November 8, 2016
Let me start with this.
Many years ago, when I first got involved with Ducks Unlimited, I stayed with the organization because they were focused. Waterfowl habitat preservation and management were the name of the game. The organization did not veer off into the divisive politics of the 2nd Amendment, or involve itself in hunting topics that were not directly related to waterfowl or habitat. “It’s for the birds,” was not just the axiom, but the reality.
Later, when I moved to California, I joined the California Waterfowl Association for similar reasons. They were focused on waterfowl, specifically CA waterfowl. It made sense to me, to belong to both DU and CWA, since California is such a huge state, with very localized issues that are critical to the Pacific flyway. Like DU, they were seldom involved in political issues that did not relate directly to the mission.
But that may be changing…
This morning, in my email, I saw the following press release:
CWA Establishes Legislative Action Fund
The political climate in California for hunting, guns, water supply and land management issues is dire.
That’s why California Waterfowl formed the California Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund. With your help, the CWLAF will protect waterfowl interests and sportsmen from this ever-worsening erosion of our rights.
- Better educate officials, particularly state and federal legislators, about water conservation, wetlands and hunting heritage issues.
- Improve access and influence for waterfowl interests and sportsmen at the State Capitol and Washington D.C.
California is becoming more urban, and a greater number of state and federal officeholders are elected who do not understand the important role hunters play in wildlife conservation.
Meanwhile, animal rights and anti-gun organizations are increasing their influence at the state and federal levels.
On top of all that, competing demands for water continue to increase, while waterfowl habitat is threatened by urban growth.
The California Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund was formed to fight these trends through political advocacy, education and public outreach efforts.
It is critical that we be as effective as possible in informing legislators and the general public about sportsmen’s important contributions to society.
By supporting us, you will make those necessary education and outreach efforts to decision-makers more successful.
You will also help us fight back against anti-hunting and anti-gun extremists threatening to take our outdoor heritage and rights away.
So donate today! Visit www.calwaterfowlactionfund.org.
At first glance, I was a little bit disappointed to see this. While the goals stated above appear to maintain the focus on waterfowl and habitat, I saw it veering into the murky realm of defending “gun rights”, and possible entanglement in the sucking morass that is the battle against anti-hunters in Sacramento. While I’m not a member now (I don’t live in CA anymore), I don’t think I would have been happy to see my membership fees diverted from habitat protection, acquisition, and management.
In comparison, this is generally ground that Ducks Unlimited does not tread, and I think they have benefited from keeping clear. DU funds go to the specific mission, and nothing else. Bypassing the divisive political issues, like 2nd Amendment or broad ethical fights that have nothing to do with waterfowl or habitat, has allowed the organization to keep a fairly diverse membership across the country. Of course, their position has not come without criticism, but the results have been largely positive.
Still, Cal Waterfowl is not DU, and California is not the whole country (plus Canada and Mexico, where DU is also engaged). There are very real and specific, localized threats to all hunting in the state, including waterfowl hunting. The more I thought about it, the more I recognized that this change is probably necessary.
Most of the organizations in California that profess to hunter advocacy have morphed, in one way or another, into gun rights organizations. The focus has shifted to fighting gun policies, which is mostly justifiable, but the platforms are verging on NRA-level extremism. The fact is that many hunters do not agree with these extremist positions, and as a result, they withdraw both their support and their engagement… and with them goes a critical degree of political strength. In California, of all places, hunters need all the political clout they can get.
With the exception of the Sportsmen’s Alliance, Golden State hunters really have no organization committed to fighting the myriad threats to hunting, whether it’s misguided legislation or threats to hunting access on State and Federal lands. And no other sportsmen’s organization is taking on the water issues that are wracking the state right now. CWA is generally respected and well-positioned to take up that banner.
Like I said, I’m not in CA any more, and if I’m completely honest, I’ve sort of surrendered much hope in changing the political direction of gun and hunting policies in that state. It’s one of the reasons I chose to move away. But for those who are still living there, by choice or by necessity, I think it’s worth giving the Cal Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund a close look… and maybe giving them a few of your hard-earned dollars as well.
October 27, 2016
I’m no fan of fast food these days (with the notable exception of Bojangles chicken… it’s a weakness), but I’m not going to play the elitist snob who dismisses those who still eat that stuff. I get the convenience, and I grok the fact that a lot of people actually enjoy some of it. I know I used to. Hell, I still get nostalgic over the thought of a Hardee’s cheeseburger and fries, soaking through the paper bag. If I close my eyes, I can almost smell it… almost as if I’m back in the backseat of that old station wagon, counting the seconds until we get home, where I’ll devour the greasy treat. Those were the days.
I also developed a thing for Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, back in “the day”. They were a “sophisticated” departure from burgers, and you could mix that “Horsey” (horseradish) sauce with their sweet, red barbecue sauce to make a runny, orange mess that invariably dripped all over your t-shirt on the way to the mall.
But I let fast food drop out of my diet over time, and now, when I do eat it, most of it literally nauseates me (except that damnable, fried chicken). That should be a sign of some sort, but I still catch myself out of necessity or nostalgia, stopping along the highway for a quick bite. I’m often left disappointed by the experience, and wishing for something a bit more toothsome. Apparently, I’m not alone. In response to declining sales, the fast food industry has stepped up their campaign to bolster both the quality of their food and the variety on their menus.
Arby’s joined the fray, and their current campaign is, “We have the meats!” In addition to beef, they serve chicken, turkey, and pork belly sandwiches. I stopped in the other day to meet up with my mom and some of her friends, for whom a trip up I-40 often includes a stop at Arby’s. It was my first time inside an Arby’s in years, and I was surprised at the variety of new offerings (but I still opted for the regular, roast beef sandwich).
Never, though, would I have anticipated their next move. Beginning next week, Arby’s is going to start selling venison sandwiches (in a limited, trial market area). It’s true, according to the press release that’s been making the rounds. It describes the new sandwich as:
The Venison Sandwich at Arby’s features a thick-cut venison steak and crispy onions topped with a juniper berry sauce on a toasted specialty roll. The venison is marinated in garlic, salt and pepper and then cooked for three hours to juicy, tender perfection. The juniper berry sauce is a Cabernet steak sauce infused with juniper berries, giving the already unique sandwich another signature twist.
For the more knee-jerk inclined, hold your water. Nobody is going to start market hunting North American deer again to supply this demand. The venison comes from farmed stock, not wild, free-ranging populations. Much of the commercially available venison in the U.S. comes from Argentina or New Zealand, but there are farms here in the States that also supply “game” meat.
There has been some other discussion, though, among a diverse range of opinions. Some people applaud Arby’s for putting venison out there in a very visible way that might help form positive attitudes toward eating game meat. Others seem to be concerned that a “fast food treatment” of game meat will cheapen the experience, and maybe even turn people off to eating venison. Some foodies are turning up their noses at the idea of farm-raised game altogether, but then, I wonder how many foodies eat at Arby’s in the first place.
For my own part, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy one of these new sandwiches (I couldn’t if I wanted to, since the nearest trial restaurant is Atlanta, GA), but I don’t know that I’d knock it. I’ve eaten farm-raised venison at fancy restaurants (it was amazing), and I’ve also had it at less fancy places where it would be polite to call it, “mediocre.” My guess is that Arby’s version will feature a largely flavorless piece of meat that will rely heavily on the sauce for crowd-pleasing flavor. But don’t be discouraged by my preconceptions. You’re welcome to form your own.
In the meantime, no matter how good or bad we may think the venison sandwich will be, I’ve been absolutely loving the supporting ad campaign! Check it out.
October 17, 2016
Sitting in my stand the other evening, watching a trio of foxes hunt mice in the pasture below me, I realized there are stories to share, and I’m not doing it. I have blamed all these other factors, but the fact is, all I need to do is put down a few words… or better, dig the video cameras out of their boxes. I can let nature do the talking.
Oh, yes, most of my gear is still packed in boxes since leaving Texas. Some has been pulled out, briefly, then re-interred in the shuffle of moving, removing, and settling down. When I loaded the Savage for the opener of rifle season this weekend, I realized I had four rounds. Somewhere, in all that stuff, I’ve got boxes and boxes of ammo. But all I could find was the four cartridges strapped to the rifle sling.
The other morning, I practically turned the spare room we’ve been using for storage upside down, looking for my pop-up ground blind. I gave up, angry, and went out to the old barn to get the chainsaw. There, half-obscured in spider webs and dust, was my ground blind.
But just because I’m not shooting anything right now (I almost shot something Saturday evening… but that’s one of those tales) doesn’t mean there’s nothing to tell. There’s the pileated woodpeckers, working on the dead gum trees in my “swamp”. Carolina wrens flit and chitter. And the squirrels… oh, for the first frosty mornings and the air rifle. Wood ducks are roosting in the retired hog lagoon on the property next door (flushed out by the neighbor who bought it), whistling in at last light to whine and splash.
So, I’m officially dusting off the Hog Blog. I’ll get those cameras rolling. And I’ll see about breathing some life into this place.
October 13, 2016
And despite appearances to the contrary, neither is the Hog Blog.
True, I’ve been quiet for quite some time. No gear reviews. No hog hunting reports. No pithy commentary on life, the universe, and everything. Not even a lambasting of some truly deserving television hunting program. If current posts are the pulse of a blog, then I’d say death is a pretty fair diagnosis because the heart of this thing has been awful still.
But it’s not dead. Not yet.
A couple of updates…
In September, I finally moved into the new house. Right now, Kat and I are just calling it, “the Farm.” We wanted to do something clever, like name the long driveway Bagshot Row, and the house would be #1 (aka Bag End). But apparently, to have a street name in the county, there have to be at least three homes on the street. That was disappointing. So, it’s The Farm. For now… which, with me, means probably forever.
At any rate, the point there is that the trials of getting the place built are behind me. That was a lot more stressful than I’d ever want to deal with again. I like to think this is my last house (hmm… in keeping with the Tolkein thread, I could call it “the Last Homely House”), but I’ve thought that before and see what happened? But it’s pretty much done. Still work to be done on the pasture and setting up for horses, and of course the never-ending maintenance that comes with a piece of land, but I feel like a load has been lifted. The Hog Blog has a new base camp.
Of course, we’re barely settled in and along comes Hurricane Matthew. I was among the fortunate ones here, and weathered that storm with nominal issues. I’m high enough that the flooding hasn’t been an immediate problem, and the wind didn’t cause appreciable property damage. For the most part, we sat in the living room and watched TV all evening, as the power and satellite remained largely uninterrupted.
Sadly, many of the neighboring areas didn’t fare nearly so well. If you’re feeling charitable, there are a lot of folks in this area who are recently homeless… some probably for the long haul. The American Red Cross and other worthy organizations are going to be stepping in to try and help, so a few bucks here and there would probably help. And, of course, that’s not to mention the devastation down in Haiti… destruction and loss on a scale that most Americans can’t even imagine. If nothing else, spare a positive thought and count your blessings.
What about hunting?
Yeah, I’ve been at it. All the work here on the new house sort of scotched the deer activity in the usual places (although they’re coming back now), and I didn’t get around to moving stands to more productive areas. I’m reaping the rewards of my inactivity now, as the one stand I had high hopes for has turned out to be a dud.
But rifle season opens Saturday, and that will give me a couple of options I didn’t have with the bow. Those little suckers thought they were safe, hanging out there at 100 yards or more…
Of course, rifle season also brings out the dog hunters… the houndsmen. I’d like to think they’ll be respectful of private property holders this year… maybe a little more than last year… but I’m not holding out high hopes. I really have no problem with hunting over hounds, but I do have a problem with running the damned animals across any piece of open ground and the No Tresspassing signs be damned. The law was fairly recently updated so that running hounds on posted property is now illegal, but enforcement is utterly impractical, especially in such a rural area where dog hunting is such an ingrained activity. It’s pretty frustrating, especially after spending most of the off-season working on habitat, food plots, and setting stands.
The thing is, I’m probably more tolerant of it than my immediate neighbors. They’re pissed, and you can bet that if a ban on hunting with hounds comes to the table, these folks will be helping to push it into law. I recognize what a tradition it is, but the houndsmen are their own worst enemies here.
Besides deer, I’ve been getting pretty excited about the upcoming waterfowl season. Given the current weather patterns, I don’t think we’re going to see a good, cold season. That’s a drag, because it means the migration will be slow to arrive again. But this year, so far, we don’t have nearly as much water around (once the Matthew floods recede). That means the birds will concentrate more along the normal waterways instead of scattering into inaccessible swamps. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.
Kat and I also drew tags for tundra swans this season. I have never hunted the big birds, but I’ve eaten them and I’m tickled pink at the opportunity to put a couple on the table. I’m also looking forward to meeting up with a couple of blog friends I’ve chatted with for years, but never met in person. This will be a late season hunt, so the story will be a while in the offing. But stay tuned.
What about hogs?
The raison d’etre of this blog has pretty much been a no-show this entire year. Between work and the house, I’ve had neither the time nor the money to go out and try to find some Carolina wild pork. I had a trip planned to South Carolina, but had to bag it for the aforementioned reasons. Still, I’ve been doing some research and working on connections. At this point, it looks like 2017 will have to be the big year, but I’ve found some promising leads and I can’t wait.
In the meantime, I’ve really been jonesing for a CA hog hunt again. I know I can’t pull it off any time soon, but I keep looking for that winning lottery ticket to blow up onto my front porch.
That’s enough for now… I’ll have to try a little harder to keep this blog thing on top of the daisies instead of under them.
August 10, 2016
It seems to be a recurrent theme from folks who dislike and fear firearms. “The gun industry is just sitting back, raking in profits. They don’t care about the people who are killed or injured by guns!”
I understand it, of course, since the truth is that efforts by organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) don’t generally get a lot of publicity. Folks outside of the gun industry probably have no idea, and even many firearms owners are pretty much in the dark. Most people don’t know, for example, that the NSSF is on the leading edge of the industry in efforts to promote safety ( such as Project ChildSafe), efforts to educate firearms dealers to prevent crime (e.g. the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” program), and efforts to work with the Federal government to improve the quality of background checks (e.g. the FixNICS initiative). What people do hear is when the NSSF echoes the NRA hardline on certain firearms issues.
To do my own tiny part, I think it’s worth sharing the press release I just received from the NSSF. I think it’s simple enough that it doesn’t require my interpretation. Here it is, in its entirety:
NEW YORK, N.Y. – A new partnership between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), the trade association for the firearms industry, will allow for both organizations to embark on a first-of-its-kind national plan to build and implement public education resources for firearms retailers, shooting ranges and the firearms-owning community about suicide prevention and firearms.
According to recently released data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all suicides were by firearm in 2014, and suicide accounted for almost two-thirds of gun deaths in the same year. In addition, 90 percent of suicide attempts with a firearm are fatal. By working together to develop and deliver suicide-prevention resources, AFSP and NSSF hope to help stem this loss of life.
“This partnership has been a true collaboration since we started conversations last year. AFSP sees this relationship as critical to reaching the firearms community,” said Robert Gebbia, AFSP CEO. “One of the first areas identified through Project 2025 was a need to involve the gun-owning community in suicide prevention. By joining forces with NSSF, we reach both firearm owners and sellers nationwide to inform and educate them about suicide prevention and firearms, and offer specific actions they can do to prevent suicide. Through Project 2025 analysis and the work of this partnership, we know that this public education has the potential to save thousands of lives.”
“The firearms industry has long been at the forefront of successful accident-prevention efforts and programs aimed at reducing unauthorized access to firearms. Since two-thirds of all fatalities involving firearms are suicides, we are now also in the forefront of helping to prevent these deaths through our new relationship with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” said Stephen L. Sanetti, NSSF President and CEO.
Currently, the two organizations are collaborating on this initiative through AFSP’s firearm and suicide prevention pilot program, which involves six AFSP chapters, located in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and New Mexico. The goal is to take the program nationwide within two years.
I always encourage folks to think for themselves, do their own research, and learn about issues with a skeptical eye. This is no different, and I wouldn’t blame the cynics in the crowd who will look for some sort of self-interest on the part of the industry. But I think it’s important to be aware that the leading organization representing the U.S. industry, the NSSF, is doing some solid work behind the scenes to reduce firearms death, injury, and crime.
July 27, 2016
Oh, look! I have a blog! I should write something…
On a Facebook page I follow, I saw a post about a guy in California who booked a hunt with an outfitter he found on Craig’s List. The outfitter had a website that listed references and other realistic information, but when the time came to hunt… you guessed it… a no-show. Not only did the guide not show up, but he took the hunter’s deposit with him into the ether.
Not long after the post appeared, a small gaggle of “me too” posts followed. This ersatz guide did pretty well for himself… as long as he can avoid some really pissed off hunters.
This should never happen, but it does… every season, and especially in the last minutes before a season opens. Folks are desperate to find good ground. Time slipped away, and suddenly the opener is looming. Whatever the reason, they start grinding through the usual routes to find a guide. Of course, the reputable guides are generally booked well in advance, or their prices are set a little high. The search gets wider, and before long, a Craig’s List posting, or maybe an ad in the local paper shows up. A couple of phone calls or emails get exchanged, a plan gets made, and the deal is done.
Often, it goes well. The guide is maybe new to the business, or maybe it’s just someone who has a good hunting opportunity and wants to make a few bucks on it. The hunter has rolled the dice and come up a winner.
But sometimes, it doesn’t go well at all. In the worst case, the hunter gets stood up and the crook absconds with deposit money. In some cases, the hunter finds himself facing trespass charges because an unscrupulous outfitter has dropped him on someone else’s property. Other cases include blatant misrepresentation… such as how much property is actually available (10 acres instead of 100) or even the actual presence of game (crawling with sign turns out to be an old game trail). The “comfortable lodging” turns out to be an old chicken coop. The “hearty meals provided” are snack crackers for lunch, and MREs at dinner. And so on… I’ve heard all of these things from jilted hunters.
It seems odd to me that, for all the distrust and skepticism people demonstrate in daily life, hunters so often fail to do a little due diligence prior to paying someone to take them hunting. Caveat emptor, folks!
When the fellow on Facebook posted his sad tale, I quickly jumped to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s registry of hunting and fishing guides. In seconds, I found that the alleged guide was not listed in the directory. That would have been my first move, and what I found would have been a significant red flag.
Apparently, the fake guide had a website too. It listed “references”, and provided some other good-looking information. When I asked on Facebook if the victim had actually contacted the references, I never got an answer. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that he did not call. The presence of references on the website was enough to give the appearance of propriety.
Point is, I can see how someone would find themselves in this situation, but I also believe it’s 98% avoidable. I’ve written a time or two in various places (like here)about how to select a guide. However, to break it down to a bullet list:
- Define your expectations clearly before you ever contact an outfitter or guide. You need to know what you want before you can tell someone else.
- Communicate these expectations to the outfitter or guide. Don’t be afraid to be specific about what you’re hoping to get for your money. You don’t have to be a jerk, but be upfront and honest.
- Be completely clear about what you will accept, and what you will not (e.g. high fence, hounds, road hunting, etc.).
- Be prepared to be flexible. These are wild animals. They don’t always do what the guide expects them to do. Sometimes you have to be willing to adjust if you want success.
- Verify what is included in the price of the hunt (guides, accommodation, food, skinning/field dressing, etc.). The more you pay, the more important this is. You may find that what one outfitter offers for $1200 can be had from another at half that price.
- Ask about success rates. Guided hog hunts usually have high success rates, but if anyone advertises 100%, then question them. Also note that some outfitters advertise “shot opportunity” instead of actual success. Be sure you understand and agree about the definition of “shot opportunity” before you book the hunt.
- Ask for referrals AND THEN CALL THEM. (Be sure to ask for successful as well as unsuccessful referrals.)
- Oh… and ask about tips. The outfitter may hedge, but it’s always good to feel out the expectation.
You’d think it would go without saying, but you have to do your homework.
April 21, 2016
This, if it’s accurate, is sort of a big deal.
It appears that wildlife agents and professional hunters/trappers (along with some help from the drought) have managed to wipe out the feral hogs in an area near San Diego. According to several articles popping up in my feed today, like this one from the San Diego Union Tribune, there are only approximately eight feral hogs left in the area where there were once, by some estimates, as many as 1000.
There’s still a lot of disagreement about how the hogs got there, as well as how many there were. There’s also been a lot of back and forth about what to do about them. Like many others in CA, when I first heard about the hogs appearing down in that part of the country, I expected the population to run amok like it has in other parts of the state. When they decided to let (actually, encourage) sport hunters to go after these hogs, I was pretty sure that any hope of thinning the numbers of these animals was fleeting. Sport hunters really aren’t very successful when it comes to eradication.
But then they brought in the professionals, even though some of us thought, “too little, too late.”
Most of us naysayers didn’t really count on Mother Nature tossing in an edge to the humans for a change, as the drought in CA concentrated the hogs, and also limited their expansion in the arid habitat. Hogs are tough, resilient, and able to make-do in almost any conditions. Desert, however, doesn’t seem to suit them.
So it looks like they’re whupped, and that doesn’t often happen. Apparently. Proof is in the pudding, of course, so let’s see what happens in the coming months.
April 1, 2016
Time may change me…
In 2012, I moved from California to Texas, and swore I’d never look back. I found my own little version of paradise in the Hill Country, and built the home where I planned to live out the remainder of my life… whether that remainder was 10 years or 50.
I had a plan. The gods thought it was hilarious.
Last spring, I left the Hill Country in my rear view mirror. I found a pretty decent place in North Carolina, and have spent the past eight months working my ass off to turn it into a new, final, home. I’m close to my family again, and it’s been really good to spend time with my mom and brothers again.
I swore I wouldn’t ever move again, but I also recognized, based on recent history, that sometimes things aren’t completely in my control. But dammit, I’d fight tooth and nail before I willingly packed out of here.
I find myself de-clawed and snaggle-toothed.
My line of work is sort of strange in today’s job market. When I started in the 1990’s, I was in a pretty singular niche, but since then, the industry has caught up. Now there are college degrees in what I do, and the market has become flooded with fresh-faced youngsters, eager to do the same work for less money. At the same time, employers’ attitudes toward telecommuting have become more conservative. That’s tough on me, since I choose to live in rural places, far from the hubs of industry.
All that is to say, when I find a good gig, I want to keep it. The days of jumping from job to job at will are pretty much in the past. The money isn’t there like it used to be, and as I get a bit older, I find that I have grown a new appreciation for the benefits of full-time employment, like health insurance and paid time off.
Have you figured out where this is going?
I’ve found a great job with a company I like and I’m part of a solid department of professionals. In a fairly short time I have worked my way into a senior position and oversight of education for an entire business line. My manager is happy with my work, but we’re challenged because our department is not getting the integration with the product development and marketing teams that we need to really be successful.
The Development and Marketing teams are based in Plano, TX.
After some extensive (and not altogether pleasant) discussion with my manager, it’s really come down to two options. If I want to keep my current role and career path, I need to be in Plano. Travel back and forth is not an option due to budget constraints. My other option is to step down from the senior role, a decision that will likely have a negative impact on future advancement. We don’t have head count to hire a new person in that role, so unless someone else on our team is willing to make the move, we may have to make a “staffing adjustment”.
To really make this a tough call, Kat pissed off some thin-skinned executives at work a couple of weeks ago. You just can’t say things like that to a VP, no matter how childish they may be acting. Smashing her coffee cup on the conference table was probably icing on the cake. While it’s likely she’ll find something else fairly soon, the job hunt has been moving pretty slowly.
It seems like my choice was being made for me.
I loved the Hill Country, but I really despise the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Plano is a nightmare of freeways and a sprawl of corporate clutter. I can probably find a place out in the fringes, but in order to commute every day I’ll need to be relatively close.
I should be flying out there on Saturday, April 2, to take a look at properties. But I won’t because today is April 1, and you just can’t trust anything you read on the first of April.
March 10, 2016
I’ve been pretty busy and preoccupied of late, and updating the blog has simply not been at the top of my agenda. Apologies for that. I’m taking a breather now, just to jot this note today (and to keep the blog feed alive).
I have made a mental effort to crank something out, here and there. I just haven’t been able to get traction, potentially because I’ve been idle for so long that the backlogged ideas are totally overwhelming. There’s a lot going on, from Missouri where there’s a proposal to ban sport hunting for feral hogs, to Minnesota’s proposed ban on lead shot in a wide swath of State-managed land. Turkey season is just around the corner, my hunt for huntable hogs is ongoing (but not going far), and I’ve got some new boots to review.
Of course, there’s politics. Talk about being overwhelmed!
But then, I tend to stray away from general political commentary for many reasons, not the least of which is the knowledge that I’m sorely under-qualified to make meaningful analysis of most of it. There’s a lot I don’t know about economics, foreign policy and diplomacy, and so many other things. The big picture is far larger than my personal experience, and while I certainly may discuss ideas and opinions with certain individuals, I’m not sure they’re entirely informed. When I do talk politics, I usually try to talk as much to get educated as I do to educate.
Sadly, an awful crowd of folks aren’t similarly constrained.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Take that literally. With a lot of knowledge, you can build the hydrogen bomb, but with a little knowledge, you can use it.
February 23, 2016
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that, when it comes to public relations, the firearms industry and lobby has sometimes been its own worst enemy. While organizations like the NRA have done a reasonably good job at recruiting a strong membership of gun owners, they’ve done so with fairly polarizing tactics and a bit of all-or-nothing rhetoric that has turned away many gun owners, not to mention alienating folks who don’t own, and don’t like firearms. (I say this, by the way, as a fully-paid Life NRA member.)
The truth is, outside of the “faithful”, most people have formed a lot of ideas about what the firearms industry is about… and to many of those people, it’s not a pretty picture. A common perception is that the firearms industry is focused only on getting as many guns into the hands of as many people as possible, and to hell with any negative consequences. So, for example, when a child gets his hands on a gun and accidentally shoots someone, a lot of folks want to lay blame for the problem at the feet of the firearms industry because, “all they care about is selling guns.”
That’s a shame, because it’s not an accurate assessment.
Despite the NRA’s prevalent place in the public eye (and public opinion), it’s fair to say that the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) is the real face of the firearms industry in the U.S. As the trade association of the U.S. firearms industry, with the stated goal of promoting, preserving, and protecting hunting and the shooting sports, the NSSF speaks for most gun and ammo makers, and holds an influential position when it comes to driving policy and public relations for its members. In that role, the organization has done a number of things that deserve the spotlight… but due to the hyper-politicized nature of the topic, those programs have remained relatively obscure.
One of those programs is Project ChildSafe. I’ve written about, or mentioned, the project several times over the years (such as here, here, and here), but I feel like I need to keep pushing what they’re doing.
Most people I’ve spoken to, including many hunters and gun owners, have no idea what Project ChildSafe is about. The handful who have heard of it think it’s a program to give out gun locks… which is accurate enough in a small way. But that’s not all.
Here’s what the organization says about itself:
Project ChildSafe is a real solution to making our communities safer. More than 15,000 law enforcement agencies have partnered with the program to distribute more than 36 million firearms safety kits to gun owners in all 50 states and the five U.S. territories. Through vital partnerships with elected officials, community leaders, state agencies, businesses, the firearms industry and other stakeholders, Project ChildSafe has helped raise awareness about the safe and responsible ownership of firearms and the importance of securely storing firearms to help reduce accidents and access by unauthorized individuals.
In other words, what Project ChildSafe is about is safe storage, which can include gun locks, but also revolves around education and information.
I had the chance a week or so ago to chat with Bill Brassard, NSSF Director of Communications, and talk to him about the project. I hoped to get a little better understanding of Project ChildSafe, and what might help get the message out to more people.
One of the first points Brassard made is that the project relies on its partnerships with communities and local law enforcement to promote the message. “Our goal is to have community partners,” he told me.
The way this works is, the NSSF provides media kits, information, and gun locks to community organizers (usually law enforcement). The partners then manage and host gun safety events, using the materials the NSSF provided. The idea is for these partners to manage communication with local media outlets to publicize their local events. As more agencies and communities learn about the program, they can engage with NSSF to host their own events.
The challenge, he explained, is that in many cases communities wait until something happens before taking any action. Not that it’s ever too late to get the message about safe firearm storage, but the idea is to prevent shooting incidents before they happen.
The other challenge to this reactive scenario, of course, is that the story becomes about the guns and the tragedy. As Brassard pointed out in our conversation, the media (particularly the major media outlets) tend to focus on the politics of guns. To an increasingly cynical public, the NSSF coming in after the tragedy with a safe storage program seems almost disingenuous. The actual message is lost in the uproar.
What is that message?
I asked Brassard to nail it down for me.
“Secure storage is the number one way to prevent firearms deaths,” he said. “There is a safe storage solution for every circumstance, and every budget. There is no excuse for leaving a loaded firearm laying around.”
It is absolutely true, as he pointed out, that unintentional shootings have declined steadily over the years, largely as a result of improved education (hunter safety, firearms handling, etc.) and the increased accessibility of safety equipment such as locks, storage boxes, and safes. Statistics show pretty clearly that safety campaigns have been quietly succeeding, even if most people have not noticed.
But statistics don’t mean squat when it happens to you or someone you care about. This is why the message of Project ChildSafe is still important. “Own it? Respect it. Secure it.”
If you’ve bought a new gun from Winchester, Browning, Savage, or several others, you have probably seen that little badge inside the box… right there, in the package beside the cable lock. It’s a great reminder, but of course it only reaches the folks who just bought a gun.
I think, as a tagline, that’s OK. But personally, I’m more in line with Mr. Brassard’s words. “No excuse.”
There’s no excuse not to secure your guns. These days, with affordable biometric hand safes, a lock in every gun box, and even the modicum of common sense, I have a hard time believing anyone who claims they “couldn’t” lock their gun away. You could. You just chose not to.
You can’t teach a kid not to pick up a gun. You can teach a kid that it’s “bad” to play with guns, but no amount of teaching can overcome the juvenile monkey-brain. If you listen to interviews of the parents of kids who have shot themselves, or shot other kids, almost all of them “thought” their kid “knew better.” Kids do stupid things because their minds aren’t fully developed. They don’t really comprehend permanence. They don’t think Mom or Dad would leave a gun laying around if it were really that dangerous. It’s just a second… and that’s all it takes.
And it’s not just kids. That gun you keep by the bed for “security” isn’t very secure while you’re at work. The shotgun in the closet… just keeping it out of sight doesn’t keep it out of reach. This is how guns make it to the streets and into the hands of criminals.
Look, if you have a carry gun (and a legal right to carry it), then carry it. Don’t leave it laying in a place where someone can walk off with it. If you don’t want to pack it, then store it. Lock it up. Do us all a favor. Do yourself a favor.
There’s no excuse not to.
Learn more about Project ChildSafe on their website at http://www.projectchildsafe.org.