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Who is a “sportsman”?

Sportsmen were the nation’s first conservationists, advocating in the 1890s for sustainable harvests of previously unregulated birds, fish and animals like deer and bear. Acting against their own individual self-interests, they banded together to place limits on wildlife and habitat so that future generations would have opportunities to fish, hunt, camp, skinny dip, sight-see, wildlife watch, and help wildlife recover from 300 years of unregulated market hunting and industrial exploitation.

By the 1920s, a culture of stewardship and natural resource conservation was cemented into the sporting ranks by leaders like Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and Aldo Leopold. Hunting clubs across rural America incorporated stocking programs, tree planting, and facilitating public land purchases to improve and increase wildlife habitat.

Fast forward to today, where wildlife populations are largely stable, wildlife habitat is not in crisis mode, and hunters and anglers are experiencing the best opportunities to harvest trophy fish and game in many decades. We are living in a golden age of the outdoor lifestyle.

Riding on the successes of past generations, today there are some grumbling guys with guns, crabbing that they don’t have anything to hunt. The real shameful behavior is the recent abandonment by some of these men of the sportsman’s stewardship ethic and the conservation pledge that made the hunting community highly respected among the larger society. A group of disaffected users, takers, and malcontents calling themselves “sportsmen” recently endorsed HB 1576, a proposed Pennsylvania bill which would gut the very state agencies charged with protecting Pennsylvania’s natural resources, and remove from state protection those plants and animals necessary for healthy hunting habitat.

The question on the table is, Are these men sportsmen? Are they sportsmen like Aldo Leopold was a sportsman?

While I wait to hear back from others, my answer is No, these men are not sportsmen. They are simply men with guns, freeloaders, spoiled children living off the hard work of both past and present generations, while complaining it isn’t enough and they want more, now, dammit. Their behavior is short-sighted and embarrassing, nothing like the visionary selfless sacrifice of their forebears. They should be publicly shamed and drummed out of the ranks of sportsmen.

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“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
― Aldo Leopold

Diary entry for a day in Central PA

With two business meetings up north and a pile of work to do even farther, the drive up the Susquehanna Valley the other day was enjoyable because so many of the trees still held color along the river banks and out on the islands. Yellows and oranges reflected in the water, and so did the blue sky. Quite peaceful and serene. Not a bad way to spend time driving. Especially when I consider how most Americans spend their time on the road — miserable gridlock, hideous urban concrete jungles, rude drivers. My driving is mostly a Zen experience. That is quintessential Central PA, after all.

Catawissa, PA, is not really on anyone’s destination planner, being snug between ragged coal country, fertile farm country, and pretty river bottom land, and well off the beaten path. To go to Catawissa, you really have to want to go, or have a real clear reason for going. The one horse there moved on long ago, and is now pulling some Amishman’s buggy across the river. Catawissa is daggone quiet in a countryside that is…well, really quiet.

But Catawissa is worth visiting for one simple reason: Ironmen Arms & Antiques is located there.

Jared and Tom have recently opened Ironmen Arms, what is and would have to be the nicest gun room in Pennsylvania (with apologies to Joel in Ligonier), filled with militaria, historic artifacts, and of course, fine firearms. The finest firearms, for the most discriminating collectors. Really high quality guns, like matching pairs (yes, pairs, not just one pair) of Parker shotguns, sequential pairs of high grade Parkers, and high grade LC Smiths, European double rifles, and on and on. For those of you bidding on the mint condition Remington 700 BDL in .223, I can tell you after holding it and inspecting it at length, it is every bit as perfect as it appears on line. If you are a serious collector, that gun is as good as it gets. The Remington BDL is becoming a collector’s item, oddly, because plastic stocks and stainless steel seem to be all the rage now, as soul-less and devoid of personality, art, and craftsmanship as those combinations are. I have no idea how someone hunts with these new guns, because I, myself, have deeply personal relationships with each of my firearms. To achieve that, they’ve got to look good as well as function properly. I’m not disgracing some wild animal by terminating it with anything but the highest combination of form and function. Aesthetics are necessary, because hunting isn’t just killing. It’s a statement about one’s values. Maybe I’m an “artiste.”

Or maybe it’s just a sign of my advancing age, or the arrival of The Age of China and All Things Plastic. I refuse to give in to sterile surgical steel and hard plastic, when I can hold the body of a beautiful tree in my hands. Apparently I am in good company with Jared and Tom, because they, too, like old wood and new steel, and old wood and old steel, too.

In this economic environment, entrepreneurs like Jared and Tom are brave. But they offer things that are not easy to get by any standard, and which are in high demand. And they are both nice men, interested in the fellow gun nerds of the world, and willing to share their bounty and knowledge with you.

So, if you find yourself traversing Pennsylvania on I-80, and you are passing by Bloomsburg, call ahead and set up an appointment with Ironmen Arms. Stop in and spend a half hour, or an hour, make some new friends, and buy an old Japanese sword, a rare bayonet, or a new rifle for that hunt of a lifetime. I know I will be back.

Ironmen Arms: 570 356-6126, jjvpo@verizon.net, 561 Numidia Drive, Catawissa, PA 17820. Their excellent website is at http://www.ironmenarms.com/

Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania

Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (www.huntsunday.com) filed a federal lawsuit yesterday, seeking to compel Pennsylvania to allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to establish Sunday hunting for various species beyond the crows, coyotes, and foxes presently allowed.

The merits are enormous, the case against it weak. It comes down to good government applying consistent laws, a hallmark of democracy. Religious freedom is also part of the suit, since the ban on Sunday hunting is religiously motivated and prevents equal participation by all citizens.

What is sad is hearing pro-gun, pro-hunting folks use anti-gun, anti-hunting arguments to prevent Sunday hunting, as if it does not come back to hurt them.

Here is my position: If you hunt and own guns, then you should desire a greater hunter recruitment rate to replace the people we are losing to age. More hunters means a stronger Second Amendment advocacy pool. Otherwise, if we fail to make up the gun owners we lose, then the gun owners lose political power, and watch their rights slip away as laws change and they are powerless to stand up.

Freedom takes a lot of hard work, and we’ve got ours cut out for us…

Here is the text I presented to the Tea Party Patriots two nights ago, and I have received much positive feedback on it. Take the fight to the enemy, folks.

Josh First………….www.joshfirst.com
At Tea Party Patriots, April 8, 2013

Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Citizen disarmament is the civil rights issue of our time. Disarmament is enslavement, and America already fought one civil war over slavery.

o 2nd Amendment is NOT about hunting or sport shooting, it IS about citizen defense against tyrannical government that usurps citizen powers & rights. Thus, if the gov’t has it, we might need it ourselves.

o State militias, comprised of citizens, were supposed to outweigh then-new federal army

o 1776 militia muster rolls required privately owned military-grade long arm and some ammunition; modern equivalent of military musket is the AR-15. Hunting, self-defense, sport guns are ancillary uses.

o “Well regulated” in 1780s means totally different action than 2013. Then: Have a militia muster roll of able bodied men with working guns and know how to quickly assemble them to fight. Now: Regulate means government intervention and control.

o Federal acts regulating the Militias were passed in the 1700s and 1800s; US Supreme Court holdings danced around the issue, addressing citizens assuming quasi-military roles in public.

o State militias fell into disuse after the Civil War; different states now address them differently. My reading of PA law allows private citizens to create their own militias, so long as they do not claim to represent the government

o Gun prohibitionists long argued that the 2nd Amendment was a “collective” right. After the Heller and McDonald decisions, they now say they agree it’s a private right, but they want to INFRINGE it out of existence: CT, NY, MD, DE, CO, CA…. magazines, ammunition, guns, taxes, insurance, slippery slope

o Fight back:
a) “Gun Prohibitionists” are extreme, not mainstream, agenda-driven, put us all at risk
b) gun control is not about crime control; does not solve problems; infringes on lawful right
c) Gun control is the new Jim Crow…utopians fear threats to their big gov’t utopia control
d) Join NRA, GOA, local shooting club
e) Write op-eds, volunteer for pro-Constitution candidates, blog & social media
f) Buy guns, teach someone to shoot or hunt, give guns as gifts, buy a hunting license
g) Constitutional principles do not change over time to suit societal whims. The quill pen and the printing press became laptops and the Internet, horses became cars, and muskets became AR-15s
h) Regulating/limiting Constitutional rights is usually read expansively, not narrowly
i) Use historical references to frame gun control efforts: Frontier America had no gun control,
and Founders’ intent: “On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed,” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, The Complete Jefferson, p. 322). “The whole of the Bill (of Rights) is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals…. It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.” (Albert Gallatin of the New York Historical Society, October 7, 1789). “The right of the people to keep and bear arms has been recognized by the General Government; but the best security of that right after all is, the military spirit, that taste for martial exercises, which has always distinguished the free citizens of these States….Such men form the best barrier to the liberties of America” – (Gazette of the United States, October 14, 1789.) “No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” (Thomas Jefferson, Proposal Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson Papers, 334,[C.J.Boyd, Ed., 1950]). “The right of the people to keep and bear…arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country…” (James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434 [June 8, 1789]). “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.” (Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer (1788) at 169). “What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty…. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.” (Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment [ I Annals of Congress at 750 {August 17, 1789}]). “…to disarm the people – that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” (George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 380)

THE expert weighs in on violent video games causing violent behavior

Do violent video games cause violence? Psychologist & USArmy Lt Col Dave Grossman says “of course they do”

http://www.youtube.com/embed/_9Ozno7HMGE?autoplay=1

What the Militia Was in 1776

A very brief, historic review of what some American militias were in the 1770s, including their purposes and makeup:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323468604578251780957727750.html

Josh’s Comments to Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show Promoter

Over the past ten days a brouhaha in the most unlikely place has been gathering force.

Ten days ago, Reed Expos, the promoter of the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show, abruptly announced that “tactical firearms” would not be permitted at the 2013 ESOS.

The ESOS is held annually at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. It is the largest outdoor show in the country, and draws a million participants from around the nation. Hunting and fishing guides, ATV – trailer – and firearms manufacturers, clothing dealers, ammunition experts, trappers, land conservationists all gather for a week to promote, sell, entertain, teach, and transact on every aspect of the outdoors. If you hunt, fish or enjoy the outdoors, this is your show.

Reed Expos is reportedly not the easiest company to deal with in the best of times. “A one-way street” is how several vendors described them to me, emphasizing that the promoter’s short-term profits seem to trump all other considerations year after year.

When Reed Expos suddenly announced that AR-15s and similar firearms could not be displayed, most vendors felt not only betrayed in a time of political weakness, but that their own vendor contract had been unilaterally breached. When one of the bigger vendors approached me for help getting through to Reed Expos and trying to get them to change their new policy, I in turn reached out to Pennsylvania’s sporting leadership (below are the comments I sent to Reed Expo, eight days ago). The Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, WIld Turkey Federation, Hunters for Sunday Hunting, and the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation all leapt into action. For those political watchers wondering if the hunting community still has clout, feast your eyes on this: In just eight days, over 80 vendors have pulled out of the ESOS, including powerhouse Cabela’s.

Not many visitors are going to hand over ten dollars for entrance to a hall that is largely empty. The whole ESOS is now looking like a bust, sad to say. Every year my kids come with me to shop, talk, and talk shop with many vendors who have become personal friends. For example, John R. Johnson of Perry County is my custom knife maker, and every year I go to see him and his lovely wife, and pick up a beautiful, rugged new knife. One hall over is Cody Calls, makers of state-of-the-art turkey calls, a family-owned business. I get to talk with the Cody founders and the next generation, listening to their take on the changing world of outdoor sports. Cody Calls has given me expensive calls to give to new turkey hunters, who in turn take them home and become consummate woodsmen. These are all good, good people. The thought of missing all of them this year feels like losing an aunt or uncle; it’s just a little painful.

But boycotting the ESOS is the right thing to do. Reed Expos, if you won’t stand with us, then why should we stand with you?

January 13, 2013

Mr. Chris O’Hara, Public Outreach Coordinator
Reed Expos

Dear Mr. O’Hara,

Thank you for your time on the phone today. I am opposed to Reed Expo’s new policy of excluding semiautomatic rifles from the 2013 Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show here in Harrisburg, PA, scheduled for next month. As you requested, here is a recapitulation of our conversation:

1) Semi-automatic rifles are sporting arms by any standard or definition. AR-15s dominate the organized high-power target competitions across the nation. In many states AR-style rifles are legal for hunting small and large game. The same goes for other semi-automatic long arms and in some cases, semi-automatic pistols, like the .50 Caliber Desert Eagle. Semi-automatic shotguns are legal in all states for waterfowl. Gun prohibitionists make no distinction between semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic shotguns; today they are trying to eliminate the rifles. If they are successful with those, they will next go for the shotguns. Reed Expos is buying into a false definition.

2) The Second Amendment to the Constitution has zero to do with hunting or target arms. Like all of the other rights in the Bill of Rights, it confers an individual right. Its intention in 1787 was, and remains today, to guarantee that citizens can belong to state-based militias to off-set the military power of the Federal government and that they can personally own the military-grade firearms necessary to make those militias effective. Today’s AR-15 and other similar semi-automatic rifles are basically the civilian version of the full automatic arms used by the military. Hunting and target shooting arms are naturally included in the Second Amendment, but they are not at its core, or its purpose. Civilians have owned military grade long arms and pistols since the beginning of our nation. We will continue to do so.

3) The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show is and has been all about outdoor sports, including hunting and shooting. Your audience does not make the artificial distinction that you are making between one long arm and another long arm.

4) By excluding semi-automatic long arms at this desperate hour, when the enemies of liberty are doing everything possible to eradicate the Second Amendment, Reed Expos is abandoning its core consumers. Reed Expos is caving in on a symbolically powerful issue. Let me ask you: Who pays to enter the ESOS? Gun prohibitionists, or gun rights enthusiasts? Reed Expos is shooting itself in the foot, and damaging its relationship with its audience (not to mention the SHOT Show). If you do not stand with us, then why should we stand with you?

5) Every year our family goes to the ESOS. Living in Harrisburg makes it easy for us, and we also volunteer for some of the non-profit groups who have booths there. My three children have grown up with the ESOS. It is a big part of their year, marking the end of most hunting seasons and the beginning of fishing season. They buy new clothes and hats, see old friends, view equipment, etc. So, it is both upsetting and kind of edifying to hear that vendors are now discussing a boycott of the event, in order to communicate their displeasure with Reed Expos. To miss the ESOS would be my family’s personal loss; but to see your poor decision rewarded with the justified financial punishment of a boycott would be mighty rewarding.

Thank you for considering my comments,

Josh First
Harrisburg, PA

Sandy Hook Tragedy Has Me on “Hold”

The Sandy Hook tragedy has me on hold right now.

Several friends have asked when I will write a piece about the massacre, and all I can say is that neither I nor the situation are right. Yes, some tasteless people immediately jumped on the anti-gun bandwagon, but what do you expect from Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Boxer? From Obama? Their agenda is anti-freedom, and they are ready to pounce at any moment, ready to exploit any crisis for political gain.

Guns are dangerous tools, and I can tell you about my own close calls with guns throughout my life, a life of hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. Guns require diligence and caution always, and the second you let down your guard with a gun is the moment your life will change for the worse. But that is not a reason to try and ban them.

A well-written article is coming out soon, just as soon as I can clear the pain and horror from my mind. I am a father of three kids, and that’s all I can think about: Those little kids, and their parents. No policy, no politics can share room in my head and heart with that, yet.

Merry Christmas, friends, Merry Christmas.

Militia

“Militia” is an oval stained glass window in the Pennsylvania Capitol. Its prominent place is no accident. The militia were formative and fundamental to being American.

Anyone with an interest in the US Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution can look up what ‘militia’ means. All citizens are members of the various militias that have existed since our founding. All militias were mustered with the requirement that each member of the militia provide his own personally owned military grade long arm. The militia provided sufficient shot and powder for the coming engagement.

Whether or not Americans are aware or comfortable with the Constitutional requirements, they exist nonetheless. This is who we are.

Mr Obama, Mrs Feinstein, are you mustering us up?