While Ted Nugent's latest rhetorical eruption gained widespread attention in the news media and warranted a visit from the U.S. Secret Service, pro-gun reaction in blogs and on-line comments has ranged from grudging acquiesence to full-throated support. As one pro-gun blogger noted:
... I've never been a fan of Nugent's over-the-top rhetoric, but that's too bad, because there's nothing I can do about it. Uncle Ted is one of the highest vote getters every time he's up for the [NRA] Board. Any time he's around at Annual Meeting people are lining up around the corner to meet him, get autographs, or what have you.
He then drills down to the essence of Nugent's appeal:
Our opponents are constantly telling us nonsense like the NRA leadership are out of touch with their membership. I hate to tell you guys, but the reason Nuge can dominate a board election is because a lot of members like his over-the-top, take-no-prisoners confrontational style. They get to see Ted Nugent say and do things that validates many of their core beliefs, and say it in a way they could never get away with in polite society. It is a difficult thing for our opponents to accept, but if NRA is out of touch with its members, that often runs in the other direction, and not in their direction.
(This may be why the NRA is willing to meet Nugent's price of $50,000 to actually show up at its annual meeting, a fee that is $15,000 higher than what he reportedly charges outside the "NRA family.")
The reality is that Nugent isn't talking to the general public, but the pro-gun activist core: both members and non-members. Public condemnation from the world outside the NRA's sphere of websites, online talk shows (where Nugent made his comments), e-mails, and magazines -- the media, politicians, non-gun owners, etc., etc., etc. -- only validates such views.
But here's something from the outside world that may actually permeate the NRA's rhetorical bubble.
Ted Nugent is a "slob hunter" -- an outdoorsman who places conservation and the standard of ethical hunting second to his own personal enjoyment or interests.
Nugent is expected today to finalize a federal plea agreement in which he pleads guilty to transporting a black bear he illegally killed in Alaska. According to the plea agreement, Nugent illegally shot and killed the bear in 2009 on Sukkwan Island after wounding another bear in a bow hunt. The bow incident counted toward a state seasonal limit of one bear. The incidents took place while he was filming his hunting cable show.
In the agreement, Nugent agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and agreed to a two-year probation, including a special condition that he not hunt or fish in Alaska or on Forest Service properties for one year. Nugent also agreed to pay the state $600 for the bear that was taken illegally and to film a public service announcement, according to the document.
Nugent's action violated two of the NRA's Hunter's Code of Ethics, which includes the statements:
- I will obey all game laws and regulations, and will insist that my companions do likewise.
- I will do my best to acquire those marksmanship and hunting skills, which insure clean, sportsmanlike kills.
According to Nugent's lawyer, fellow NRA Board member and Anchorage attorney Wayne Anthony Ross (who's had his own controversial history), Nugent didn't know he was breaking the law.
So why would one member of the NRA leadership defend another for violating the organization's own Hunter's Code of Ethics? Because it's business as usual.
As I note in my 1992 book, NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear, members of the NRA leadership with far higher pay grades than Nugent have been involved in slob hunting. In 1985, former NRA Executive Vice President (the position Wayne LaPierre holds today) Ray Arnett violated federal game laws, firing at game birds while a motorboat he was riding in was under power. To add insult to injury, the event occurred while he was being filmed for an "I'm the NRA" television commercial. Arnett (who later was forced to resign as the result of a sex scandal) paid a $125.00 fine that he later likened to a speeding ticket.
To the Nugent fans who embrace the aging rocker for his "over-the-top, take-no-prisoners confrontational style," his conviction, fine and probation can be dismissed as just another example of an oppressive federal government stamping out freedom bear carcass by bear carcass.
To the ever-dwindling number of traditional hunters and sportsmen who decades ago populated the NRA, Nugent's violation -- and a fellow member of the NRA's leadership literal defense of it -- could actually raise questions regarding his role with the organization.