A recent op-ed piece in The New York Times (“I Hunt, but the NRA Isn’t for Me,” by Lily Raff McCaulou) virtually damns NRA for supporting candidates based on their voting records on gun issues—in her view at the expense of hunting. She even states, “The NRA has never had much to do with hunting,” and says NRA does not represent most hunters or gun owners.
First, since Americans join NRA to ensure their gun rights are protected, maybe it is actually logical for the NRA to examine how candidates vote on gun rights issues. Defending the Second Amendment is what we are here for, so we—and the candidates we support—are part of the reason McCaulou is able to own a gun herself.
The Second Amendment is not about hunting, but hunting is one of the main ways citizens exercise their Second Amendment rights. And there is in fact no single group doing more for hunting than NRA. Through legislation, litigation, programs, grant funding, and publications we defend and advance hunters’ rights in every possible way. We are proud to work alongside many other pro-hunting groups in battles to protect hunting, but the reality is that without NRA a lot of those battles might be lost.
We are without doubt the largest pro-hunting organization in the world. Eighty percent of our members hunt, and second only to personal protection, hunting is the main reason NRA members own firearms.
A few examples of how we represent hunters:
• NRA helped the state of New York launch hunter education in 1949, and many states still use our training materials in hunter safety classes.
• We have lobbied, in cooperation with other sportsmen’s groups, for many bills to open access for hunters, particularly on federal lands where we are essentially locked out.
• We have fought for state constitutional amendments guaranteeing the right to hunt.
• We have lobbied for youth mentored hunting laws to help recruit new hunters, and we have run the largest advanced youth hunting program in the country for more than 25 years.
• Through $180 million in grants awarded since 1992, The NRA Foundation has supported thousands of youth hunter safety efforts, Hunters for the Hungry programs, shooting range construction and improvements, and conservation projects.
• We have fought for the Conservation Reserve Program and for No Net Loss laws.
• We fight ceaseless attempts to ban hunting made by irrational animal rights groups.
• We helped pass laws against hunter harassment in all 50 states.
• We publish the highest-circulation hunting magazine in the world.
I could go on, or you could email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you an eight-page document that has more detail on what NRA does for hunters.
McCaulou also takes two paragraphs to conclude that many American gun owners do not belong to NRA. She does not point out that even non-NRA gun owners typically learn to shoot from NRA instructors, practice or compete on NRA-affiliated ranges, follow gun safety rules written by NRA, and were able to buy a gun in the first place because NRA fights so hard for the right to do so. So they may not belong to NRA—they just take advantage of everything we do without paying their way.
McCaulou summed up her own commitment to hunting like this: “I decided to learn to hunt because I wanted to read landscapes and understand their secrets, too. I wanted to learn more about where my food comes from. To hunt is to become fluent enough in an ecosystem not only to watch but also to participate in it.”
All that is fine, and I think it means she is willing to kill an animal—something a significant number of people in this country believe she should not have the right to do.
What McCaulou doesn’t understand is that without the right to hunt, without the right to own a gun, her ability to participate disappears.
Lucky for her, NRA will continue to fight for those rights, with or without her support.
See also: Past NRA President Marion Hammer's response.