Ban Gun Bans
19th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
September 26, 2004
"We want people who truly support the Second Amendment, not people who are in a tough election that want to fool the gunnies."
"When our Second Amendment rights are under attack, all of our constitutional rights are under attack."
So stated Colorado Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-4th District), one of this year's featured luncheon speakers at the 19th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC) awards luncheon in Arlington, VA, on Sept. 25.
Described by Wall Street Journal writer John Fund in his introduction as "the gun rights movement's Margaret Thatcher," Musgrave is a first-term congresswoman who spearheaded the creation of the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus. A former Colorado legislator with a solid pro-gun, pro-hunting voting record, Musgrave is a sometimes maverick who does not always vote with party leadership, but has not wavered as a supporter of gun rights.
Musgrave was joined at the head table by Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who delivered a keynote address to the capacity luncheon crowd. He detailed NSSF's efforts to get sportsmen and gunowners to the polls this fall.
Following the awards event (see photo captions), gun rights activists returned to the main meeting venue to hear Prof. John Lott deliver a revealing talk about media bias and firearms.
Musgrave is considered a leader with a good future on Capitol Hill. Underscoring her importance, the freshman lawmaker was honored by being named GRPC's "Gun Rights Legislator of the Year." In making the presentation, Joe Waldron, executive director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), told the audience that Musgrave shows great potential as a leader in Congress.
Musgrave is no stranger to controversy. She described her early days in Colorado politics as an activist lawmaker battling to pass that state's right-to-carry law. During her career in Denver, Musgrave recalled that the state "endured some governors that were very much opposed to concealed carry."
However, she and other pro-gun lawmakers kept fighting, submitting proposals that ran something of a gamut from Vermont-style carry to bills that did not have a training requirement. Finally, Centennial State gunowners got action when Republican Bill Owens stepped into the governor's office.
"We got Bill Owens elected governor," Musgrave said, "and we finally got concealed carry in Colorado."
Musgrave, who has been profiled in Women & Guns, comes from a family with a long tradition of shooting and hunting.
"My family goes hunting every year and they have a veritable arsenal in their homes," she noted.
When she came to Congress, one of the first things she noticed in an environment with a caucus for just about every cause on the political map was that there was no Second Amendment caucus.
"We started trying to figure out how we could make it very meaningful," she explained. "We're not cavalier about how we let people into the caucus. We want people who truly support the Second Amendment, not people who are in a tough election that want to fool the gunnies. People who are truly committed to Second Amendment rights."
Those who join the Second Amendment Caucus are committed to the understanding that the amendment "is clearly written to protect the fundamental and individual right to keep and bear arms," she said. "The caucus's only purpose is to . . . protect the Second Amendment as written."
She told the audience that being a pro-gun woman on Capitol Hill is a bit unnerving to many of her colleagues. She is one of five congresswomen who belong to the caucus.
"When a woman is pro-Second Amendment," she chuckled, "they don't know what to do with us."
Since being elected, Musgrave has become a champion of gun rights in Washington, DC, and she recalled that on one trip home, the pilot of the airplane she was in visited with here briefly, to complain about rules for armed pilots that have been adopted by the Transportation Security Administration. These rules hamper armed pilots, and make it difficult for pilots to even become federal flight deck officers. Musgrave plans to have a pilot speak to the caucus about this issue.
Musgrave closed by urging activists to go back home and be vigilant. She said the public sometimes is not hard enough on members of Congress.
With the national elections looming, Painter took the podium and reminded the audience that NSSF is pushing hard to get sportsmen and shooters to the polls on Nov. 2. The foundation's "Vote Your Sport" effort has been underway for several weeks, yet Painter confessed that, "You would be surprised by the number of people out there who hunt and shoot, who wonder what we're talking about."
This year's election is crucial to the future of the gun industry, he insisted. Earlier this year, legislation was defeated that would have provided relief to gunmakers from frivolous lawsuits. He said gun manufacturers have spent more than $175 million defending themselves against these legal actions since 1998.
"We surely need a Congress, we surely need an administration that will help us pass that legislation next year," he stated.
He said the aim of the municipal lawsuits has been "essentially to bankrupt and to put this business out of business."
Painter said there are some serious challenges facing the shooting sports industry and gun rights activists. Recruitment is a top priority, because the days are long gone that the industry could depend upon natural recruitment from the children of hunters.
"For so many years," he recalled, "we didn't have to worry about recruitment. Hunter numbers and shooter numbers would go up, and we would have an automatic growth rate. Dads brought along sons and daughters. We need to have programs that stimulate new participation."
That said, NSSF has adopted strategies to recruit new shooters and hunters, enhance their opportunities, and educate and mobilize them to defend the shooting sports and right to keep and bear arms.
"The big problem is that kids just don't want to get out . . . anymore to shoot or to hunt," he observed. "I say that's not the problem. If we give and create good opportunity for them in a changing world, we can make a difference."
He lamented that the average age of shooters at this summer's Grand American trap tournament was 54 years. However, he was delighted that 20% of the shooters who turned out for the event were youth, representing 41 states where NSSF's Scholastic Clay Target Program is now active.
To promote hunting at the state level, NSSF has put more than $1 million in grants into the states to help create new hunting opportunities and secure hunting access.
"Free hunting isn't as available as it used to be," he said.
In the 20 years between 1980 and 2000, Painter said some 2.5 million hunters fell off the rolls, while the population shifted from 60% urban and 40% rural to a whopping 85% urban and 15% rural.
Beyond efforts to boost hunting and shooting opportunities, Painter said the job of education and mobilization are the most daunting challenges facing the industry.
"There are upwards of 40 million people in this country who hunt and shoot," he said. "A large portion of those individuals are not necessarily very involved in our issues; not very knowledgeable about our issues at all.
"I mean, look at the effort John Kerry is making right now to convince everybody he is a combination between Charlton Heston and Jim Carmichel," Painter continued. "And it is frightening and I sometimes wake up at night saying 'Well how many people believe him?' A very important part of our job is to educate all of those people."
Toward that goal, NSSF has been spending millions of dollars on advertising on the radio and in print and direct mail campaigns. He said the decision was made that, "we can sit back and say 'well maybe something good will happen; maybe it will, maybe it won't,' or we can be aggressive." NSSF took the latter tack.
This campaign has been largely funded through contributions to NSSF's Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund. This fund was created within the industry a few years ago and many NSSF members contribute one half of one percent of their revenues annually to make it grow.
At the end of his address, Painter was presented with a CCRKBA Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of some 30 years of activism and leadership in support of hunters and gunowners.