Last week, I argued that hunters should leave the NRA. Despite its pro-hunting rhetoric, I wrote in the piece, the NRA betrays sportsmen and women by donating money to anti-hunting politicians and falsely claiming those politicians work in hunters’ best interests.
On Monday, the NRA published two videos attacking me and that article. In those videos, the organization continues to lie about its contributions to hunting. Let’s fact-check the most egregious falsehoods.
The first comes from a segment on Dana Loesch’s NRA TV show. In it, she alters my words: I never called a tweet “unconscionable,” just the NRA’s policies. Whatever. The real lies crop up in a follow-up video she shot with Cam Edwards, which is currently only available on NRA TV’s website. You can watch that here.
Forty seconds into that video, Edwards states, “The NRA is supporting in some cases Senators who support returning federal land grabs back to states.”
In actuality, there were never any “federal land grabs.” The vast majority of federally managed public lands never belonged to the states—an arrangement that was included in the enabling acts that created the Western states.
Edwards repeats the language President Donald Trump espoused during his campaign to justify the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Since then, we’ve learned that the move to reduce the size of these protected lands was influenced by energy extraction companies, ignored scientific evidence, and largely disregarded the public’s voice—including that of of various hunting groups.
This claim comes up again 1:26 minutes in, when Loesch claims:
“He doesn’t fully understand the issue of the federal land grab…some of these lands that are called into question, it’s not that they’re just doing away with any sort of access, they’re taking regulation and management of this land from the federal government, and returning it to the states. Because, for instance, 84 percent of land in Nevada falls under federal regulation, and that’s Nevada’s land.”
Again, there is no federal land grab: the states never owned or managed the land in question. Following the Mexican-American War, the United States obtained most of the North American continent between Texas and the Pacific Ocean. It attempted to give away much of this land to its citizens through the Homestead Acts. But most of Nevada was unsuitable for small, independently owned farms and it remained unclaimed until 1864 when Nevada became a state. When that happened, these unclaimed lands fell under federal management. Nevada’s constitution reads: “That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.”
At 50 seconds, Edwards asserts, “[Wes] doesn’t bring up any of the anti-hunting moves of the Obama administration. Back in 2015, for example, when the Obama administration imposed additional rules and bans on hunting in Alaskan preserves, moves that were undone by the…Trump administration, actually opening up hunting where the Obama administration had restricted it.”
This is textbook whataboutism. He’s talking about a ban implemented in 2015 within Alaskan national preserves that restricted certain very uncommon traditional hunting methods employed by some Alaskan natives. It had virtually no impact on the ground, but did generate some political controversy over the balance between state and federal regulation of hunting rules.
At 2:30, Edwards says, “With state control, it becomes a case of states and localities knowing what’s best.”
Counterintuitively, federal management actually mandates far more local input than state management does. High profile laws like NEPA, FLPMA, and NFMA, which govern federal land management, all provide significant requirements and systems for local input in management decisions. In contrast, state governments are free to implement changes to their lands without soliciting input from their citizens at all.
Several seconds later, Edwards claims, “The NRA’s agenda is ensuring that hunting is accessible… Unless you know somebody with a lease, unless you’ve got that spot to hunt that’s going to be a big barrier. The NRA has been instrumental at ensuring access and availability to hunting lands.”
And he’s right. Access to public lands is what ensures that hunting remains accessible for Americans of any income level. As Field and Stream wrote, privatizing those lands leads to the new owners charging money for access, making hunting accessible only to the wealthy. And yet, as I detailed in the article Edwards attacks, the NRA sponsors the campaigns of politicians who have publicly declared that they want to sell off public lands.
Perhaps the most frustrating assertion comes later in the video, when Loesch says, “I wish that people would do more to educate people about hunting, and the tradition of it, and conservation…I wish that people would talk more about that instead of try to shame people, like this guy did.” She continues: “It would have been better time spent, if he had actually tried to educate folks about the value and importance of hunting, than about trying to tear down some of the biggest protectors of hunting.”
Here’s what I wrote in the first paragraph of the article in question: “Hunting is possibly the proudest outdoor tradition our country has.” I went on to explain that it funds wildlife and land conservation and produces the healthiest possible food. I’ve also taken on more controversial pro-hunting topics. For example, in 2015, amid the Cecil the lion scandal, I appeared on CNN to defend lion hunting in Africa.
Bottom line is that if you can’t argue with facts, then you don’t have an argument. These two videos are more evidence that not only is the NRA working against the interests of hunters, it’s also continuing to lie about this fact. To repeat the conclusion of the article they're attacking: It’s time for hunters to leave the NRA.