This guest blog is from George C. Thornton, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation:
Sportsmen were the original conservationists and remain the driving force in conservation today. By purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, paying a voluntarily imposed excise tax on all firearms, ammunition and other sporting equipment (Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingell-Johnson Act), and supporting conservation organizations, sportsmen pay for 80 percent or more of conservation efforts in this country.
The preservation of our hunting heritage and conservation is intertwined, and without sportsmen the conservation movement as we know it today would cease to exist. Hunters truly are Champions of Conservation. Without hunting and without hunters, conservation in North America as we know it would not exist.
The NWTF has worked to ensure that our ability to hunt and the skills for hunting are passed on to future generations. We have worked to reduce legal barriers to hunting and succeeded in 38 states, resulting in the purchase of 800,000 new hunting licenses. We introduce almost 100,000 people to the outdoors each year through NWTF programs. This helps to create new hunters and builds an understanding among those who may not become hunters of the role that sportsmen play in preserving the outdoor spaces and wildlife that everyone enjoys.
The right to bear arms is another pillar supporting the continuation of the hunting tradition. It is critical that we not lose sight of this as the gun control debate takes place. We must remember that the efforts to preserve our hunting heritage can be undone if we add new barriers to hunting by limiting the tools that the vast majority of sportsmen depend on to hunt.
The NWTF remains committed to protecting our hunting rights and, as a result, is committed to supporting the protection of our Second Amendment rights. Modern sporting rifles are an important tool for many hunters, and the NWTF works to ensure hunters can continue to use modern firearms. There has been a lot of talk about “assault weapons” and semi-automatic firearms recently. As active shooters and hunters, we know that AR-15 style firearms and .223 caliber rifles have become common among predator, small game and hog hunters, as well as recreational shooters. We will fight efforts to portray these firearms in a negative light.
These inalienable rights are not only critical to the preservation of a free society, ensuring that Americans have the ability to protect themselves and their families, but are inseparable from this nation’s hunting tradition. By staying focused on the principles our founders established, we will protect the things most important to us and future generations.
In these times it is important that sportsmen raise our voices together to be heard. Thank you for supporting the NWTF as we work to protect our hunting heritage and our right to utilize the firearms that make sense for our chosen sports of shooting and hunting.
George C. Thornton