Sunday, April 10, 2011

I still hate the NRA, but felt their pull the other day

From : NRAVideo

Here I am writing about gun politics again, which I wish I wasn't. The necessary discussion of the topic is usually a distraction to advancing hunting interests. The readers of this blog know that I would love to see a political and cultural consensus around guns that constructs a system of regulations and supports around private gun ownership that minimizes the negatives effects of private firearm ownership and maximizes the positives. I have long considered the NRA and the gun rights movement's large influence within our hunting community a huge negative, a glue that holds together various conservative forces and interests whose politics are ultimately anti-hunting due to their opposition to conservation.

They also are part of a powerful right-wing coalition whose social policies accerbate social trends that are negatively affecting all sorts of outdoor activities, hunting probably the most. The dog-eat-dog rat race society they have contructed has given families less time and put more pressure on them to put their kids into all sorts of activities that will ensure them more notches on their resume for good colleges. Of course, the hope is that the good college education will secure them good careers in a world where there is an ever-declining pool of good jobs. Outdoor activities, especially time-instensive ones like hunting, are actually a detriment to this "achievement ladder". This is in spite of the fact that outdoor activities like hunting, angling, bird watching, hiking, camping, cross-country skiing and numerous activities not listed here have great benefits to our health, environment, and society.

However, I felt the NRA's appeal the other day when investigating one of their bizarre claims about the Obama administration I had seen on another hunting blog. The claim was that Secretary of State Clinton "welcomes UN gun ban". I have seen references and heard conservative hunters and gun owners I know talk of this, of course I assumed it was deliberate misinformation or simple tea-party paranioa. In fact, both are. They are referring to the UN Small Arms Treaty, which would essentially oblige signers to establish proper controls on firearms between nations. The focus of the proposed treaty as presently drafted is on military small arms. The website "The Truth About Guns", which appears to be an independent "pro-gun" website, debunked the NRA's and GOA's (Gun Owners of America) claims as fear-mongering and fund raising ploys. The US is the only rich nation in the world that has not signed on to the treaty. Signing nations include such high-private firearms ownership countries like Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The idea that these nations would be supporting a "global gun ban" is absurd.

One of the main organizations supporting and pushing the treaty is the International Action Campaign on Small Arms (IANSA). Overall, the organization is doing a lot of good work on such issues as fighting against the escalation of armed conflicts through illegal gun trading and the use of child soldiers in the third world. The campaign was long headed by Rebecca Peters (2002-2010), an Austrailian gun-control activist who successfully led a campaign in the 1990s and early 2000s to ban numerous firearms - handguns, ALL semi-automatic rifles and shotguns (including those designed for hunting) , and, even more incredibly, pump-action shotguns. Above is a link to the first part of a debate on youtube between her and the head of the NRA, Wayne Lapierre, it is in four parts. It was posted by the NRA, so I'm sure it is selectively edited to make Peters look her worst and Lapierre his best. However, it is worth watching all parts as there are unbroken clips of Peters making such outrageous statements that all semi-automatic shotguns and rifles should be banned on the basis that they are not needed to kill a deer. She also says there should be a drastic reduction in private firearms ownership acoss the world. She tells an audience member that the abolition of pistol shooting as an acceptable, common sport in the U.K. was needed, as handguns are only good for killing human beings. She says. "I feel bad for you, but take up a different sport". It is important to note for Americans that even when England had pistol-shooting as a sport, it is a nation that has long had a system of strict gun control. I can't spell out the details, I am confident people had to jump through some significant hoops to get handguns at that time.

There is one astounding claim made by Lapierre in the debate, quoting Peters being for banning every rifle that can shoot more than 100 meters. He said she said it on CNN in October 2003, which I have been unable to verify even though I've combed the CNN website for transcripts. They don't appear to go back that far. The social consequences of Peters' ideal gun regulations are horrible. Despite her claim to the contrary, they are anti-hunting. In particular, her ban on semi-autos is an attack on women hunters, who often need to use weapons with less recoil. Semi-autos fill that need for them. Of course, if she is for banning guns that shoot more than a hundred meters, that is banning all hunting rifles. Her attack on handguns, even for sport shooting, is driven by a belief that they are morally evil things.

It is disgusting that she gets to use IANSA, which is doing other good work all decent people should support, such as campaigning against the use of child soldiers and fighting to ban cluster bombs, issues that affect people in poor countries, to advance her radical anti-gun agenda. Another shame of that debate was that Lapierre got to be the defender of Joe hunter and gun owner, which of course he is not. At one point in the debate, they was a discussion of good and evil, and whether the line between good and evil was always real clear, which Peters claimed it was not. Lapierre, revealing his own extreme gun ideology, said, "good people know that a firearm will protect them". A gun is a powerful tool that could be used by someone good, to protect themselves, under certain situautions and conditions. Of course, with the radical anti-gun ideas Peters was spouting, Lapierre didn't have to be held to account for the dangerous consequences of his "guns are good" beliefs to the audience. In addition to her advancing her extreme policies, that was the other detriment of her performance in the debate.