built less than half a mile from her house. Now she can’t sell it, and couldn’t bear to tell her lifelong NRA member father, on his death bed, what his beloved gun rights group has done to her.
Among Americans with experience using guns as weapons, rather than as toys, compare 14 million hunters with 3 million active and reserve military, a million police officers, and 7 million military veterans with combat experience. Of course, there is some crossover among these groups. And again, hunters have the least amount of formal firearms training. But in terms of votes, any way you slice it there is no greater population of Americans with experience shooting at things than hunters. The NRA doesn’t speak for us; we need to speak for ourselves.
With so few gun owners being NRA members, how is it that the NRA has so much power, and the seeming ability to make politicians dance? Money, of course. More than can be raised from membership dues and bake sales alone. Between 2005 and 2010, the NRA took in about $40 million from the nation’s gun manufacturers, according to the Violence Policy Center.
Fear mongering is one of the best ways to create demand for guns, and nearly every piece of NRA propaganda does that. We need guns to protect us from the government, the UN, home intruders, strangers on the street, at the hair salon. On the Monday following the Sandy Hook shootings, a Utah sixth-grader took a pistol to elementary school, for “protection.”
Obama’s re-election has been an absolute bonanza for the industry, as was his initial election, thanks to paranoid gun owners patrons who think Obama is coming for their guns. But Obama can’t get re-elected again, despite what the conspiracy theorists might tell you. That reality, combined with the unprecedented national trauma and soul-searching that Sandy Hook has inspired, could spell tough times ahead for the gun industry. Stock in publically traded gun manufacturers like Ruger, which makes my hunting rifle, have been punished since Sandy Hook.
On the Tuesday after the shooting, Cerberus Capitol Management announced it was selling its 95 percent stake in The Freedom Group, a privately held conglomerate whose companies include some of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers, including Remington, Barnes bullets, and Bushmaster, which makes the AR-15 assault rifle used by Adam Lanza.
Could a hunter—or some other armed citizen—have prevented the Sandy Hook shootings? Such a thing has not happened in at least three decades, according to a recent study by Mother Jones which looked at 62 mass shootings in the last 30 years. “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun….in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed.”
Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence supports the observation that gun owners and their families are more likely to be shot by their own guns than to successfully repel attackers with them. In pretending otherwise, the NRA is selling the myth of security while it sells public safety down the river. It’s time to hang the NRA out to dry.
The NRA needs hunters a lot more than hunters need the NRA. And the nation needs the opinions of hunters more than it needs the opinion of the National Association of paranoid gun owners.
Hunters are intermediaries between government armed forces and private citizens. We are armed citizens, who know what guns can do, what can go wrong, and what it’s like to kill. If sensible gun-control policy is ever to be pursued, hunters should be a part of the conversation.
And we can start by saying “Fuck the NRA.” It’s time for the bully to go home.