Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Tell The Fish and Wildlife Service Not To Partner With The NRA

Gray wolf

Trump’s outgoing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith just signed an agreement to work with the NRA to recruit and train more Americans to shoot wild animals.

Tell the Service this agreement is unacceptable and must be broken immediately.

This partnership will allow more animals to be shot — paid for by the agency tasked with protecting wildlife while funneling taxpayer dollars to a far-right gun-industry mouthpiece.

Throughout its anti-wildlife term, the Trump administration has moved to expand trophy hunting. It created an illegal wildlife council rigged with trophy hunters and issued permits to import body parts of threatened leopards and lions.

The administration moved to increase hunting of bobcats, mountain lions and foxes in more national wildlife refuges across the country and now wants to arm and train more people to gun down animals.

With wolves across the lower 48 no longer federally protected, more states could hold wolf trophy hunts this year.

This last attack runs directly counter to the purpose of the Service. In no way should it use its position as wildlife’s protector to enlist more Americans to hunt and kill wildlife.

The agreement between the Department of Interior and the NRA should be torn up and cancelled immediately.

Tell the Service to end this partnership with the NRA right away.

Petition: https://act.biologicaldiversity.org/oW6Lb8rt00GW7LQc0ohwtA2?fbclid=IwAR2x3VloaWS0RpYw9BzKaNyOAa28bv_rykKa9MJwZLtfcJeESIgNEctKXBs

NRA Was ‘Foreign Asset’ To Russia Ahead of 2016, New Senate Report Reveals

Enlarge this image

A visitor to the at the National Rifle Association annual meeting walked past signage for the event in Indianapolis, Saturday, April 27, 2019.

Michael Conroy/AP

Updated at 11:53 a.m. ET

The National Rifle Association acted as a “foreign asset” for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation unveiled Friday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee’s Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin.

The report, available here, also describes how closely the gun rights group was involved with organizing a 2015 visit by some of its leaders to Moscow.

Then-NRA vice president Pete Brownell, who would later become NRA president, was enticed to visit Russia with the promise of personal business opportunities — and the NRA covered a portion of the trip’s costs.

Tax-exempt organizations are barred from using funds for the personal benefit of its officials or for actions significantly outside their stated missions. The revelations in the Senate report raise questions about whether the NRA could face civil penalties or lose its tax-exempt status.

Attorneys general in the state of New York and the District of Columbia are conducting separate probes into alleged wrongdoing at the gun rights organization. These probes have a broader scope than the Senate report, which focuses on Russia.

Majority response: This is overblown

The Republican majority on the Senate Finance Committee, which was consulted periodically throughout the Democrats’ investigation, said Friday the report was overblown.

In the Republicans’ analysis of Wyden’s report, the majority argued that it does not account for U.S.-Russia relations at the time and contains “much conclusory innuendo… and repeatedly attempts to paint a picture that does not exist.”

The Republicans also argued that if the NRA committed any infractions, they would be small and do not put the NRA’s tax-exempt status at risk.

“To the extent NRA funds were used improperly in any facts discussed in the [Democratic report led by Wyden], it appears to have been minor, hardly a rounding error for an organization with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year and nothing that cannot be corrected with minor intermediate sanctions,” the Republican analysis states.

Kremlin links were clear

Wyden’s 77-page report centers on Butina — a convicted Russian agent now in federal prison — and Torshin, a former Russian government official who has been sanctioned by the United States.

The report indicates that top NRA officials were aware of Butina’s and Torshin’s links with the Kremlin even as they sought to work more closely together under the banner of gun rights.

In an email later circulated to two senior NRA staff members, Butina wrote that a purpose of the 2015 Moscow trip was that “many powerful figures in the Kremlin are counting on Torshin to prove his American connections” by showing he could bring prominent NRA officials to Russia.

At another point, Butina suggested to participants on the 2015 NRA trip to Russia that she might be able to set up a meeting between them and President Vladimir Putin, referring to him as “Russia’s highest leader.”

NRA facilitated political access

Despite these declarations about their ties to the Russian government, NRA officials paid for and facilitated Torshin and Butina’s introduction into American political organizations.

Butina and Torshin received access to Republican Party officials at NRA events.

It was a explicit interest expressed by Butina: In one 2015 email to an NRA employee, Butina wrote, “is there a list of U.S. governors or members of Congress that might be present at some time during the [NRA] annual meeting?”

The employee responded with a list.

The NRA also helped them forge connections with groups such as the Council for National Policy, the National Prayer Breakfast, the National Sporting Goods Wholesalers Association and Safari Club International.

“NRA resources appear to have been used to pay for membership and registration fees to third party events for [Torshin and Butina] as well as to arrange for transit to and lodging for many of those events throughout 2015 and 2016,” the report states.

Report contradicts NRA denials

The Senate report notes that in 2018, then-NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch repeatedly denied that the group leaders’ 2015 trip to Moscow was sanctioned by the gun rights group.

But in a letter obtained by the committee, then-NRA President Allan Cors wrote to Torshin on NRA letterhead after consulting with NRA staff and former NRA President David Keene.

Cors designated two NRA figures to lead the trip: “Dave Keene and [top NRA donor] Joe Gregory will represent the NRA and our five million members better than anyone else,” he wrote.

During the course of the investigation, Brownell’s lawyer also told the committee that Brownell believed the trip was an official NRA event.

This view is further strengthened by the committee’s evidence that NRA staff prepared itineraries, gathered briefing materials, applied for tourist visas, paid for some of the travel expenses, and provided the delegation with NRA gifts to give to Russian officials.

The Senate investigation also found evidence that the NRA tried to hide various payments related to the trip.

Brownell covered approximately $21,000 in expenses related to the trip; in June 2016, the NRA reimbursed Brownell just over $21,000.

After questions were raised about the trip in 2018, Brownell paid the NRA $17,000 — a transaction that Brownell’s lawyer told the committee was requested by the NRA as a way of “getting the trip off the NRA’s books.”

NRA leaders sought business opportunities

The Senate investigation concludes that a number of NRA figures on the 2015 trip traveled to Russia “primarily or solely for the purpose of advancing personal business interests, rather than advancing the NRA’s tax-exempt purpose.”

Brownell, then a vice president of the NRA, is the CEO of a major firearms supplier bearing his last name.

In an email to a staffer at his business, Brownell described his trip as “an opportunity to be hosted in Russia to broaden our business opportunities … to introduce our company to the governing individuals throughout Russia.”

“The NRA directly facilitated Brownell’s effort to travel to Moscow early to explore business opportunities with Russian weapons manufacturers,” the report concludes.

Another member of the trip, NRA donor and then-Outdoor Channel CEO Jim Liberatore, told the Senate committee through his lawyer that his participation in the 2015 Moscow trip was “purely commercial.”

Wyden seeks IRS probe

Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said at the conclusion of his investigation that his staff had revealed information that shows that the National Rifle Association may have abused its tax-exempt status.

The next step, he says, is for the IRS to launch its own inquiry.

“The totality of evidence uncovered during my investigation, as well as the mounting evidence of rampant self-dealing, indicate the NRA may have violated tax laws,” Wyden said. “The IRS needs to examine these findings and investigate other publicly reported incidents of potential lawbreaking.”

Measure would grant constitutional right to hunt, fish in NC


North Carolina voters will consider a referendum this November that, if approved, will enshrine the right to hunt and fish in the state constitution.

By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, July 7, 2018

North Carolina voters will decide this fall whether the state’s heritage of hunting and fishing should be enshrined in the state constitution.

“The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the state’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good,” reads the opening of the amendment proposed in Senate Bill 677. Lawmakers voted last week to put the amendment on the Nov. 6 general election ballot as a referendum.

The bill passed with bipartisan — though not unanimous — support, the General Assembly’s website shows. Among those voting for the amendment were Republican lawmakers Sen. Bill Cook and Rep. Bob Steinburg. Area Democratic Rep. Howard Hunter III of Hertford County had excused absences for votes on the amendment, but wrote in an email Wednesday that he saw no harm in it.

If passed by the voters, the amendment would be a win for hunting and fishing groups, including the Eastern Carolina Houndsmen Alliance. In an interview Friday, alliance President Terry Morse said his organization has members throughout the state — including bear hunters in the western mountains — and it’s endorsed the amendment as preserving a heritage that predates the state itself.

Asked why the amendment is necessary, given the wide popularity of hunting and fishing in the state, Morse suggested some animal rights and humane societies might seek to limit hunting in the future. He claims the amendment is a proactive step to not only protect hunting and fishing, but preserve them as conservation tools.

Would the amendment’s guarantee of a right to hunt and fish force major changes to state laws and regulations, or otherwise have unintended consequences? Morse and other supporters say no.

The amendment’s text specifically states the right to hunt and fish are subject to state laws and regulations to “promote wildlife conservation and management” and “preserve the future of fishing and hunting.”

The amendment also states it shall not “be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights, or eminent domain.”

Morse said the amendment preserves the authority of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to regulate hunting and fishing, including by setting annual limits on how many animals can be killed. That’s important, because preserving the heritage of hunting and fishing requires maintaining game populations, he explained.

Similarly, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers said Friday that the amendment would not change the commission’s authority. He said the commission would also still have authority to ban hunting or fishing specific animals, if it determined their numbers were already too low.

Though the amendment preserves authority to regulate hunting and fishing for conservation, and to protect property rights, it does call at least one hunting regulation into question: restrictions on Sunday hunting. In deference to religious services, current state law restricts hunting on Sunday mornings, the use of hunting dogs, and hunting within 500 yards of a place of worship.

In an interview Thursday, Steinburg confirmed that lawmakers had debated, but apparently not settled, the question of how the amendment would affect Sunday hunting restrictions.

“That’s one of those things that, if it’s challenged in court, it will be interesting to see how it turns out,” Steinburg said.

Notably, the General Assembly’s website shows that state Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, filed amendments to S677 that would have stipulated hunting rights were subject to laws and regulations relating to public safety and public peace, “including limitations on Sunday hunting.” The amendments also would have allowed hunting to be affected in “regulation of commercial activities.” Both amendments failed.

In supporting the amendment, Steinburg said he did so because it seeks to ensure that “extreme environmental groups” or liberal judges won’t wrongly infringe on rights to hunt and fish.

Cook also strongly supported the amendment in an email Thursday, noting it would “bring North Carolina in line with 21 other states that already guarantee this right in their constitutions.”

Cook also noted the amendment enjoys strong support from hunting-related groups, including the National Rifle Association, Delta Waterfowl, Safari Club International, the Eastern Carolina Houndsmen Alliance, and others.

Cook also said the most recent state data found sportsmen and women spent $2.3 billion on hunting and fishing in 2011, supporting more than 35,000 local jobs.

Contacted on Friday, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Sierra Club said the environmental group had not taken a position on the amendment yet. The club’s statewide leadership is still considering it, she said.

Gun control advocates stage ‘Wear Orange Weekend’ and NRA hits back

On the first day of “Wear Orange Weekend,” the National Rifle Association and gun controladvocates traded barbs on Twitter.

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Wear Orange Weekend is an initiative started by Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization launched in 2014 by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to lobby for more stringent gun control.

Supporters were encouraged to wear orange starting all weekend starting on Friday, June 1, which is National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Early Friday morning, the NRA changed its logo on Twitter to orange, and tweeted that “Orange has always been ours.”



🔶 NRA SOCIAL GOING ORANGE: While Everytown for Gun Safety has devoted close to no resources to making citizens safer, the NRA continues to be the world’s leading gun safety organization since 1871. 📸 Send us pics in your orange hunting and NRA gear to be featured.

“Orange has been hunters and sportsmen’s choice for decades,” the NRA said in a later tweet. “No organization in the world does more than the NRA to promote the safe and responsible use of firearms.”



Orange has been hunters and sportsmen’s choice for decades. No organization in the world does more than the NRA to promote the safe and responsible use of firearms. Don’t forget to send us your orange!

Orange is the color traditionally worn by hunters because of its high visibility. In some states, hunters are required to wear at least some orange clothing in an effort to avoid hunting accidents.

Gun control activists tweeted back at the NRA, including Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie died in the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Fred Guttenberg


This is why we wear orange today. Our world is simply not complete but glad that you were able to join us in orange today. We miss you more than anything JT🧡

Matt Deitsch


We wouldn’t have to wear orange if you weren’t actively blocking policy that could combat gun violence.

We wear orange because of organizations like you. https://twitter.com/nra/status/1002505041880772608 

Wear Orange Weekend continues through Sunday, June 3, and organizers say it will be marked by hundreds of events nationwide.

A Tale of Two Geezers


You don’t hear all that much about 104-year-olds, perhaps since they’re usually squirreled away in some nursing home ‘for their own protection’ by then. Or perhaps because the average human life expectancy is 79.3 in the U.S. (for both sexes combined), while in Sierra Leone it’s still only 50.1 and the longest-lived people in the world these days, the Japanese, live an average of 83.7. But ironically I happened across articles about not one, but two century+4-year-olds while leafing through the news today.

By now we’ve probably all heard of Australian scientist David Goodall, who decided to spare himself any future suffering and make the long trip to Switzerland to humanely end his own life (just as you would a beloved old dog or cat who had outlived his or her ability to know joy in life). “Why Would Anyone Oppose This 104-Year-Old Man’s Decision to Die With Dignity?” asks, in an article from the Friendly Atheist, which goes on to say:

‘Goodall didn’t want to travel to Switzerland for the procedure, but it was the only option for him since his home nation of Australia forbids assisted suicide in all instances. He made sure everyone knew about his frustrations.

I greatly regret having reached that age; I would much prefer to be 20 or 30 years younger,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. during the [104th birthday] festivities in April. When asked whether he had a nice birthday, he replied: “No, I’m not happy. I want to die. … It’s not sad, particularly. What is sad is if one is prevented.”

My feeling is that an old person like myself should have full citizenship rights, including the right of assisted suicide,” the 104-year-old man added.’

Meanwhile, in what turned out to be the NRA’s American Hunter website, I spotted an article from December 27, 2017 entitled “America’s Oldest Hunter Bags Third Deer of the Season at 104 Years Old.”

Well, bully for him, the old codger got to go out and kill something—actually, three somethings—on what will surely be one of his last seasons of life!

From the NRA article:

‘Congratulations to Clyde Roberts on another successful season, and best wishes in the seasons to come. His recent 8-pointer marks the 11th deer he has taken since turning 100 years of age!’

NRA Takes Aim At ‘March For Our Lives’ Rally, Mocks Gun Violence Survivors

[Sadly for the animal’s sake, despite the hundreds of thousands of protesters and ‘gun-hating Hollywood billionaires’ speaking out, almost nothing is ever said about the fact that making sport of hunting and killing our fellow animals is one of the the driving forces behind NRA-types, and guns will never really be out of the hands of killers until we addres that.]…
“Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children,” the gun group said of the Saturday march.

Protesters in cities across the U.S. — from Washington D.C. to Portland, Oregon —- participated in March For Our Lives demonstrations on Saturday.

As hundreds of thousands of protesters prepared to gather in Washington and other cities across the U.S. on Saturday to demand meaningful gun reform, the National Rifle Association took to social media to mock the “March For Our Lives” event and the young gun violence survivors who spearheaded it.

The group posted a membership-drive video to Facebook with a scathing caption about the looming protest marches on Saturday morning.

“Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous,” the post declared. “Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”

Join the NRA, the group added, to “stand and fight for our kids’ safety.”

Thousands of protesters packed Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington during the March for Our Lives gathering on Saturday. The more popular protest chants included “Not one more,” “Vote them out” and “The NRA has got to go!”

The young activists gave eloquent, impassioned speeches at the D.C. event, excoriating lawmakers who have failed to act to reduce gun violence and the NRA for lobbying against sensible gun control legislation.

“If we move on, the NRA and those against us will win,” said 17-year-old survivor Delaney Tarr.  “They want us to forget. They want our voices to be silenced. And they want to retreat into the shadows where they can remain unnoticed. They want to be back on top, unquestioned in their corruption, but we cannot and we will not let that happen.”

“If they continue to ignore us … we will take action every day in every way until they simply cannot ignore us anymore,” Parkland student Delaney Tarr says at .

The clip, which featured NRA TV host “Colion Noir” (a pseudonym for Collins Iyare Idehen Jr.), had first been shared on YouTube on Thursday with the title “A March For Their Lies.”

“From where I’m standing, it looks like a march to burn the Constitution and rewrite the parts that they don’t like in crayon,” Noir said, referring to the young activists leading the rally.

In another NRA TV clip posted Thursday, Noir had harangued the Parkland survivors, saying “no one would know your names” if someone with a gun had stopped the shooting at their school.

“These kids ought to be marching against their own hypocritical belief structures,” Noir said, adding: “The only reason we’ve ever heard of them is because the guns didn’t come soon enough.”

The NRA and the Safari Club Are Gunning for Grizzlies

The gun lobby and big-game hunters are teaming up to get the bears off the endangered species list. But that’s just a first step toward stealing public land.

About 40 years ago, my friend the author Edward Abbey gave me a National Rifle Association (NRA) sticker to paste on the back window of my pickup. After all, he’d been an NRA member for years and we both were hunters who supported gun rights and owned a number of firearms.

I never got around to putting that sticker on. In the rambling decades between then and now, Ed’s and my attitude toward guns didn’t change much. My feelings about the NRA, however, have chilled considerably.

Increasingly, the NRA has become the big boy who thinks he can run over anyone and dominate partisan issues—they are widely criticized by environmentalists and Democrats as bullies. And the issues are no longer just those of the Second Amendment, though gun rights remain a primary test of political loyalty. As reported in The New York Times last fall, the NRA is now focused on immigration, race, health care.

The NRA is also actively trying to influence wildlife and wilderness issues, which happens to be my center of interest. Last spring the NRA, welded at the hip with Safari Club International (a privileged group of mostly wealthy hunters dedicated to killing large and rare animals), backed a successful bill to permit extreme killing methods of wolves and grizzlies on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, including the gunning down of animals from planes and slaughtering wolf pups and bear cubs in their birthing dens.

These two lobbying groups oppose protecting the severely endangered California condors, which biologists believe are sickened and killed by poisonous lead bullet fragments left in the hunter-felled game animals that the scavenging birds eat. Yet the NRA and the Safari Club pooh-poohed the notion that ingesting lead fragments threatens condors and claimed instead that their human members “will be impaired if they are no longer able to shoot lead bullets.”

Similarly, the NRA and Safari Club recently supported a controversial trophy hunt for elephants in Zimbabwe, coinciding with the Trump administration’s decision to overturn an Obama-era ban on elephant trophies. Managed trophy hunting “would not have an adverse effect on the species,” the groups said, “but can further efforts to conserve the species in the wild.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to allow the import of elephant trophies was praised by both groups but drew harsh criticism from animal-rights advocates on all sides of the political spectrum.

 At this writing, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 3668, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. Democrats Abroad said, “(SHARE) is a nightmare for human life, wildlife, and public lands. The bill is chock-full of anti-wildlife, anti-Endangered Species Act, and anti-public lands provisions that would undermine wildlife conservation and put imperiled species in greater danger.” Of course, the NRA got an easy-to-buy gun silencer deal stuck into this shithouse of a bill.

So, it was no surprise when the NRA and Safari Club asked to intervene in a lawsuit over the fate of Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bear population. Their intent is to support the federal decision to remove the bears’ Endangered Species Act protections and allow trophy hunting of Yellowstone’s grizzlies.

Five NRA and Safari Club members said, in affidavits submitted by their attorneys, that hunting grizzlies would help the region’s economy, allow states to better manage the animals, and improve public safety. These five outfitters and big game hunters claim their interests would be harmed if they could not have the opportunity to hunt Yellowstone’s grizzlies.

The core argument is public safety: that hunting bears will make people safer by instilling in grizzlies a fear of humans. These groups claim that Yellowstone’s grizzlies have become too aggressive, and that a fear of people would make bears shy and more subordinate, thus benefiting public safety. The unexamined assumption is that bears learn by being shot at.

The success of the NRA and SCI’s argument, assuming the NRA and Safari Club are allowed to fully make their case in court, will depend on what the judges make of the scientific plausibility of the “shy” bear theory, and the bear-expertise credibility of the five witnesses who filed declarations.

I disagree strongly with the NRA and SCI’s contention that there is any credible evidence whatsoever that hunting makes grizzlies shy, wary of humans, and therefore less aggressive and safer around humans.

And there is legitimate doubt that trophy grizzly hunting around Yellowstone is, in truth, good for the economy, and or that the state management is more effective than federal oversight when it comes to endangered species like the grizzly bear.

Finally, I question the grizzly-expertise of the five men who submitted affidavits to the court. The shy bear argument, which I’ve been hearing in Montana bars for 50 years, is good-old-boy folklore. These men are no doubt competent backcountry professionals, but I do not believe that trophy hunting— especially the guided type characteristic of Safari Club hunting—makes one an “expert” on grizzly bears. My own encounters with wild bears have made me believe that, in fact, the opposite is true: The key to safely dealing with wild grizzlies is behaving non-aggressively.

Does Hunting Make Bears Fear Humans?                                                    

Grizzly bear biologist David Mattson, who worked for two decades with the federal Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Study Team, recently wrote an article in the Grizzly Times saying he had undertaken a “thorough review of the evidence (or lack thereof),” and found “no empirical support for this proposition. There is essentially no evidence that a sport hunt instills fear in grizzlies. The proposition also defies logic and everything that we otherwise know about grizzly bears. If nothing else, how can a dead bear learn anything?”

Mattson goes on to point out that there has been no research on the American grizzly and hunting: “Another important point to make up front is that we know virtually nothing about the behavioral and motivational responses of bears to hunting, certainly little that is grounded in research. The closest we come is a study out of Scandinavia showing that hunted brown bears increased their nighttime activity, with little obvious relevance to whether humans were thereby safer.”

What most bear expertsl agree on is that American brown bears are genetically inclined to deal aggressively with perceived threats; this is evolved behavior, presumably learned on the treeless periglacial of the Arctic during the Late Pleistocene, by mothers defending their cubs from many larger, now-extinct predators.

So the NRA and Safari Club theory that hunting—as a perceived threat—thereby installs fear in bears is counterintuitive. Mattson believes the reverse may be true, that “grizzlies can become less reactive to people, not as a result of heightened fear, but rather as a result of the opposite. These fundamentals alone call into question the logic of using hunting to increase human safety.”

My own 50 years of experience with Yellowstone’s wild grizzlies supports Mattson’s position.

Before 1968, I didn’t know squat about grizzly bears, despite having spent a summer in Alaska. Fresh home from two tours as a Green Beret medic in Vietnam, I had gone to Yellowstone to camp out and heal from a malaria attack. There, quite accidentally, I ran into a whole bunch of bears.

Here is one of my earliest encounters, from the preface of Grizzly Years:

“The big bear stopped thirty feet in front of me. I slowly worked my hand into my bag and gradually pulled out the Magnum. I peered down the gun barrel into the dull red eyes of the huge grizzly. He gnashed his jaws and lowered his ears. The hair on his hump stood up. We stared at each other for what might have been seconds but felt like hours. I knew once again that I was not going to pull the trigger. My shooting days were over. I lowered the pistol. The giant bear flicked his ears and looked off to the side. I took a step backward and turned my head towards the trees. I felt something pass between us. The grizzly slowly turned away from me with grace and dignity and swung into the timber at the end of the meadow. I caught myself breathing heavily again, the flush of blood hot on my face. I felt my life had been touched by enormous power and mystery.”

That was the last time I carried a firearm into grizzly country. I found you didn’t need them. I believe to this day that a gun will get you into more trouble than it will get you out of in bear habitat.

But inexperience continued to land me in the briar patch. In my early years, I got too close to grizzlies, over a hundred encounters where both the bear and myself noticed each other. I say “too close” because my intent was to not have the bears know I was around; in those situations, I stood my ground and the grizzlies usually—but not always—ran away.

Far more dangerously, I got charged by grizzlies a few dozen times, about half of them were serious encounters: typically mothers with cubs or yearlings, often from nearby daybeds where they were sleeping out the middle of days. This is the source of almost all human mauling by bears (carcasses are also dangerous); attacks are by mothers near or on daybeds where you can get too close and carelessly invade the space she feels she needs for her cub’s safety. The sow only cares for her cub’s safety. As long as you are perceived to be a threat, she will continue to charge and if you do anything stupid, like run or try to climb a tree, she may start chewing on you. If you fight back, the mother griz will keep attacking you until you are no longer seen as a threat to her young. You could die.

The advice to “play dead” during a grizzly attack is sound. Many a victim of a mauling saved his or her life by ceasing to resist the attack, by relaxing. Tough advice but it works. Remember, the mother grizzly isn’t there to hurt or kill you, just to make sure her cub is safe.

More than a dozen different sow grizzlies have aggressively charged me. (None completed her charge; no wild bear has ever touched me.) A few mother grizzlies started the charge, then quickly veered off and ran away without breaking stride. More often, charging bears came directly at me, and then skidded to a stop. One sow grizzly stopped so close (probably six feet) she appeared to lean forward and sniff my pant leg.

During the course of all these grizzly charges, my behavior was as non-aggressive as possible: I stood my ground without moving a muscle or blinking an eye; I looked off to the side (a frontal orientation can be confrontational to a grizzly). I also held my arms off to the side (to make yourself look bigger?) and talked softly to the bear, hoping to present no threat whatsoever to her cubs. It’s worked every time—so far.

“The time for these ceremonial executions is over. We lost our authenticity somewhere in the colonial past. We don’t need a Yellowstone grizzly hunt.”

My most recent encounter with a mother grizzly was last June, when my daughter and I were sheltering behind a Buick-sized huge boulder on a high butte in Yellowstone. It was our last hike together before I walked her down the aisle later that summer. It was a blustery, windy day; we couldn’t hear a thing. All of a sudden, the look on my daughter’s face changed and I followed her gaze. There, some 50 feet away, a mother grizzly and her yearling cub were coming over the top of the hillside.

We all saw each other at the same time. The mother bear quickly reared onto her hind legs, smacked her lips, slobbered, and looked all around. I whispered to Laurel, “Don’t move.” We never moved an inch. Eventually, after a few minutes, the bear calmed down. Then, the bears slowly walked past us and sat down on the edge of a cliff 30 feet away, where the mother began nursing the cub. This went on for about five minutes. The sow grizzly appeared to graze (it could have been displacement behavior, where the nervous mom just pretended to feed) along the lip of the cliff and the cub started to approach us, not unlike a curious puppy, coming way too close, maybe within 15 to 20 feet. I stopped his advance by flipping my palm, a gesture I made up in the moment, not knowing if it would work. Laurel quietly recorded a short piece of video on her phone. In the distance, I could hear the bellows and roars of a mating pair of grizzlies far below, indicating the female in front of us had likely retreated to this high ground to keep her cub away from aggressive male bears who sometimes kill them.

This moment was saturated with wild trust, and sharing it with Laurel etched it forever in my memory. Such intimate encounters with grizzlies are rare with inland bears, like the grizzlies in Glacier and Yellowstone parks, but it does happen along salmon streams in places like Alaska and British Columbia, where a mother grizzly once left her three cubs sitting next to me on the bank of the Nakinaw River while she went fishing, caught a salmon, and brought it back to her waiting cubs. The popular thinking on this is that bear mothers trust humans because male grizzlies tend to avoid us.

This spectrum of grizzly behavior hints at a deeper social structure than bears have previously been given credit for. All wild bears in a region appear to know each other and where they rank in a larger social hierarchy. Wild grizzlies are capable of responding to non-aggressive human behavior in surprising ways; we need to give them a chance. The simplistic notion that hunting and shooting grizzlies makes the bears fear humans is flat wrong. Probably David Mattson is right and the opposite is true.

Will Hunting Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears Help the Region’s Economy?                                                      

There are a number of economic studies analyzing tourism in and around Yellowstone, revealing who spends the most money and why. The National Park Service informs us through its surveys that most Yellowstone visitors list viewing wildlife, especially grizzlies and wolves, as the primary reason for their visits. Mountain West News reported in August 2017 that “Yellowstone Park tourists spent (last year) an estimated $680 million in gateway communities in Montana and Wyoming.”

By contrast, proposed resident grizzly bear hunting licenses in Wyoming would cost $600 per season. It doesn’t sound like much of a comparison except for the small consolation that trophy bear hunters, like Safari Club members, tend to be well heeled and book the most expensive lodges.

Will the States Be Better than the Feds at Managing Bears?

The NRA and Safari Club’s argument that the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are better fit than the feds to manage trophy animals is disingenuous. It has nothing to do with wildlife management competency, and everything to do with their larger political agenda.

The first objective of these two trophy hunting groups is to kill grizzlies, and the states—especially Wyoming—will help them achieve this goal in record time. (In my own state, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has decided to put off a trophy grizzly hunt for 2018.)

My specific distrust of turning brown bear management over to the states arises from how notoriously slow the departments have been to investigate and prosecute obvious cases of poaching, protecting illegal killers who—when caught—claim they felt threatened in some way—the “self-defense” argument. Subsequent prosecution is slack or non-existent. To justify this lax enforcement, the state game managers say that if they prosecute poaching too aggressively, their sources of information about bear-mortality reporting will dry up. Still, if delisting survives its legal challenges and a hunting season is opened, illegal killing of grizzlies will become much easier (with or without a license) and will loom as the primary threat to Yellowstone’s entire bear population.

Far more transparent and important, I think, is the issue of public lands. The NRA and the Safari Club have not bothered to intervene in this regional hunting squabble because they believe the local state game departments of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho will better manage the region’s critters than would a federal agency.

I believe these national groups have become involved with the fate of grizzlies in order to serve a broader agenda: converting public land to private ownership. To put it bluntly, stealing the land that belongs to all of us and delivering it to the private sector for financial exploitation. They would auction off the vast wild lands of the Bureau of Land Management, national forests, and wildlife refuges, and open national monuments and even the national parks to resource extraction.

All public lands are threatened by this so-called “states rights” movement.: It’s not just the Yellowstone ecosystem and Bear’s Ears mesas that are imperiled, but also the underlying philosophy and concepts that made these places possible in the first place. The Wilderness, Endangered Species, and Antiquities acts are all under siege. The NRA and Safari Club agendas on wildlife and wilderness issues at their core are driven by the desire to dismantle our wild heritage.

The Problem with Grizzly Bear Experts

In the early ’80s, I served as an expert witness on grizzly bears for Glacier National Park in federal court. The judge asked me and the other expert witness how many (defined as different bears per day) grizzlies we had seen in our lives, and because I had watched grizzly bears at Yellowstone’s garbage dumps and at salmon streams as well as in berry patches and meadows, my answer was over a thousand. Does that make me an expert? Maybe for the purposes of that particular court, but otherwise I have my doubts. At the time, I let it go, not questioning the court’s opinion. But what teaches a person the most about grizzly behavior? Probably watching wild bears go about their natural business, without disturbing the animal’s activity? Nature is a great classroom. Salmon streams are good, but you can also learn a great deal by watching bears in meadows and berry patches. My own early education was slow, hampered by greenness and bear-illiteracy.

I’ve spent time with Yellowstone’s grizzlies each year for the past five decades, beginning in 1968. The first 15 years were the most intense, during which time I filmed bears full-time in the Yellowstone and Glacier National Park ecosystems. Typically, I’d spend the first six weeks of spring in Yellowstone, and then come back for October. The rest of the season, I filmed in Glacier and worked seasonal jobs for the park service.

Much of the time, I worked alone, lugging my heavy 16mm camera gear around in a backpack, camping in the backcountry for stretches of up to a couple weeks at a time.

The goal was to film wild grizzlies close up but not so close the bears would be spooked by the camera noise; I wanted to capture natural grizzly behavior without the bears becoming aware of my presence. Of course, I didn’t always succeed.

My strategy for finding grizzlies in Yellowstone was split between two general approaches: I could go out into good spring habitat, find a set of fresh bear tracks and follow them to where the grizzly was feeding. Sometimes, this took days of tracking to catch up with the bear. Compared with today, grizzlies were scarce in Yellowstone during the ’70s—something everyone agrees on.

The other, more efficient strategy was to set up on a hill or promontory where bears were likely to come by and just wait. It helped if there were winter-killed elk or bison carcasses nearby.

Using such methods, spread over three decades, I managed to sneak up on at least 200 unsuspecting grizzlies in and around Yellowstone and Glacier parks, to distances within about one hundred yards. Most of those approached were captured on film, which is now archived at Texas Tech.

Here I want to say something  about hunting. I don’t think dispatching brown bears with a weapon capable of bringing down a B-52 is very challenging. Because I could have shot any of those bears, I have always suspected grizzlies are easy to hunt. Easy, say, compared to black bears, who are spooky forest creatures and a test for a fair chase (no baits or dogs) hunter. Grizzlies, by contrast, are open country animals and their dominance at the top of the food chain means they don’t automatically run away.

But does tracking down a wild griz with a camera equate with trophy hunting? Absolutely not, as any Safari Club International member would point out. Why? I didn’t pull the trigger. There was no kill. Without the kill, there is no authentic hunt.

Here is a crucial distinction between me and trophy hunters. I don’t hunt predators. I wouldn’t shoot a bear for a cool million. I am not one of them.

Trophy Hunting

How do you justify killing an innocent animal of exceptional carriage that you don’t intend to eat and who poses no threat to you? A few trophy hunters try to answer this question; most see no problem, they kill the big grizzly or the lion with a huge mane just because they can. There are arguments: money for permits and licenses can be spent on conservation. You may trophy hunt because it runs in the family. Or because male archetypes like Teddy Roosevelt did it.

When we think of trophy hunters, the photo of Donald Trump Jr. holding a freshly severed elephant tail may come to mind, but I recognize a few other types, often deeply skilled in ways of the wild and dedicated to a fair chase. The ones I know tend to be bow hunters. These people are probably the exception: They know why they are out there and are grounded in their own ethic.

Of those Safari Club members who have shown any curiosity at all about their deadly sport, it’s probably fair to say the bulk have drawn their killer philosophies from mid-20th century sources, especially a little book called Meditations on Hunting, written in 1942 by Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, which is quoted so often in the literature of trophy hunting that it has assumed near-religious status.

Ortega tells us death is essential because without it there is no authentic hunting. In short, one does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.

For Ortega’s privileged sportsman, the animal’s death is a “sign” that the hunt was “authentic” and “real.” This European view of killing and the hunt owes nothing to the roughly 300 thousand years of Homo sapiens wildlife experience: After all, we evolved our own human intelligence chasing animals all through the Pleistocene, in habitats whose remnants today we call the wilderness.

Throw in some colonial dominion over the beasts, a little Hemingway, and you find a tremendous amount of masculine bullshit in consideration of what constitutes an “authentic” experience in outdoor blood sports. Ortega celebrates the “exemplary moral spirit of the sporting hunter” who hunts for “diversion.” He looks down on the “utilitarian” hunter, like “Paleolithic man,” and “the poacher of any epoch” or individuals like myself who hunt for food.

For the record, I do hunt, mostly game birds and the occasional deer. I eat what I kill and have many guns. I don’t hunt predators on principal or trophy-sized animals (for practical and culinary reasons). Each year as I grow older, I find myself backing off a bit. But there is a legitimate debate in the bedrock question: Why do we hunt or, more specifically, why trophy hunt?

David Mattson has his suspicions: “Those who promote hunting as a means of increasing human safety are probably using the argument simply as cover for getting rid of grizzly bears that they see as an inconvenience or an affront to their personal ideologies… or promote hunting primarily as a means of inflating a shriveled ego through killing something as powerful as a grizzly bear.” Mattson continues, “Perhaps those promoting the sport hunting of grizzlies are doing so out of a visceral place of fear and a derivative need to dominate and subjugate anything that subjectively threatens them.”

Despite a few female members, groups like the Safari Club are rooted in masculine institutions of patriarchy and clanship. Within the fraternal organization, intense competition abounds. If your buddy bags a huge kudu or leopard head, you’d better get a bigger one. This deadly rivalry about who gets the best  trophy is regarded as either the purest form of sport, as seen by Safari Club, or one of the worst contests of our society, as viewed by people like myself. The payoff or price of the kill, in either case, is pretty much as Mattson suggests: a boost in the frail male ego.

My own feeling is that the time for these ceremonial executions is over. We lost our authenticity somewhere in the colonial past. We don’t need a Yellowstone grizzly hunt.

The man holding the cut-off elephant tail may take exception to Mattson’s musings, but we are decades down the road from the faded photos of TR’s rhino in 1909 or Hemingway’s lion shot in 1934. The year 2018 finds us much deeper into the climate change game than anyone wants to talk about and also smack dab in the early-middle of the 6th Great Extinction. These often endangered and expendable trophy creatures could use a break from recreational killing.

The first critters to go in a great extinction tend to be the big ones, especially the large rare mammals favored by trophy hunters. This endangered species list does not exclude two-legged primates; the hot winds of change are coming for us all.


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Hunting And Fishing Revival


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's Hunting And Fishing Revival

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leading a revival. It’s not the kind that occurs under a big tent full of folding chairs, fiery sermons and hallelujahs, but the kind that occurs when hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen in general feel liberated from the shackles of an overbearing federal government; when they experience anew the freedom to take their guns and gear into America’s wild places and fish and hunt the way their fathers and grandfathers fished and hunted before them.

Zinke set the tone for this revival on his first day as Interior Secretary. He did so by repealing the Obama administration’s lead ammunition ban—a ban which served as a last slap in the face to hunters and fishermen everywhere.

Zinke set the tone for this revival on his first day as Interior Secretary.The Obama-era ban was contained in National Fish and Wildlife Service’s Director’s Order 219. The order came from Director Dan Ashe and required regional directors to work with state-level agencies to begin phasing out the use of lead ammunition on federal land. This included requiring the “Assistant Director, Migratory Birds, in consultation with National Flyway Councils and individual states, … [to] establish a process to phase in a requirement for the use of nontoxic ammunition for recreational hunting of mourning doves and other upland game birds.”

The Obama administration avoided calling the order an all-out ban by fashioning it so that its implementation occurred over a period of time rather than all at once.

On March 3, 2017, Breitbart News reported that Zinke had repealed the ban, and that the repeal was one of his first actions as interior secretary.

The reason Zinke made this one of his top priorities upon taking office is that he understands that hunters and fishermen are a crucial part of wildlife conservation: They preserve a balance in nature whereby fish and wildlife are kept at sustainable levels, rather than being able to overpopulate and ruin food supplies and habitat. And he also understands that hunters and fishermen bring a tremendous amount of money into the U.S. economy annually.

On Sept. 1, 2017, Fox News published a column by NRA-ILA’s Chris W. Cox, in which Cox observed:

Zinke knows that America’s hunters and anglers are the backbone of successful fish and wildlife management in the United States. In 2016 alone, $1.1 billion in hunter and angler excise revenues was invested by the 50 state fish and wildlife agencies to fund wildlife projects benefiting all wildlife—game and non-game species alike.

Crucially, Zinke also acknowledges the role hunting and fishing play as traditions in America. For example, a childhood in a state like Kentucky is marked by the time a son and his father spend getting ready for hunting season. They plan the hunt, tend the food plot, build the tree stand, study the movement and habits of the deer, then go out on opening day intent on bringing home food the family can eat and stories the father and son will share for the rest of their lives.

Cox put it this way:

[Zinke] also understands … within our own local communities, hunting and angling is an important tradition that’s often passed down through the generations and enjoyed by the entire family, helping to forge lifelong support of wildlife conservation and the full appreciation of our fish and wildlife resources.

In short, Zinke’s convictions about the importance of hunting and fishing mean more opportunities for outdoorsmen. This is seen via announcements like the Department of the Interior’s Aug. 9, 2017, announcement that Secretary Zinke was expanding “hunting and fishing opportunities at 10 national wildlife preserves.”

This expansion will result in responsible conservation practices, money for the U.S. economy and traditions that link generations together over time.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast

Gun Sales Are Plummeting and Trump Wants to Help


The NRA’s new playbook includes guns for kids and open carry in every state.

From Gandhi to guns: An Indian woman explores the NRA convention


The author, an Indian-American, visiting her first NRA convention on Friday.

Atlanta (CNN)Guns are not a part of the culture of my homeland, except perhaps for the occasional Bollywood movie in which the bad guy meets his demise staring down the wrong end of a barrel.

My childhood in India was steeped in ahimsa, the tenet of nonviolence toward all living things.
The Indians may have succeeded in ousting the British, but we won with Gandhian-style civil disobedience, not a revolutionary war.
Trump: Eight-year assault has come to end

Trump: Eight-year assault has come to end 01:07
I grew up not knowing a single gun owner, and even today India has one of the strictest gun laws on the planet. Few Indians buy and keep firearms at home, and gun violence is nowhere near the problem it is in the United States. An American is 12 times more likely than an Indian to be killed by a firearm, according to a recent study.
It’s no wonder then that every time I visit India, my friends and family want to know more about America’s “love affair” with guns.
I get the same questions when I visit my brother in Canada or on my business travels to other countries, where many people remain perplexed, maybe even downright mystified, by Americans’ defense of gun rights.
I admit I do not fully understand it myself, despite having become an American citizen nearly a decade ago. So when I learn the National Rifle Association is holding its annual convention here in Atlanta, right next to the CNN Center, I decide to go and find out more.
My eyes open wide inside the vast and cavernous Georgia World Congress Center. I take in countless exhibits by the firearms industry and even check out a few guns. Among them are the Mossberg Blaze .22 semiautomatic Rimfire Rifle and an FN 509 semi-automatic 9mm pistol.
I’ve never had the desire to own a gun. I try hard to experience the excitement of others who are admiring these products.
Around me are 80,000 of America’s fiercest patriots and defenders of guns. Many are wearing American flag attire and T-shirts with slogans like: “Veterans before refugees” and “God loves guns.”
Few people here look like me. Most appear to be white and male. Many view the media, including my employer, with disdain — and they do not hesitate to let me know.
I walk around with some trepidation, but I’m determined to strike up conversations. I begin with this question: “Why do you want to own an object that can kill another human being?”
The answers are varied, but they center on three main themes: freedom, self-defense and sport. The first type of response is rooted in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which allows for the ownership of more than 300 million guns in America. How many other countries have the right to bear arms written into their very foundation? It’s unique and because of that, foreigners often have trouble grasping it.
I meet Chris Styskal at a booth set up by the NRA Wine Club. Yes, a wine club for the almost 5 million members of the organization.
“Eat, sleep, go fishing. Drink, sleep, go shooting. In that order,” Styskal jokes.
But then we get into serious talk. Gun ownership, he tells me, has its roots in the birth of this country.
“George Washington’s army fought off the British with rifles,” he says. “They overthrew an oppressive government.”
His statement gives me pause. The gun laws in India stem from colonial rule, when the British aimed to quell their subjects by disarming them. Perhaps my Indian compatriots should consider the right to own guns from this perspective.
Styskal, 41, earned a degree in psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and tells me the prevailing belief that gun owners are not educated is simply wrong. He owns a collection of rifles and pistols at his home in Port Carbon, Pennsylvania, and last year he fired 100 rounds every week at a shooting range.
He says the Second Amendment is about much more than the right to bear arms. It’s about freedom.
“We don’t want any government telling us what we can and cannot do.”
It’s a thought echoed by Brickell “Brooke” Clark, otherwise known as the American Gun Chic. She has a website by that name and also a YouTube channel. Both are bathed in hues of pink and dedicated to her recently formed passion for guns.
I introduce myself to Clark as we await President Donald Trump’s arrival at the convention. The darkened room is booming with NRA clips bashing everyone from Hillary Clinton to George Clooney.
“What would you tell my friends in India who say Americans are infatuated with guns?”
“I wouldn’t say Americans have an obsession with guns,” Clark says. “We have an obsession with being free.”
I ask what the Second Amendment means to her.
“It means I can live my life without anyone overpowering me,” she says. “It makes me equal with everyone else.”
The great equalizer. I never thought of the Second Amendment in that way.
Self-protection, I discover, is a huge reason many Americans own firearms.
Take Chloe Morris. She was born in Atlanta to Filipino parents; on this day, she’s brought her mother along to hear Trump, the first sitting President to speak at an NRA convention since Ronald Reagan.
Morris is 35, petite and soft-spoken, but she’s fierce about her opinions on guns.
“I’m 5 feet tall and 100 pounds,” she tells me. “I cannot wait for a cop to come save me when I am threatened with rape or death.”
Morris was once opposed to guns. “Extremely opposed,” she says.
She earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State University. “I know the law,” she says. “For me guns were not the answer.”
But a few years ago, a dear friend was assaulted in her own home in an upscale Atlanta subdivision. The incident struck fear in Morris. She would never let herself become a victim.
She took shooting classes and became a Glock instructor. “I teach for free. I want women to be safe.
“I own 10 guns. I have a 14-year-old son. I started teaching him to shoot when he was 5. I’m a lifetime member of the NRA.”
She pauses, and her next sentence surprises me.
“I don’t think I can even kill another person — except when my life is in danger.”
In a way, I understand her position. My first real exposure to guns came after I embedded with the US Army and Marines to report the Iraq War. As a journalist I never carried a weapon, though soldiers coaxed me to learn how to shoot an M16. My conversation with Morris reminded me of a night when we came under threat, and the platoon sergeant placed a 9mm pistol on my Humvee seat. I refused to take it but knew instantly what he was trying to tell me. What if I were the last one alive? How would I save myself?
Luckily, we were safe that night. But I’ve always wondered how I might have acted under a dreadful scenario.
Other NRA members I speak with also tell me they don’t trust the police to arrive in time when they are in danger. Scott Long, 55, lives out in the country in Piketon, Ohio — 25 miles away from the county sheriff.
“The police can’t be there all the time,” he says, looking at his wife, DeeDee, and their three young children, whom he’s brought along to the convention for a mini family vacation. Their son Brody, 9, has been shooting at the pellet range and is excited about his first 20-gauge shotgun.
“Where we live, we can shoot in our backyard,” says Long, who owns 25 guns and is enjoying checking out all the shiny new weapons exhibited here.
Such remoteness, too, is alien to me. I grew up in a city that now brims with some 16 million people on a working day. Firing guns in my grandfather’s garden would not have been a good thing. I think about all the space we have in America. So many of us live far from other human beings. Like the Long family. Perhaps isolation adds to the need to own guns.
I move forward in my quest to know more.
I hear gun proponents express a dislike for big government. They stress individual liberties over the collective. For people who live in more socialist countries, it’s another obstacle to understanding American gun culture.
Near a stairway emblazoned with a giant Beretta, I speak with Derrick Adams. He’s a 32-year-old electric lineman from Nottingham, Pennsylvania. He describes himself as part black, part Puerto Rican and part Caucasian.
“How many guns do you own?” I ask.
“Not enough,” he replies.
He picked up his first Glock when he was 22, and his first shot shattered a whole bunch of stereotypes.
“People look at guns as this evil tool whose job it is to kill,” he says. “They’re not at all that. They are about protection.”
Adams believes that if all law-abiding citizens were armed, crime would drastically go down. He tells me that Chicago would not have such a high gun homicide rate if good folks in the inner cities were armed to fight “thugs and gangs.”
“Stop looking to government to help us. They are not our parents,” Adams says.
Liberals in America who want more gun control, says Adams, want to keep minorities and poor people dependent on government. Gun control started after slavery ended and was a way to keep black people disarmed, he says.
“You idiots,” Adams says, referring to all people of color. “It was invented to suppress you.”
He looks at me as though to say: You should know better.
Again, I think of colonialism in my homeland and how the British passed strict gun control to keep Indians from rising up.
Fighting tyranny and oppression is something Jaasiel Rubeck considers, too. The 29-year-old wife and mother from Columbus, Ohio, immigrated to this country from her native Venezuela when she was 6. People who live under authoritarian regimes should all understand the need to own a gun, she tells me.
Rubeck’s words remind me of a friend from Iraq who wished she could own a gun during Saddam Hussein’s rule. After he was overthrown, she slept with an AK-47 under her pillow at the height of the insurgency. She has always spoken of her love-hate relationship with guns. She wants to protect her family, but she is tired of the eternal violence plaguing her land. She wishes now that every gun would disappear from Iraq.
What I hear from speakers at the NRA convention, though, is that a peaceful world is a utopian fantasy — and that the need for guns will always exist.
“The NRA saved the soul of America,” says Chris Cox, the executive director of the organization.
I leave the convention trying to reconcile what I’ve gathered on this day with the philosophy of nonviolence with which I was raised. I am not certain that vast cultural differences can be bridged in a few hours, but I am glad I got a glimpse into the world of guns. I have much to consider.