What They Say About Senator Kerry

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Oct. 19, 2004

What They Say About Kerry

On the campaign trail in central Ohio on Saturday, candidate John Kerry stepped into the Village Grocery in rural Buchanan, where he purchased a non-resident hunting license and a federal wetlands habitat stamp. The presidential hopeful took the opportunity to announce that he has hunting licenses in three states and doesn’t get to hunt as much as he’d like. He told reporters in this staunchly pro-hunting part of the Midwest that he’d like to hunt larger game after the election.

“I’d love to get a deer this year,” he said.

Note to hunters: When was the last time you remember a presidential candidate saying those words?

“A Lifelong Hunter and Fisherman”

As the campaign winds down to its final weeks, both candidates continue to diligently stump for the sportsman’s vote, especially in so-called “swing states,” where polls indicate a tight race. Ohio is one of those states — and it also contains hundreds of thousands of voters who hunt, fish and enjoy the shooting sports.

J.R. Absher

The Democratic candidate’s website boldly proclaims Senator Kerry as a champion of sportsmen and the environment. Newspaper clippings note that Kerry “has never voted to take away hunters’ gun rights and — most important — he is much stronger on environmental protection, without which sportsmen would have little fish and game to pursue.”

Kerry’s campaign literature highlights the quote: “As a lifelong hunter and fisherman, I am proud to be among the millions of American sportsmen and sportswomen who are dedicated to conserving fish and wildlife and passing along the American hunting and fishing heritage to the next generation.” — John Kerry

If elected president, would Senator Kerry maintain and expand such vital relationships with hunter and sportsmen’s groups? His supporters say yes. At campaign stops across the nation’s heartland, the Massachusetts senator is regularly greeted by groups of men wearing blaze orange shirts reading: “Sportsmen 4 Kerry.”

At a gathering of outdoor writers in Louisiana, Kerry declared his commitment to hunters by saying, “I do a better job of fighting for the rights of sportsmen than George Bush does.”

Kerry has voiced his support for the voluntary private land conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). As president, Kerry has promised to expand these types of programs and use the federal farm bill to “maximize benefits to fish and wildlife.”

Additionally, Kerry has pledged his support of the so-called Open Fields legislation; a proposed federal program aimed at opening millions of private acres to sportsmen by utilizing payment incentives to landowners. As president, Kerry says he would also “strongly support guaranteed and increased funding for federal and state fish and wildlife programs and for land acquisition.”

The chairman of the sportsmen’s group most responsible for the Open Fields legislation’s introduction in Congress admits it is gratifying to see both presidential campaigns vying for the sportsmen’s vote.

“It’s an indication of the larger political clout our community has built for itself, and we can use this to build a brighter future for the sporting way of life in this country,” said Jim Range, chairman of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “American hunters and anglers have successfully established themselves as a constituency that elected officials and policymakers need to pay attention to. We need to build on this new status and use this momentum to get the results we want on our priority issues.”

Dubious Endorsements

Despite the fact he is an avowed hunter and angler and has stated it continually throughout the campaign, Sen. Kerry received the rather dubious endorsement of national anti-hunting and animal rights organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, and the Fund for Animals.

“In truth, we are disappointed that John Kerry is also a hunter, and that his campaign has pandered so much to hunting groups,” the group, Humane USA, wrote in a press release.

While the subjects of conservation, hunter access, land to hunt, and forest management, have played an integral part in both candidate’s talking points, the subject of firearms — and more specifically, gun control — has, for the most part, been conspicuously absent.

The Gun Lobby

“Kerry says he’s a sportsman, but his efforts to cast himself as an avid hunter do not square with his anti-gun votes as a U.S. senator,” says Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Indeed, there remain many political observers who believe it was Vice President Al Gore’s outspoken views on gun control that cost him the 2000 presidential election. The campaign marked a ‘coming-out’ of sorts for the sportsman/voter. Since that time, sportsmen have been viewed as an important, if not critical, voting bloc in numerous gubernatorial and congressional campaigns.

“According to those on both sides of the gun debate — the Brady Campaign and the NRA — Kerry has voted for EVERY gun-control bill before the Senate over the last 18 years,” writes John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns”. “He has consistently voted for restrictions, from banning semi-automatic guns to mandating storage rules.”

Just as it did in 2000, the National Rifle Association has given the Democratic candidate an “F” rating and points to Kerry’s “anti-gun” senatorial voting record. Could Second Amendment issues and gun control play a role in the 2004 election? Consider this: A full one-quarter of all NRA members — 1 million potential voters — reside in the “swing states” of West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

Until all the important races of the 2004 general election are decided on November 2, there remain many uncertainties of their outcome. However, one thing is patently clear — that hunters, sportsmen, shooting sports enthusiasts and their issues are in a position to play the part of political spoilers as never before in history. And that can only be good news for the future of hunting, fishing, shooting, conservation and scientific wildlife management in America.

Vote — and encourage your friends and family to go to the polls on November 2!

Next Week: Enough Politics! Back to the Regular Column Routine!

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web site, The Outdoor Pressroom (www.outdoorpressroom.com) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at jrabsher@outdoorpressroom.com.

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