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Ray Schoenke

Letter to Eric Holder on Assault Weapons Ban

By Ray Schoenke at March 2, 2009 - 1:20pm

I thought I would share with all of you the letter I sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on February 26th:


February 26, 2009

Mr. Eric Holder    
United States Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Holder:

Congratulations on your appointment and confirmation as Attorney General of the United States.   I am writing to address your recent comments about the renewal of the federal assault weapons, which I read in The Hill today.   This raises grave concerns for me and other law-abiding gun owners.  I strongly urge you to reconsider this effort.

For the past four years, I have served as President of the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA).  We are a gun rights organization with a commitment to protecting our environment, preserving open spaces and keeping our communities safe.  Then-candidate Obama shared many of our views and we endorsed his candidacy last April.  I was honored to serve as a surrogate for the campaign.  Last fall, I spent a great deal of time talking to gun owners, many of whom were union members, on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket through over 40 appearances in Ohio, Minnesota, Florida and Colorado.  I also did a radio ad, which was broadcast nationally, and was featured in the campaign's direct mail.  Barack Obama's election was critically important for the future of our nation and to the million of gun owners, like me, who voted for him.

That is the reason I want to address the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which passed in 1994 in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and expired on September 13, 2004.  It is my understanding that the Obama administration continues to state its intention to reinstate that ban.  I would strongly encourage you to negate that effort. The assault weapons ban is an issue of great import to America's law-abiding hunters and shooters, who I represent through my role as President of AHSA.   But, this issue shouldn't be based on politics, it's about policy.

Most importantly, as studies have shown, the law had no measurable effect on crime reduction and created an easily avoidable template for gun manufacturers to work around. Instead, the law demonized lawful gun owners and became a lightning rod for a decade long public debate over gun crime that merely served to divert time and resources from our already over-burdened law enforcement agencies.  Frankly, it has been an unnecessary distraction.  Gun owners support efforts to keep our communities safe.  We just want those policies directed at the root cause of crime and violence and not just symbolism, which is how the Washington Post accurately described the ban back in 1994.

Since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban's enactment, the studies analyzing its effect showed there was no statistical significant evidence that it reduced gun crimes. In fact, two studies prepared for the United States government confirm that fact:  The Department Of Justice-funded study issued in July of 2004 titled "Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003" and the Center for Disease Control's Task Force on Community Preventive Services report "First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws" issued in October of 2003.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban's major thrust, which was based on a political compromise between competing bills in the U.S. Senate, was to ban the manufacture and sale of certain gun models that had two or more of the following features, considered by most to be merely cosmetic: pistol grip, folding/collapsible stock, flash suppressor/muzzle brake, large-capacity detachable magazine, bayonet mounting point, and a grenade launcher mounting point.  However, manufacturers just put these features on guns in variable combinations instead of using an "all-in-one" approach, meaning that post-ban guns sold were effectively duplicates of pre-ban guns with a mix and match of the isolated features.  The new law became a "charade."

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban also prohibited the production of large capacity ammunition feeding devices (clips) that carried more than 10 rounds. However, large pre-ban clips were always available, albeit with a higher price point, from dealers, on the internet, at gun shows, or from international sources (especially from former Warsaw Pact countries that had large quantities of AK-47 magazines of various capacities that could fit a variety of both pre-ban and post-ban AK-47 variants).   Again, the law was meaningless.

In addition, law abiding sport shooters, collectors, self-defense advocates and hunters who bought semi-automatic replicas of military ordinance felt they had become targets of over-reaching law enforcement agencies because of the demonization of their lawfully owned guns or what they thought was a lawful hobby. This caused a chilling of support for law enforcement by an untold number of citizens who would never imagine themselves as law-breakers, which is exactly the opposite response you would hope to get from legislation intended to fight crime.

Finally, since the ban was first enacted back in 1994, there has been a major development in the interpretation of the Second Amendment, which must also be considered.  The decision in Heller v. District of Columbia established the principle that citizens have the right to keep and bear arms.   The Supreme Court decision must guide your thinking as you proceed.

We share your commitment to reducing crime and gun violence.  We believe, as law-abiding gun owners, the way to do that is not by banning guns, but by making sure that criminals, terrorists and people who can harm themselves and others do not get guns.  Law-abiding gun-owners will overwhelmingly support your efforts along those lines.  Again, I applaud your long-standing service to our country and defense of the Constitution. I do however ask you work to ensure that any law enforcement legislation the administration proposes aimed at reducing gun crime in our communities will actually lower gun crime.  Policy considerations should dictate this decision.


Ray Schoenke, President
American Hunters and Shooters Association

Ray Schoenke

In 2008, NRA Shot Blanks. American Hunters and Shooters Hit the Target.

By Ray Schoenke at January 6, 2009 - 5:08pm

I just got back from spending the holidays with my family out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where I got in some great time with the grandkids. I was able to sneak out to the duck blind early in the mornings and do a little shooting.  That always gives me some time to think.  It's been a couple years since we started the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA).  And, I have to admit, it's exceeded my expectations especially as I look back at the last year and what we accomplished.  While I was out there I realized it has been just over a year since I wrote my first diary on DailyKos, on the subject of how global warming was impacting hunting.  This community has been very suppo rtive of our work.   So many of you share both my commitment to gun rights and my love for the environment.

It’s been a crazy year, especially because of the NRA leadership’s vow to spend $40 million to scare voters into defeating Obama and his so-called "gun-grabbing" cohorts.

Let me tell you straight out, the NRA failed. In 10 of the 11 states where the NRA Political Victory Fund's efforts against Obama were concentrated -- gun-friendly regions in states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico – they lost.  They got Texas right; McCain won, but was that state was ever in doubt?  Today, as the new Congress is sworn in, we're seeing a slew of new members who defeated NRA-backed incumbents and candidates.  And in House contests, NRA-backed candidates in pro-gun states, like Ed Tinsley (NM), Bill Sali (ID), Steve Chabot (OH), and Phil English (PA), also lost.

For their efforts, the National Journal (sub. req.) ranked the group #2 in their "Bottom Five" of effective political gr oups. On the plus side, the NRA’s histrionics and fear mongering tactics did succeed in bolstering gun sales after the election, which is a good thing in this dreadful economy.

So why is the NRA "shooting blanks" these days? Because they don’t get it. The landscape has changed. With the Supreme Court overturning the D.C. gun ban, our gun rights are secure and government confiscation is off the table. Now, we can actua lly talk about responsible gun laws, conservation, public access, global warming – and even the economy.  

My organization, AHSA, is dedicated to these issues, and when we looked at the two candidates running for president, we saw clearly that only one of them "got it," and that was Barack Obama.  Obama didn’t pretend to be a gun owner, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t understand the concerns of sportsmen. In addition, he is a constitutional scholar who agrees that gun ownership is an individual right, and he knows that guns are viewed differently in different parts of the country.

So we went all out for Obama, I was a fulltime surrogate for the campaign and did more than thirty campaign events in Ohio, Florida, Colorado and Minnesota.  The campaign aired a radio ad in the battleground states and a YouTube video that featured me, and sent direct mail with my face on it as we ll. AHSA also ran an extensive outreach campaign to dispel the myths and lies the NRA was promoting in the swing states. The AFL-CIO also touted our endorsement of Obama in mailers to gun owners in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Furthermore, our success against the NRA was mirrored at the congressional level, too.  We worked to educate folks about nine Senate and House candidates this year.  Seven won and their terms start today.  This includes Senate candidates Kay Hagan (NC), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Udall (CO) and Tom Udall (NM) and House Candidates Walt Minnick (ID-01), Harry Teague (NM-02) and Eric Massa (NY-29).  We also endorsed Delaware’s new Governor, Jack Markell.

At AHSA, we spent far less than the NRA’s $40 million dollars, but we didn’t campaign on fear. Time and time again the folks I met said they had enough of the NRA fear mongering and crying wolf. And as we move from the election into the inauguration of our new president, we are glad to see that the extreme right-wing agenda of the NRA has been exposed.  Folks are no longer buying their "snake-oil" style politics, and we are excited to see what change the Obama administration brings to our great country.  I've already met wi th the Obama transition team.  I'll do everything I can to make sure the new administration keeps our issues front and center.

Ray Schoenke

Obama and Gun Owners: Together a Winning Team

By Ray Schoenke at November 6, 2008 - 4:00pm

As a former professional football player, I always knew winning was much more fun. And, Tuesday’s election result was the most fun I’ve had in awhile.

First, I owe a big thanks to Plutonium Page for the post, The Left to Bear Arms, about guns and Democrats on Sunday. That post was spot on.

I don’t like to sit on the sidelines or in the stands. I always want to be in the game. And, this year, because the Obama campaign took outreach to gun owners and sportsmen seriously, we had to play in this game. The Obama campaign knew it had to work hard to get gun owners to listen and they were prepared to do the work. We had organized our team at the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) and we were ready when they called. I really want to congratulate my fellow members of "Sportsmen for Obama." The campaign not only supported us, but they listened, which was very important.

The campaign sent me to Ohio three times. I also went to Minnesota, Colorado and Florida. The campaign staffers in those states knew exactly what needed to be done and I’m honored to have worked with them. And, I’m even happier that those key states went to Obama.

Obama’s campaign staff left no stone unturned when it came to outreach to gun owners. In the key battleground states, they ran a radio ad – and did multiple mailings -- with me talking to gun owners. It worked. I kept talking to people who saw the mail or heard the ad. The message was clear: You can trust Obama on guns. Once that was understood – and it was understood -- gun owners were willing to look at other issues, like the economy. The success of the messaging is devastating to the NRA.

I’ve been saying for years that Democrats shouldn’t cede the gun vote to the NRA. There are over 80 million gun owners in the U.S. fewer than 3 million belong to that group. They do not speak for all of us – especially those of us who are Democrats, progressives and conservationists. That’s why I started the American Hunters and Shooters Association and why I’m ecstatic that Obama won.

Unions fought back too. I know. There were union people at just about every stop I did. But, that was especially true in Ohio where I got to work with members from the United Mine Workers, Building Trades. Plumbers and Pipefitters, the Teamsters and Sheetmetal workers. They didn’t cede their members to the NRA and it worked:

Guy Molyneux, a partner with Hart Research, noted that white men who are union members supported Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain by a margin of 18 percentage points, while for all white men, exit polls found they backed Mr. McCain by a 16 percent margin.

As for gun owners who belong to unions, he said they backed Mr. Obama by a 12 percent margin, while gun owners in the general public favored Mr. McCain by a 25 percentage points.

The leaders of the NRA launched vicious attacks on Obama, spending over $40 million. They thought they’d have a good opportunity to damage Obama’s campaign. But, they didn’t. Their ads were widely panned as misleading and dishonest. That’s their standard operating procedure – and this time, it failed. Their candidate lost. They didn’t deliver. I also took my fair share of incoming hits from the NRA and their toadies at the RNC. But, that was all just noise to me. In this game, if you’re going to talk it, you better be able to walk it.

But, I wasn’t listening to the attacks. I was playing to win because that is what matters. And, our team won!

Ray Schoenke

Gun maker lost job for supporting Obama

By Ray Schoenke at October 31, 2008 - 2:00pm

USAToday reported that Dan Cooper, founder and owner of Cooper Firearms, lost his job.  The reason: He's voting for Obama:

Montana gunsmith Dan Cooper has been ousted as chief executive of the rifle company that bears his name after pressure from gun owners who are angry that he is supporting Democrat Barack Obama.  

Today, on behalf of the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), I condemned the actions by the NRA and its cronies forcing Dan Cooper out.

The gun lobby's attempt to destroy a good man and small business owner, a loyal member of the gun fraternity, again reveals the desperate Joe McCarthy-like politics of fear that the NRA leadership and others put first.  They are trying to scare America's hunters and shooters into voting against Barack Obama -- but we have one thing to say: vote hope and not fear.

I have been campaigning in battleground states, including Ohio, Minnesota, Florida and Colorado for Barack Obama this fall.  I know first-hand that gun owners are voting for Obama. They know their gun rights are secure.  And they want a president who won't take their guns AND will focus on the economy and their jobs.  It's beyond appalling that hard-core gun activists would destroy the economic livelihood of a guy like Dan Cooper.  John McCain should be ashamed that his supporters have harmed a small business owner for political reasons.  That should never happen in the America.

Last year we witnessed what happened to prominent outdoor writer and commentator Jim Zumbo when he dared take a position contrary to NRA policy.  Now they are trying to do the same to Dan Cooper.

This is wrong, and rank and file gun owners who have no political ax to grind need to stand up, reject such underhanded tactics and have their voices heard. That's why AHSA was formed, to end this partisan bullying and to restore pride to the shooting sports.   This action against Cooper reinforces my commitment to making change happen by electing Obama - and by building an organization for hunters and shooters who are tired of extremism.

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