Utne Blogs > Environment

The NRA's Environmental Demons

by Cally Carswell 

Tags: Environment, National Rifle Association, NRA, American Hunters and Shooters Association, AHSA, gun rights, conservation, hunting, wildlife, wildlife habitat, public land, Second Amendment, Barack Obama, Pat Wray, Bill Schneider, High Country News, New West,

When it comes to conservation, all gun rights advocates are not created equal. And according to Pat Wray at High Country News, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is the worst of the worst.

Wray, a life member of the NRA, is running for the organization’s board of directors to try to change that. Wray is a hunter who wants his right to bear arms protected, but he also wants wildlife habitat protected, and at this the NRA is failing miserably, he says.

“The NRA’s ability to take money from hunters and use it in ways that will ultimately ruin hunting constitutes one of the most dishonest public relations campaigns ever perpetrated on the American people,” Wray writes.

Wray goes on to describe politicians the organization has supported, like former Rep. Richard Pombo, Sen. Larry Craig, and President Bush, who have sold off public lands to private companies or removed protections for roadless areas. As a member of the board, Wray says he would “Require the organization to work with politicians who care about the environment, wildlife and wild lands in addition to their support of our Second Amendment rights. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

While Wray tries to change the system from within, the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) is competing with the NRA from the outside, but with some of the same complaints.

At New West, Bill Schneider calls the AHSA “the bane of the NRA because it’s not just pro-gun but unlike the NRA, also pro-hunter.”

The NRA will spend up to $40 million to defeat Barack Obama this election season. Meanwhile, the AHSA will be throwing its weight—however much that is—behind Obama and emphasizing conservation in its message. As AHSA president Ray Schoenke stated, “Senator Obama’s commitment to conservation and protection of our natural resources and access to public lands demonstrates to us his commitment to America’s hunting and shooting heritage.”

For his part, Obama told Montana voters, “There is not a sportsman or hunter in Montana who is a legal possessor of firearms that has anything to worry about from me.”

Image by Richard Bartz, licensed under Creative Commons.