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Is The NRA Turning Against President Bush?
Evidence continues to mount that sportsmen are returning to their environmentalist roots with this news from Sunday's Washington Post: Officials inside The National Rifle Association are openly criticizing the Bush Administration's policy on public lands, and pushing their organization to become greener and less politically partisan.
From the Washington Post:
The Bush administration has placed more emphasis on oil and gas than access rights for hunters said Ronald L. Schmeits, second vice president of the NRA, a member of its board of directors and a bank president in Raton, N.M. We find that our members are having a harder time finding access to public land," said Schmeits, who recently pushed the NRA to lobby for congressional protection of the game-rich Valle Vidal forest on federal land in New Mexico. Gun rights are still number one, but there will be more time and effort spent on this issue [by NRA leaders] as we move forward.
The mainstream press accurately sees this as a significant change for the NRA, which has traditionally been a rubber stamp for conservative administrations that tend to be pro-gun but anti-environment. As the Post's Blaine Harden reports "Such a change in policy could undercut a key argument that the NRA uses to raise money, sway voters and help elect candidates. It has long warned its members that many environmentalists are advancing a subversive gun-grabbing agenda masterminded by liberal Democrats.
That history of demagoguery has been covered in detail on the pages of Field & Stream in recent years, an effort that has brought some heated criticism from NRA loyalists. So it's gratifying to hear an NRA official like Schmeits admit what has been obvious to so many sportsmen for so long: There's no inconsistency in being pro-gun and pro-environment.
But sportsmen have also long been aware of another truth about the NRA: Conservation has never been its main concern of the NRA.
That's been obvious in its knee-jerk denunciation of almost any and all environmental proposals opposed by the Republican Party, which has always been stridently pro-NRA. Although the NRA's transparent political strategy was to secure congressional support for its positions by backing pro-gun congressmen on all other issues, in recent years most sportsmen – including NRA members – realized that policy may be great for target shooters and gun collectors, but suicide for anyone who relies on public lands and waters for hunting and fishing.
The biggest news could be that this is the second national media story in as many months (see my Dec. 21 blog) on the growing role of sportsmen in battling the anti-fish and wildlife environmental policies of the Bush Administration. Hopefully our community has decided to reassert its leadership in America's environmental movement.