The National Rifle Association and Safari Club International have parallel missions with most sportsmen, yet SCI has one huge disadvantage: the NRA and its members can lean upon the Second Amendment, go to court and even sue the Federal government with arguments based on the Constitution of the United States and the heritage of the Founding Fathers.
Hunters, on the other hand, have no Federal constitutional rights other than to own a firearm. And make no mistake about it: Organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States want to eliminate hunting in every state, and in all forms. Plus, they raise millions of dollars each year to convince legislators that hunting should be illegal. Those sad tales and videos of abused animals seen in commercials generate a constant money stream to fuel the anti-hunting juggernaut, even though those funds rarely trickle down to the animals they are supposed to rescue.
Sporting men and women pay mega-millions in Pittman-Robertson excise taxes each year to support wildlife conservation and shooting endeavors, but that could all be taken away by our government. Scott O’Grady (shown above speaking at the 2015 SCI Convention) learned this lesson all too well after returning from an African safari in Zimbabwe. You might remember that O’Grady, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, was shot down over Bosnia and spent 6 days evading local hostiles until he was rescued by the United States Marines. O’Grady grew up in a hunting family and attributes the skills he learned as a hunter in helping evade an enemy that was often merely steps away.
As a child, O’Grady often visited his father’s friend who had an extensive African big game collection. As a youngster, his dream was to someday travel to Africa and experience a safari. Last spring, O’Grady returned from Zimbabwe to find that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had placed a moratorium on all elephant parts (ivory included) into the United States.
During the safari, O’Grady saw lots of elephants, enough to satisfy his belief that the population is not in danger. More importantly, he saw numerous anti-poaching patrols to protect elephants from poaching. Local villagers gained employment through the hunt, and the model seemed to be a win-win, even for the elephants because the natives now saw them as valuable animals.
O’Grady spoke before Congress about the ban and learned the following: there was no scientific evidence for the ban; no high-ranking officials had visited Zimbabwe or Tanzania; neither country was informed of the ban beforehand; and no one in the hunting or conservation community was consulted.
O’Grady draws the opinion that this action was totally a political payback for some group or organization that had supported the current administration.
If the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can make decisions with no scientific evidence, how safe are our hunting privileges? What next will be banned or introduced that is counter to the will of sportsmen? Zimbabwe may be thousands of miles away, yet the problem and the threat is in Washington and at our doorstep.
Thankfully, organizations such as Safari Club International and its Political Action Committee fight for sporting men and women every day. You have the right “to keep and bear arms,” but not to hunt, and that’s the reason hunting advocacy groups are critical to our future.
If we want our hunting heritage to continue, we must all stand together, contribute what we can, and make our voices heard. I became a life member of SCI last year, and today, I’m doubly proud that I did. Africa is a long way from our shores, yet the predators of our heritage are on the prowl every day with the goal of eliminating what we cherish.