op-ed

Obama’s Former Wildlife Chief Doesn’t Speak For America’s Millions Of Sportsmen

Obama shoots a gun Getty Images/White House/Pete Souza

Erica Rhoad Hunting policy director for the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action

Dan Ashe, the director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration, recently penned an open letter on gun control measures he claims hunters support. He’s wrong. America’s hunters know that none of his recommendations would make us any safer, much less deter mass murderers or other violent criminals. As Ashe well knows, his proposals have nothing to do with hunting and everything to do with gun control.

Ashe’s recommendations are offensive to any responsible gun owner, especially the idea of raising the age limit to 21 to purchase any firearm, including rifles and shotguns. Never mind that 18 year olds are adults under the law, can fight and die for our country, and thousands of those who are under 21 hunt every year. What about the 20-year-old single mom trying to protect her children in a dangerous neighborhood who is already banned from owning handguns? Ashe wants to completely strip her right to self-defense. What about the thousands of young adults who responsibly own firearms and pose no threat to society? Their right to self-defense should not be eliminated because of madmen who have no regard for the law or human life.

Ashe also wants to ban AR-15s and any ‘assault’ or ‘tactical’ rifle that is not ‘necessary’ for hunting. To be clear, every state fish and game agency already regulates the type of firearms and ammunition allowed for hunting. This is to ensure the practice of ethical hunting. Those who disregard these regulations face stiff fines, jail time and can lose their right to legally hunt.

They use terms like ‘assault’ and ‘tactical’ to confuse or conjure images of war movies and military-issued weapons. That’s because there is no official definition for ‘assault weapon’. Though sounding scary, banning ‘assault weapons’ means banning the most common and popular firearms of our day. The AR-15 is no different than virtually every other semiautomatic rifle. Cosmetically, it may look different, but it operates the same as the rifles that meet Ashe’s approval. The war against ‘assault’ rifles is really a war against the appearance —not the function — of a firearm. Who is he to decide what is ‘necessary’ for me or any other law-abiding hunter?

Ashe’s ‘open letter’ also recommends banning the sale of new semiautomatic shotguns and rifles. Again, the term semiautomatic may sound intimidating, but a semiautomatic is simply a firearm that automatically loads the next round (one shell or bullet) after firing. The trigger must still be pulled each time to fire a round. This is one step up from a single shot firearm, in which each bullet or shell is loaded individually. The first semi-automatic rifle was introduced in 1885— so it’s not some new, futuristic technology. Nonetheless, Ashe still wants to ban the Browning Auto-5, the Remington 1100, and countless other semi-automatic shotguns commonly used by millions of Americans.

Obama’s former Director goes on to argue that hunters with “a comforting alliance with Second Amendment radicalism” are violating the “Fifth Amendment’s right to life and liberty.” He clearly fails to understand the American people he was nominated to represent, let alone hunters and anglers. Law-abiding gun owners use firearms to defend themselves, their families and their homes every day. Research indicates there are millions of defensive gun uses every year. Millions of people exercising their right to self-defense is not some radical concept.

Finally, Ashe asserts that “no one should use hunters and hunting as an excuse to avoid pushing [gun reform].” But the only one using hunting as an excuse is Mr. Ashe. He’d have us believe hunting with a single-shot firearm is the only legitimate approach. Clearly, he fails to understand what the Second Amendment is truly about. Hunting is an important aspect of our cherished firearms freedom, but is not the core purpose of the Second Amendment. That core purpose is the God-given right to self-defense. To suggest that right is not protected is as irresponsible as it is untrue. Mr. Ashe should stop trying to use hunting to divide law-abiding gun owners, so we can focus on real solutions that will actually make our communities safe.

Erica Rhoad is the director of hunting policy for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.