NRA Reaffirms CARA Support --
The National Rifle Association's Board of
Directors Saturday reaffirmed NRA staff support of the Conservation
and Reinvestment Act co-authored by one of its members -- but with stern
warnings directed at Green zealots and their allies in government.
Also mentioned, pointedly but with much less
emphasis, were the bill's protections against involuntary private property
expropriations using CARA funds.
The Board apparently accepted assessments to
the effect the form of CARA may change, although other observers report the two
Senate versions and the House version of the measure are practically identical.
"The NRA has no way of knowing what form
the CARA legislation will eventually take," the Policy Statement the Board
adopted acknowledged. It reserved the Board's right to review its position on
CARA depending on developments -- but accepted a risk CARA could pass and become
law in some unacceptable form before Directors could act on any review.
That statement approximately reprised an
earlier contention of James Jay Baker, Executive Director of NRA's Institute for
Legislative Action, its lobbying arm. In a letter
dated August 22, 2001, published on the NRA-ILA website, Baker, referring to
private property rights defenders, said "concerned individuals would be
better served by an action plan to amend the bill rather than ad hominem attacks
on groups such as the NRA who are simply fulfilling their mandate to serve their
The letter's tone as much as its content touched
off a furor among many members, resulting in CARA becoming a matter of
concern to the Board, and eventually an agenda item in last week's NRA committee
and Directors' meetings.
But many NRA members, and Arizona's
NRA-affiliated Arizona State Rifle & Pistol Association, some directors of
the New Hampshire NRA affiliate and the politically active Montana Shooting
Sports Association, the latter affiliated but not listed by NRA as a state
associate, claimed hunter-shooter and property owners' interests are
functionally inseparable, and that NRA endorsement of the entire bill for the
sake of the former made it more difficult for groups primarily concerned with
the latter to make any headway: Supporters could claim the powerful NRA endorsed
the entire bill for the sake of hunter-shooter benefits in one title of it and
resist others' oppositions. The NRA-ILA has attempted to avoid that implication,
but with indifferent success. A number of Directors opposed CARA outright.
Others within NRA, including the New York State
Rifle & Pistol Association, opposed CARA on the grounds of hunters' and
shooters' interests alone, pointing to aggressive attempts on the part of environmental
activists and like-minded government officials to exclude all activities not
associated with species habitat from public and even private lands. They
also pointed out government already owns vast tracts of land, and its
stewardship of what it already has, in a way comparable with a land-poor farmer
with so much acreage he can't afford to take care of it, is
abysmal. The majority of the Directors apparently decided CARA is divisible
for purposes of interest-group support, and that the bill would not become law
in some unacceptable
form or escape adequate monitoring to prevent abuses.
The Board's action also risked significant
membership dismay or, at least, gambled disgruntled
members could be brought around to the NRA staff's appreciation of the
The complete text of the Policy Statement the
Board adopted, as given by one reliable source but incapable of being
cross-checked before this publication, was as follows:
The same source said the vote on adoption of the
final Statement was 37-6, also incapable of being confirmed Saturday evening.
The total number of Directors is 76, but some were unable to attend the meeting.
Statement of Policy
The NRA reaffirms its endorsement of the
original wildlife conservation and restoration provisions of H.R. 701, as
introduced by Rep. Don Young, (R-AK), an NRA Director, which embody the NRA's
long standing support for more shooting ranges, more public hunting
opportunities, and sound wildlife management policies which help preserve and
The NRA has no way of knowing what form the
CARA legislation will eventually take. We will not support any bill which does
not promote greater and better hunting and shooting opportunities, which does
not embrace sound principles of wildlife management, and which fails to
protect adequately the constitutional rights of private property ownership.
Of specific concern, however, to the NRA is
the tendency for land acquired by the federal government to be declared off
limits for hunting and shooting or its use so encumbered as to negate its
suitability for such purposes. In determining the NRA's final position on any
CARA measure, its Board of Directors will be guided by its commitment to the
principles of no net loss in federal land ownership open to public hunting and
shooting activities. The NRA will not support, as a general principle,
increased acquisitions of federal lands under CARA or any similar measure
where such acquisitions do not provide increased hunting and shooting