by Karen Mehall Phillips - Thursday, November 5, 2015
The NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) National Symposium in Fairfax, Va., Nov. 3-5 is turning heads for good reason as it creates broader awareness of NRA activities on behalf of the hunting community while HLF members proactively target ways to share and protect our hunting heritage and American freedom. When it comes to America’s evolving hunting demographic and the cultural and political challenges facing hunting and wildlife conservation in the 21st century, who better to take a turn at the podium than someone who dwells in the trenches: NRA’s Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA).
“Hunting has everything to do with the Second Amendment,” Cox said, addressing the Forum. “If someone hates guns, they probably don’t like hunting,” but in looking to the future, even more concerning than any one decision someone like Hillary Clinton might make as president is the bigger picture—“how they think.”
“Hillary Clinton looks to Australia in forming U.S. gun policy,” Cox warned, as an Australian newspaper ad from 1997 headlined “Personal Protection is No Reason to Have a Gun!” flashed on the screen—a campaign that helped the Australian government to confiscate 640,000 legally-owned firearms. While law-abiding Americans’ legally-owned firearms cannot be confiscated, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller decision upholding the Second Amendment as a basic fundamental individual right, he warned, “She’s saying the Supreme Court got it wrong.”
With shame, ridicule and a mob mentality all part of the anti-hunters’ campaign, it was clear we have two choices. We can either complain while trying not to offend anti-hunters as groups like PETA and the HSUS indoctrinate our children, or we can get engaged in the fight.
Of course, no one runs a campaign like the NRA, which focuses on three key things: communication as we take control of the conversation; education through NRA’s numerous safety and education programs; and activation by getting people to respond. Though NRA partners in conservation from Ducks Unlimited to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are doing their part, Cox noted the big difference between them and the NRA is that the NRA can leverage its assets. “We have the ability and the brand to speak to millions of Americans,” he explained. “Don’t forget they hate us. They want to destroy everything we’re about—your taxidermy, your guns, your hunt. They’re after the guns you hunt with. Don’t give them to them. They want you to be ashamed. Don’t be! We’re all so scared about what this country is becoming. NRA can run the campaign with a strategy designed to win!”
Other distinguished symposium speakers covered topics including repositioning hunting in mainstream media; the critical role of women to the future of hunting; strategies for proactively fighting the animal rights infiltration in our government, courts and law schools; and how to move beyond where we are now. NRA leadership is committed to that process to the point that during the fall 2014 NRA Board of Directors meeting, NRA Hunting, Wildlife and Conservation Committee Chairman Richard Childress of NASCAR fame—and now NRA 2nd VP—recommended the NRA Board adopt the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation as NRA policy. It was adopted unanimously.
Co-chaired by past NRA President Jim Porter, who spearheaded launching the HLF, and Melanie Pepper, member of the HLF Founders Club and charter member of the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum—the HLF symposium theme was the need to be proactive. Clearly, NRA leadership is committed to that process.
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