By Russ Thurman
The chaos seen in Washington, D.C. is establishing a new normal for the already tumultuous U.S. Capitol. It’s rare for a day to pass without a new blast of political near-insanity (okay, insanity) ripping through the City on the Potomac. Most of us are screaming, “Stop fighting. Get something done!” Understandable.
However, even amongst the chaos, there are good things happening in D.C., which have a positive impact on the firearm and outdoor industries. We can thank Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior, for a number of these encouraging advancements. In March, on his first full day in his new position, Zinke signed two secretarial orders.
The first (Secretarial Order No. 3346) overturned the Obama Administration’s ban of lead ammunition and fishing tackle used on Fish and Wildlife Service lands, waters and facilities. The second (Secretarial Order No. 3347) directed bureaus and agencies to immediately identify areas where recreation and fishing can be expanded.
In a welcome reversal of eight years of increased restrictions, the American people — and the industry — have an ally in the Department of Interior.
“Outdoor recreation is about both our heritage and our economy. Between hunting, fishing, motorized recreation, camping and more, the industry generates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity,” Zinke said upon signing his first orders. “Over the past eight years however, hunting and recreation enthusiasts have seen trails closed and dramatic decreases in access to public lands across the board. It worries me to think about hunting and fishing becoming activities for the land-owning elite. This package of secretarial orders will expand access for outdoor enthusiasts and also make sure the community’s voice is heard.”
Finally Being Heard
That “community” — Americans who enjoy the outdoors and the industries creating and supplying the products — is finally being heard.
In August, Zinke signed a proclamation declaring August National Shooting Sports Month — a direct support of NSSF’s National Shooting Sports Month.
Also in August, Zinke proposed opening or expanding hunting and fishing opportunities at 10 national wildlife refuges.
Zinke signed Secretarial Order No. 3356 in September, which “supports and expands hunting and fishing, conservation stewardship, improve wildlife management and increase outdoor recreation opportunities.”
In addition to the Zinke-driven initiatives, there is other news favorable to the industry coming out of D.C.
In May, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) began a major effort to urge the State and Commerce Departments to complete Export Control Reforms for the firearms and ammunition industry.
Mid-September, U.S. Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) introduced the Federal Firearms Licensee Protection Act of 2017. The act will strengthen the criminal penalties for thefts of firearms from retailers and impose mandatory minimum sentences.
“Our federal firearms licensees are some of the most law-abiding citizens in the country. We must correct lapses in our laws to prevent criminals from stealing their guns and threatening our public safety,” Russell said.
Fighting Political Battles
The positive movement of pro-industry initiatives on Capitol Hill doesn’t just happen. For the firearms industry, the “community’s voice” Zinke mentioned is the NSSF.
“The National Shooting Sports Foundation is deeply grateful to Secretary Zinke for this historic secretarial order,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, regarding the Secretarial Order No. 3356. “NSSF has worked closely with and in support of Interior Department officials on these priorities and the other positive steps announced today, which will serve to benefit current and future generations for years to come.”
It’s the same with every government/political initiative important to the industry. The NSSF, operating from an office on Capitol Hill, plays a major role in representing the industry in the halls of Congress and other government offices. That reach also extends to state and city legislatures.
In addition to the “positive steps” important to the industry, NSSF’s Government Relations team ensures lawmakers are aware of how proposed legislation can be, perhaps unknowingly, harmful to the industry. This is especially important when there is a rush “to do something” following horrific events such as the shooting in Las Vegas.
NSSF is to be highly commended for its many programs, with a special salute to NSSF’s team fighting political battles — even in the midst of chaos — in Washington, D.C.