Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Wednesday | December 04, 2002

Hunting on the wane

While I am an avid animal rights supporter, it is an issue that I tend to avoid in this forum. It's a matter of focus -- on this site I'd rather focus on political issues rather than ethical ones.

However, this Mother Jones brief caught my eye, as it marries my interest in animal rights with a key political public policy issue: guns and the NRA.

Scroll down past the LA Senate race stuff (which I reference in an update to my Senate race post below).

Evan Osnos reports in the Chicago Tribune that a new government study reveals a "distinct decline" in the numbers of hunters in the US. And, more importantly, analysts suggest that younger hunters are failing to flock to the sport with the same enthusiasm common among previous generations. Some critics observe that "killing animals for sport simply has failed to attract significant interest beyond its core of aging white males in a country that is more diverse every day," writes Osnos.

All of which spells serious trouble for the NRA. As Robert Spitzer, an expert on gun politics at SUNY Cortland, remarks:

"Hunters have traditionally been the mainstay of the pro-gun movement...But if this decline continues, and there isn't much reason to believe it won't, over the next couple of decades there is going to be a major shift in the base and nature of gun practices in America."
Now I'm not sure how accurate this is. I've read anecdotal reports that the NRA is increasingly made up of your more militia-type gun nuts, as hunters are increasingly scared off by the NRA's more militant positions (on cop-killer bullets, assault weapons, etc.). I could be wrong, and I don't have time to look up sources, so take that last sentence with a grain of sand. Regardless, the nation's increasingly diverse youth seems to have no gusto for killing defenseless animals, which in and of itself is great.

But here's where the political part comes in: this new trend away from hunting could force the NRA to scale back its political efforts (as membership dues dwindle), or force it to reshape itself into something else ("militia defense corps"?). And, losing its hunter constituency presents the organization with another potential problem: its veneer of legitimacy. Hunters are a respected group in this country, milita-type gun nuts are not. If they lose their hunters, the NRA could easily become a fringe group.

And the NRA and its allies know it.

Outdoors columnist James A. Swan laments the sorry state of hunting in America in The National Review, complaining of the myriad modern challenges which increasingly make the joys of killing animals more elusive: "complex fish and game regulations," shrinking wildlands, difficult access to recreational land, and, "[o]n top of that, opposition from animal-rights groups who consider hunting, fishing, and trapping cruel and inhumane is becoming quite an obstacle."
So, advocacy sometime works. While animal rights groups like PETA are much maligned in the mainstream, their efforts are starting to show results. Change is sometimes slow, and may span generations, but ultimately it happens.

Regardless of your views on hunting, a weakened NRA would be good news for efforts to clear the streets of the most dangerous weapons and, incidentally, provide some electoral relief to the Democratic Party as well.

Posted December 04, 2002 04:10 PM | Comments (51)


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