By by James Jay BakerAs a hunter you are not just one vote as hunters, we are millions of votes. And if we unite, neither Bill Clinton nor any other demagogue will be able to destroy the heritage we seek to preserve for our children and their children.
As co-host of The American Hunter television show several years ago, I had the good fortune to travel to many of our states, enjoy more than my share of a lot of great shooting, and come away with a lifetime of unfading memories.
Filming the show also gave me the chance to meet and talk with a lot of fellow hunters. It`s those chance encounters that I want to discuss with you, because they forced me to recognize one disturbing fact. The fact is, I`ve met too many hunters who don`t know what NRA does or don`t know why our work is vital to hunting`s future. The NRA staff is committed to changing this situation, but to succeed we`ll need your help.
Last month I talked about the four hunting essentials: a place to hunt, well-managed wildlife resources, the tools to hunt with, and people who participate. You and I are the people, and we have to work together to protect the other three essentials from the constant attacks of those who disapprove of our way of life, or, as Bill Clinton called it, our "culture." Not a day passes that someone somewhere isn`t hatching a scheme that threatens our American hunting traditions. Those schemes come in many forms: ballot initiatives, anti-hunting legislation, and White House executive orders, to name but a few.
You probably don`t want to spend time worrying about these attacks. You`d rather spend an early morning in your tree stand or an afternoon working your dogs. That`s understandable, after all it`s one reason you pay your NRA dues. And while it is the business of NRA to fight to protect your rights, we need your help.
The first way you can help is simple -- vote. Maybe that sounds strange or even insulting to some, but I say it because I`ve met too many hunters who gladly volunteer that they don`t vote or that they`re not even registered to vote. For some, it`s almost bragging. Think about it for a minute. You`ve probably heard the excuses yourself: "My one vote won`t make a difference" or "Those politicians are all the same, it doesn`t matter who`s elected" or "To go vote, I`d have to miss a day of hunting." If these attitudes ever take deep root, it won`t be too long before all of us will be missing more than one day of hunting.
Each election year, NRA produces and publishes grades for all state and federal candidates. We not only analyze past voting records, we also challenge candidates to state clearly where they stand on Second Amendment issues and on other issues that directly affect hunters. We then submit these ratings for your information and hopefully your use on election day.
How important is your vote? Look no further than the current administration. Since Bill Clinton and Al Gore took control in Washington, they have waged a personal crusade against the tools of our sport. They say they`re not banning hunters` guns, but with a wink and a nod they encourage their congressional allies to spread the lie that the hunting rifles that we`ve owned for decades have mysteriously evolved into sinister "sniper" rifles. And they`ve loudly endorsed legislation that would outlaw nearly all centerfire rifle ammunition we shoot. And don`t forget that Bill Clinton has attempted to use his presidential authority to lock hunters out of millions of acres of western land in order to curry favor with Al Gore`s fellow radical environmentalists. Closing these vast areas of federal land to hunting affects us all no matter where we live.
I`ve been fortunate. I`ve realized many of my boyhood dreams. I`ve walked the prairies of the Dakotas for pheasant, stalked mule deer in Montana, and chased elk in Colorado. If the Clinton-Gore Administration had had its way, many easterners` childhood dreams of hunting the West would have forever remained just that -- dreams. Just think how different it would be today if all the hunters and sportsmen had turned out to reject the Clinton-Gore anti-gun, anti-hunting agenda back in 1992. We would have been spared eight years of constant attack from the White House, and we would have been able to make gains, expanding hunting opportunities and improving our management of wildlife resources. That is why voting in each election is more important than ever.
To understand the second way you can help, you need to understand how NRA works. You might not realize it, but not one cent of your membership dues can be used for political activities. That means that all the lobbying work the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) does in Washington, D.C., and your state capitol is funded by individual donations.
When representatives, senators, state legislators, or governors put their jobs on the line to defend our rights, NRA-ILA stands behind them, helping them get reelected. Keeping our friends in office is one of the most important things we do. Unfortunately, a myriad of federal and state regulations make this difficult, so all of our contributions must come from our political action committee -- the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF).
Like NRA-ILA, the NRA-PVF has to raise its own funds, and is limited by law to seeking support from only NRA members -- that`s a big reason why hunters who haven`t joined NRA need to sign up. Those donations allow NRA-PVF to contribute directly to campaigns and to pay for radio, television, or print ads in support of our strongest allies. We are also able to use this money to defeat our toughest enemies and show people that NRA can and will take the field whenever the rights and traditions we exist to defend are threatened.
NRA-ILA works closely with both elected and appointed officials to protect and expand hunting opportunities. We fight ballot initiatives that would substitute public sentiment for sound wildlife management techniques, and we fight for legislation that protects hunting as an important wildlife management tool. At the same time, NRA-PVF works to make sure that our supporters get elected and reelected. This type of support is what helps elect allies such as Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho). Well known as a champion of the Second Amendment, Sen. Craig courageously stood up and denounced the latest Clinton-Gore land grab, accusing the administration of attempting to control federal lands as if America was a monarchy, rather than a democratic republic. This type of principled stand is what hunters deserve and need more of, and it must be supported, both with ballots and dollar bills.
The next time you get one of our NRA-ILA letters in the mail, please take the time to read it and then seriously consider making a donation. With your help we can win the battles ahead and protect America`s proud hunting heritage.