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Sportsmen Vote Can Swing This Election

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Election Day falls in the middle of hunting season, which means hunters are faced with more important choices than simply which favorite game animal will end up on the dinner table. National elections take place on the first Tuesday in November, and while sportsman will careful plan hunting and fishing excursions, and even use vacation days to make sure they have time to enjoy the outdoors, they don’t always give the same attention to voting. Elections have consequences, and those consequences can have a detrimental effect on sportsmen and sportswomen. Those who plan to spend time in the field this Fall need to be sure to vote, support good candidates, and encourage their friends and families to do the same.

Sportsmen have a great deal at stake in the 2020 election. The president, and those who serve in the Cabinet, have significant power to influence or regulate hunting, open or restrict access to public lands, and establish conservation priorities to improve hunting and fishing experiences.

Unfortunately, not everyone involved in hunting and shooting sports takes voting seriously. A recent study of voting patterns with those who own hunting and fishing licenses in the important swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, revealed that over a million license holders have not voted in the past two elections, and many are not even registered to vote. These three states were instrumental in determining who controlled the White House for the past four years, and will again. The margin of victory in Michigan and Pennsylvania was so narrow that out of 10.5 million votes, less than 80,000 voters delivered the electoral votes Donald Trump needed to win. With margins that narrow it's easy to see how sportsmen could determine the outcome of the election.

I had the privilege of serving on the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council with the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture for the past two years. It was an opportunity for me to see first-hand how the Trump administration views hunting, wildlife conservation, and public access to public lands. Sportsmen should know that this administration has opened up more public lands for hunting than any administration in decades, expanding hunting and fishing opportunities to 4 million acres, including 97 National Wildlife Refuges and nine National Fish Hatcheries.

The Trump administration understands the important role hunting plays in wildlife conservation and management, with the hunting community generating nearly $1 billion in excise taxes each year to provide funding to state conservation programs. Conservation depends on hunting, and hunting depends on conservation.

When it comes to hunting and shooting sports, protecting the right to own firearms is essential. President Trump has proven to be a vigorous supporter of gun ownership and the Second Amendment, promising that, “So long as I am President, I will always protect your Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.”

Last year the White House issued a statement threatening to veto gun control bills passed by the Democrat controlled House if the legislation were to make it past the Senate. The statement declared that extensive regulation required by the bills would be “incompatible with the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to keep and bear arms,” and stated that “allowing the Federal Government to restrict firearms purchases through bureaucratic delay would undermine the Second Amendment.”

During the COVID-19 crisis the Trump administration provided guidance that declared gun stores, shooting ranges, and firearms and ammunitions manufacturers, as “critical components of the nation’s workforce,” and as such, should remain open during the pandemic.

By contrast, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have opined that the Second Amendment doesn’t provide an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller decision, protecting the right to own firearms “in common use… and for lawful purposes like self-defense,” was wrong.

Commenting on the decision Biden said, “the Second Amendment is not absolute. And we can argue, the fundamental argument is well regulated militia and all those things, I won’t get into that. I think that the fundamental argument is the reason that was given as a right because we needed to be able to muster people to deal with an enemy called Great Britain we were fighting in a war.”

Kamala Harris also weighed in on the Heller case when she was District Attorney in San Francisco, signing an amicus brief that argued the Second Amendment provides only a militia-related right to bear arms, and that it should not apply to legislation passed by state or local governments.

As a candidate for president, Harris stated that if Congress failed to act she would enact gun control measures by executive order in her first 100 days in office.

When it comes to Second Amendment protections for gun owners, nothing is more important than having judges appointed to the courts who view the Constitution as it was intended, rather than a fluid document where activist judges can change laws they deem unfit for modern times. President Trump has done just that with the nomination of 252 constitutionalist judges to the federal courts, including three to the Supreme Court.

Elections have consequences, and giving control of the federal government to Biden, Harris, Schumer, and Pelosi would be a disaster to sportsmen and gun owners. Sportsmen should be thankful for the actions the Trump administration has taken over the past four years to greatly improve hunting and fishing opportunities, and to ensure the rights of gun owners remain intact.

Donald Trump deserves four more years as president, and with a Republican controlled Senate and House, sportsmen’s rights and opportunities will continue to expand.

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