As America gears up for the November midterm elections, 90 million American gun owners who value our nation’s firearms freedoms and the 40 million of us who cherish our nation’s hunting and shooting heritage will need to be on the lookout for “camouflage candidates.”
Sportsmen and gun owners form one of the most influential voting blocs in American politics today. They have the clout to propel into office candidates whose positions align with theirs and send packing those candidates who oppose their firearms rights.
Given what’s at stake it’s not surprising that anti-gun and anti-hunting politicians will try to camouflage their real views on hunting and firearms issues. That’s why the National Shooting Sports Foundation has launched a campaign and website called Vote Your Sport that works to educate sportsmen about candidates and mobilizes them to support those who share their values, no matter their party affiliation.
Former President Clinton, in his memoirs, acknowledged that in 2000 Al Gore did not conceal his anti-gun bias well enough, costing him his home state of Tennessee and the “pro-gun” battleground states of Arkansas and West Virginia, and with them the White House. After that, the message became clear to politicians with anti-gun and anti-hunting voting histories—they had better camouflage their record. Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart, in an article titled “Taking Back the Second Amendment,” argued his party would “have a hard time recapturing the presidency … if it treats gun-owning Americans like sociopaths.”
The textbook example of the “camouflage candidate” is Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.). During his 2004 presidential run, he claimed to be a “lifelong hunter” and his campaign set up a “Sportsmen for Kerry” website claiming the senator “supports the Second Amendment and will defend hunting rights.” Yet Kerry had a 100% voting record with anti-hunting organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals which praised him for his “consistently excellent voting record on animal issues” and for having “emerged as [an] animal protection leader … [who] has cosponsored almost every piece of animal protection legislation … introduced on behalf of animals.” He had a 100% rating with Handgun Control Inc. (which itself camouflaged its name as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) and a capital “F” from the NRA. In the days before the election, Kerry literally donned (brand new, ill-fitting) camouflage and went on a pathetically staged goose hunt that offended Ohio sportsmen. Kerry lost Ohio and the White House.
Turning to the current midterm elections, Claire McCaskill, the U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri, is this season’s camouflage candidate stalking hunters’ and gun owners’ votes. McCaskill, who does not believe law-abiding citizens have a right to carry a firearm, is actually on the record as saying, “ It’s startling to realize this concept (right-to-carry) came within three votes of passing in the Missouri Senate. Imagine the carnage that could have been wrought by would-be Dirty Harrys…” This is not surprising coming from a candidate who believes “voters understand guns are not the answer for safety.” It’s also not surprising that according to the Center for Responsive Politics the bulk of McCaskill’s campaign contributions have come from anti-gun havens Washington, D.C. ($3 million) and New York City ($250,000), not her home state of Missouri.
Here’s the rub: McCaskill is now camouflaging her position on firearms in these weeks leading up to the election. No more is she attacking sportsmen and firearms enthusiasts. She’s running radio spots claiming that by following her dad through the woods as he hunted she learned to value and protect the 2nd Amendment. Yet she has accepted campaign contributions from anti-gun organizations and earned an “F” rating from the NRA. She’s a hunter who is “not interested in taking away anyone’s guns," despite the fact that she supported the ineffectual Clinton gun ban of 1994, legislation that outlawed firearms based on their appearance. And as for the concealed carry rights of law-abiding Missourians, legislation that eventually passed despite her vehement opposition, McCaskill now tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she is pleasantly surprised by the effects.
Individuals such as Claire McCaskill are not the only folks trying to camouflage themselves as friends of hunters and sportsmen. Today gun-control forces are trying to undermine the importance of the sportsmen and gun owners’ vote by attempting to divide and conquer. An example of such a group is the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA).
AHSA purports to be a pro-hunting, pro-conservation and pro-gun organization, but its leadership and board would qualify as a blue-ribbon committee of activists opposed and actively working against our nation’s rich heritage of firearms freedoms. The AHSA leadership includes a president who funds the Brady Campaign; an executive director who is a paid witness against the firearms industry and consultant to several national and state self-professed gun-control groups; and another officer who, in addition to moonlighting as the head of a Massachusetts-based gun-ban group, is also a former member of the Brady Campaign’s board of directors. All the camouflage in the world can’t hide their real anti-gun agenda.
It can sometimes be difficult to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but if America’s sportsmen and hunters listen carefully to a candidate’s rhetoric, research their voting record and look to trusted organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation for help, it’s easy to see through the camouflage.