CHRIS COX, NRA-ILA Executive Director
An Assault on Hunting Equals an Attack on the Second Amendment
t's no coincidence that the politicians who oppose our Second Amendment freedoms also tend to oppose hunting. Direct, frontal attacks on our gun rights have been rare in the new Congress so far, but our opponents are showing no such caution in launching assaults on our hunting heritage. There are many parallels between congressional action to restrict hunting and firearms, and it is clear to me that in the end, the point of the game is the same.
If Congress can ban the importation of polar bear trophies, it can ban the transportation of your favorite deer mounts across state lines. And it can ban your guns.
Debate over climate change, of all things, gave anti-hunting lawmakers their first opportunity to pop up and take a shot at hunting. The question of "global warming" is one that can't be answered in these pages, if anywhere. But the groups who are always on the lookout for opportunities to ban hunting found a home in this debate.
They have adopted the polar bear as the icon of "global warming," and are pushing Congress to ban the importation of polar bear trophies. Anti-hunting sympathizers in both the House and Senate took up the question in debate over the spending bill that funds the Department of the Interior.
Admittedly, few hunters are lucky enough to have the time, resources and gumption to pursue a polar bear. For American hunters, a polar bear hunt means a long, exceptionally costly trip into the harshest reaches of the Canadian Arctic. As of this writing, a national total of 168 hunters are awaiting permission to import their polar bear trophies. With all this in mind, you may be tempted to wonder whether this issue has implications for the majority of American hunters. Rest assured it does, and in these implications we find numerous parallels to our work in the Second Amendment debate.
The most striking parallel is the "invent a problem to solve" mentality of the anti-hunting cabal. Sound science proves without a doubt that polar bear populations are healthy, even thriving. But that didn't stop the lead sponsor of the ban, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., from asserting that mankind is threatening the bear populations in two ways--"global warming" and "sport hunting."
Unintended consequences are also shared between the two debates. The gun-ban lobby is perpetually aghast when their own media campaigns backfire against them, causing droves of people to buy guns that might otherwise sit on the shelves. And we know, again from sound science, that banning guns does not reduce crime. If anything, crime increases in jurisdictions that ban guns. So by pushing their tired agenda of bans, restrictions and regulations, the gun-ban lobby is fueling the very outcomes they say they oppose.
So it is with polar bear hunting. Anti-hunting politicians believe they can "save the bears" by banning the importation of trophies. Banning importation effectively bans polar bear hunting by U.S. hunters, since the only hunters willing to invest that much in a trophy certainly want to bring it home to their collection. But it does nothing to limit the overall numbers of bears that will be killed. The same number of bear permits will be issued to the native communities who live among the polar bears, and the same number of bears will be killed for sustenance.
Worse yet, the ban would dry up the biggest sources of funding for polar bear conservation. Bear hunting generates nearly $2.5 million dollars annually for native Nunavut communities. Because of this influx of resources, the government of Nunavut and the Wildlife Management Board of Nunavut contribute $1 million per year to polar bear conservation, as an investment in the economic well-being of local communities. In addition, every American hunter who imports a polar bear trophy pays a $1,000 permit fee, which has raised more than $700,000 for polar bear conservation since 1994. Banning the importation of bear trophies would erase the economic incentive for bear conservation, and bear populations would suffer.
Finally, the Second Amendment and hunting debates both feature deceptive, emotional arguments from our political opposition. The Humane Society of the United States (hsus) claimed that it does not oppose hunting, but only the most "inhumane, unsporting and biologically unsustainable hunts." This is not a claim hsus has made when it has campaigned in nearly 20 states to ban the hunting of doves, deer, black bears and other common species.
And this debate featured another appearance from the American Hunters and Shooters Association (ahsa), claiming to represent "responsible hunters" who supported the ban. Loyal readers are familiar with this fledgling anti-gun, anti-hunting group, and the funding it receives from major backers of gun-ban groups and politicians. ahsa's statement underscored that the group exists purely to confuse policy makers into believing that gun owners and hunters would support policies that are not in their best interest.
None of it worked--this time. The House voted down the import ban by a vote of 242 to 188. But the battle isn't over for the bears--the Senate included the ban language in its version of the spending bill. There will be more battles in the weeks to come to ensure that science, logic and reason will prevail.
If Congress can ban the importation of polar bear trophies, it can ban the transportation of your favorite deer mounts across state lines. And it can ban your guns. Your NRA-ILA is here to make sure that none of this happens--no matter if you're a hunter, a shooter or both.