If you haven’t heard of the American Hunters and Shooters Association ( let me introduce you. The AHSA is an organization in its formative stages, and claims to be a viable alternative to the NRA which, it says, has alienated hunters and shooters by its boorish political tactics, unwillingness to compromise, and refusal to support conservation in any meaningful way.

A trip to the AHSA website is enlightening. If you read it closely, you’ll see that there is not much substance to what the AHSA says it stands for. There are no concrete positions, or action plans, except that they want to restore the right of residents of Washington, D.C. to own handguns. (Why Washington, D.C.? They never say.) Mostly, their position statements are vapid, along the lines of “Don’t push old ladies into moving traffic. Don’t set stray dogs on fire.”

The conservation part of their platform is more interesting. They claim that the NRA has done hunters a huge disservice by not supporting politicians who are conservationists. Well, it’s no secret that for years, the NRA has supported the very worst timber torturers, stream stranglers, oil oligarchs, strip-mine groupies, and range rapers, provided that their heads were right on guns. The worst knuckle-draggers and cave dwellers have gotten A’s on the NRA report card if they voted right on gun issues. And there is a reason for this.

The movers and shakers behind the gun control movement are relentless, implacable, and uncompromising in their eventual aim, which is to get rid of all guns. They are as extreme in their views as the most fanatic NRA members are in theirs. I don’t see how it’s possible to hate machines, but career anti-gunners hate guns to the very depths of their souls. Mostly, I think, they hate gun owners as well.

You do not successfully oppose such people by compromising, or by forgetting what your main goal is. And in this the NRA is no different than any other highly successful Washington lobby. There are special-interest groups that are slicker in their approach, but their tactics do not differ notably.

So who is the AHSA, really? The group’s leaders are a puzzle. The website doesn’t say whether they were appointed (and if so, by whom?), elected (since the AHSA has nearly no membership, this would be a problem), or rule by divine right. In addition, every one has been involved in one way or another with an organization that is generally considered anti-gun. For example:

The Founding President is Ray Schoenke, a former player with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Mr. Schoenke is apparently a successful businessman and a hunter and shooter of wide experience. However, according to Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director, Schoekne donated $5,000 to Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), in 2000, and contributions were also made to HCI by the Ray and Holly Schoenke Foundation.

There is no vice president, but the Executive Director is Bob Ricker, who is identified on the site as a long-time advocate for the shooting industry. But Mr. Ricker apparently had a change of heart somewhere, and now works for the other side. In a sworn deposition (this is again from Chris Cox) given on Sept. 27, 2005, in New York City’s suit against the gun industry, Ricker stated that his “biggest” client was the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence, and that another group he represents is Virginians for Public Safety, also an anti-gun group. Mr. Ricker stated that the AHSA is a client of his, and that he gets $3,000 per month to represent it.

John E. Rosenthal is President of the AHSA Foundation, and is the head of a Massachusetts group called Stop Handgun Violence. He is also a former member of the board of directors of Handgun Control, Inc.

Joseph J. Vince, Jr. is identified as a member of the ASHA Board of Directors. (The website does not say how many directors there are.) Mr. Vince is a former employee of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and currently runs a firm called Crime Guns Solutions, LLC, which analyzes and obtains information on firearms used in crime.

Jody Powell is the Co-Chairman of the AHSA Advisory Board. Mr. Powell was press secretary for President Jimmy Carter, whose administration managed to be both rabidly anti-gun and anti-hunting at the same time.

Right now, the AHSA is just beginning. According to Executive Director Bob Ricker, they intend work slowly and patiently and do most of their membership solicitation by mail, for which they have just raised the money.

The cost of joining the AHSA is $25. They may be what they say they are, and in any event, guilt by association is wicked and un-American. But as for me, I’d rather send $25 to the NRA and hope they siphon it to some of the cave dwellers and timber torturers and stream stranglers. I’d like to keep my guns, thanks very much.