The National Rifle Association claims to be the largest pro-hunting organization in the world. But as a hunter, I couldn't feel any less represented. And as a human being, I object to being associated with those bullies. The NRA is not for hunters any more than AAA is for bicyclists. Sure, some hunters are NRA members, but first and foremost the NRA serves gun fetishists and the firearms industry. In 2011, nearly 14 million Americans hunted, while NRA members number about 4 million fewer than half of those who actually hunt.
Unlike a lot of gun fetishists, hunters actually use their guns as the killing tools that they are. Hunters feel the jitters while trying to shoot, and we shoot in all kinds of uncomfortable and less than ideal circumstances. We've seen what bullets can do to a body. We can contemplate, in a somewhat informed way, questions such as whether an armed civilian could stop a mass murder. If for some reason a nongovernment militia had to be organized, it would doubtless be composed largely of hunters, along with military veterans and, of course, gun freaks.
The NRA wants desperately to welcome more hunters into its ranks, but fewer than one in five hunters is a member, and most hunters who haven't joined by now probably won't. Like me, many hunters consider the NRA a bunch of paranoid loonies, with an increasing volume of innocent blood on their hands.
When I say "Fuck the NRA," as I do quite often lately, it's for a host of reasons both personal and political, but has nothing to do with my feelings for guns or the Second Amendment.
The very fact that it's kind of scary to say "Fuck the NRA" is one of the biggest reasons to say it. It's a bullying organization, quick to use language like "traitor." NRA members have a lot of guns, and the organization appears to keep track of who does what and who says what. Ask any politician or gun-control activist. Their Big Brother–style intimidation tactics extend to individuals like myself.
When I take my gun to the store to get it worked on, the information slip I fill out includes a line for my NRA number, despite the fact that only about 4 percent of gun owners are NRA members. Will the gunsmith treat my gun with less love if I leave that line blank? Does the NRA keep track of who services which gun when, even as it decries federal attempts to keep track of guns? I face the same field requesting my NRA number when I buy a membership at my local shooting range.
Fewer than one in five hunters is an NRA member. So how is it that the NRA has so much power and the seeming ability to control politicians like marionettes? Money, of course. More than can be raised from membership dues and bake sales alone. Between 2005 and 2010, the NRA took in about $40 million from the nation's gun manufacturers, according to the Violence Policy Center.
Fear-mongering is one of the best ways to create demand for guns, and nearly every piece of NRA propaganda does that. We need guns to protect us from the government, the U.N., home intruders, strangers on the street, they say. We all need to be armed! On the Monday following the Sandy Hook shootings, a Utah sixth-grader took a pistol to elementary school, for "protection."
Obama's re-election has been an absolute bonanza for the industry. But he can't get re-elected again. That reality, combined with the unprecedented national trauma and soul-searching that Sandy Hook has inspired, could spell tough times ahead for the gun industry. Stock in publicly traded gun manufacturers, like Ruger, which makes my hunting rifle, has been punished since Sandy Hook. On the Tuesday after the shooting, Cerberus Capital Management announced it was selling its 95 percent stake in the Freedom Group, a privately held conglomerate whose companies include some of the world's largest weapons manufacturers, including Remington, Barnes Bullets and Bushmaster, which makes the AR-15 assault rifle used in Newtown.
Could a hunter or some other armed citizen have prevented the Sandy Hook shootings? Such a thing hasn't happened in at least 30 years, according to a recent study by Mother Jones, which looked at 62 mass shootings in the last 30 years: "In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. . . . [I]n recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed."
Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence supports the observation that gun owners and their families are more likely to be shot by their own guns than to successfully repel attackers with them. In pretending otherwise, the NRA is selling the myth of security while it sells public safety down the river.
The NRA needs hunters a lot more than hunters need the NRA. And the nation needs the opinions of hunters more than it needs the opinion of the NRA. Hunters are intermediaries between government armed forces and private citizens. We are armed citizens who know what guns can do, and if sensible gun-control policy is ever to be pursued, hunters need to be part of the conversation.
And we can start by saying "Fuck the NRA."