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NRA Reaffirms CARA Support -- With Warnings

by John G. Lankford

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 own constituencies."

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 issues.

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:

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 increase wildlife.

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 opportunities.

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.

 

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God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it. DANIEL WEBSTER (1834)

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