I live in a fairly typical American family when it comes to guns. Let's just say my wife and I have different views. My wife doesn't hunt. She doesn't even like guns. But, she does appreciate my love for hunting and guns - and we share a deep commitment to preserving our environment. And, I accept that she was a financial supporter of the Brady Campaign. And, I also support her and respect her opinions. On guns, we're like James Carville and Mary Matalin - happily married, on different sides, but still respectful of each others' views.
Over the years, I've also learned that my family's marital division on guns is not uncommon. In fact, in my travels all over the country, first playing pro football and now hunting, I've heard the same thing, surprisingly, from many of the law enforcement guys I've met. A lot of their wives don't like having guns in their homes.
Now, I, like many of my fellow gun owners, feel a responsibility to improve our nation's policies on responsible gun ownership. While I know there is a constitutionally protected right to own a gun, there are limits. I don't believe a convicted felon gang-banger has that right.
I also strongly believe we have to conserve the lands and game where we learned to hunt and shoot. Unfortunately, gun politics are dominated by the right-wing, extremist leaders of the NRA. Their intransigence to engage in any discussion with anyone who has ever disagreed with them on anything has had a detrimental effect on the hunting and shooting tradition.
The leaders of the NRA in no way represent my hunter friends and me. The advice I got from the wise people around me, like my wife, was to start talking about the people who felt the same way. There are a lot of them. That's why I started the American Hunters and Shooters (AHSA). We work to protect our guns and the lands we love, but without the rabid extremism of the NRA leadership.
At AHSA, we support the recent Supreme Court decision in Heller that proved we do have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. That decision means we no longer have to engage in battles about the Second Amendment. Our side won. We have to use that victory as a platform to move forward to the bigger issues facing us today. That's the test for gun owners. The NRA leadership has failed that test. They want acrimony. It helps with fundraising.
At a time when gun owners need to focus on real issues, they're putting their personal partisan agendas first. You can see the proof of this in our report, RealHunters, RealConservation. There's also further proof from the NRA itself with a new vicious attack on Obama. With that group's current leaders, things will never change.
But, we can't wait for the NRA to change. Hunters and shooters have to make change happen. So just like I have to work out my gun issues with my wife, we need to find a way to put away partisan approaches to responsible gun ownership and to save the lands we love to hunt and shoot in.