A newly-rekindled fight over guns and the Second Amendment within the outdoors, hunting and shooting community has erupted, and the timing – with a critical midterm election just over the horizon – is curious.
Hostilities between “hunters” and “gun rights activists” were rekindled by a recent open letter in the Huffington Post published under the byline of Daniel Ashe, who served as USFWS Director in the Obama administration from February, 2011 to January 2017, when Donald Trump moved into the Oval Office. This “Open Letter from Hunters about Gun Reform” seems almost designed to create a chasm among shooters and hunters, who ought to be on the same side in the fight to protect Second Amendment rights.
Viewed from a skeptical perspective, one just might wonder if that is the plan.
The Ashe letter was signed by a 11 other high-profile names in the outdoors including outdoor writers and three former presidents of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). That organization issued something of a tepid statement when critics suggested that the people identifying themselves as OWAA associates might create the impression that OWAA tacitly approved their remarks.
The center of this new storm are comments in the Ashe letter, which included, “As our numbers have dwindled, many have found a comforting alliance with Second Amendment radicalism. But we believe this is not representative of most hunters, and certainly not the tradition of the hunter-sportsman.
“We do not need AR-15s or any assault-style weapon to hunt game,” Ashe continued. “That’s not to say some people won’t use them to hunt. But they are simply not necessary, and are actually not preferable for legitimate, fair-chase hunting.”
Here is the agenda detailed in the Ashe letter:
An age minimum of 21 years to purchase any gun;
Anyone on the Terrorist Screening Center’s “no-fly list” may not purchase or possess firearms;
Anyone on Social Security disability due to mental illness may not purchase or possess firearms;
Prohibit new sales of semiautomatic assault or tactical-style weapons;
Prohibit new sales of semiautomatic shotguns or rifles (except .22-caliber rim fire) that can hold more than 10 rounds;
Prohibit any accessory designed or mechanical modification intended a) to increase the rate at which any firearm may be discharged; or b) to increase the magazine capacity of a semiautomatic rifle beyond 10 rounds (except .22-caliber rim fire);
Mandatory and universal background checks for all firearm sales;
Prohibit sales of firearms except through registered/licensed dealers (no direct private sales);
Enact gun violence restraining order authorities allowing courts to temporarily prohibit a person from purchasing or possessing firearms when a family member, community welfare expert or law enforcement officer presents evidence of a threat; and
Repeal the “Dickey ban” on scientific research in the area of gun violence and implement the Institute of Medicine’s 2013 gun violence research agenda.
More than a decade ago, there was something of an insurrection within the OWAA ranks over criticism of the National Rifle Association. A number of people split from OWAA and created the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) with a decidedly pro-Second Amendment bent.
Meanwhile, a number of people are concerned that OWAA has steadily drifted toward the left. As noted Tuesday morning by James Shepherd, editor of The Outdoor Wire, “Ashe’s letter tries to make the case that additional gun controls are needed to curb gun violence. It also advances some ideas that could have been lifted directly from any anti-gun groups’ talking points…”
This is where the term “Fudd” comes into the discussion. In gun parlance, a “Fudd” – as Shepherd diplomatically points out – is someone “who would ban anything except what they like and use.”
“You know the type,” he says, “they readily tell you: ‘I don’t need an (fast car, airplane, boat, ATV, bicycle), and I don’t see what anyone else would need with them.’”
“Fudds” are routinely ripped on various gun rights forums, and being called one is an insult.
Back in 2005, an organization calling itself the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) emerged as a challenge to the National Rifle Association. There was rancor in the ranks, at the same time Barack Obama was running for president. Many people believe AHSA was created solely to divide hunters from shooters and activist gun owners.
Now comes Hunters Against the NRA, and one of their apparent activists, who calls himself “Skylar B,” posted a video in which he promises to push for a “national gun census” within two years if Democrats re-take control of Capitol Hill this fall.
At the recent NRA convention in Dallas, leaders Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox repeatedly urged members to vote and remain united to protect their gun rights.
Any effort to divide – and thus theoretically conquer – gun activists and hunters this close to a critical election should probably be looked at with skepticism, if not suspicion.