March 2000

Gun Law Threatens Wildlife Causes

California wildlife programs will be dealt a serious blow if the Assembly passes a newly amended bill now in committee.

Assembly Bill 1010, introduced by Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-LA), would ban the distribution, drawing, or lottery of any firearm, component or ammunition at any California fundraising event. This is significant because nearly all California conservation organizations use sporting arms as prizes at their events.

“For a state that has a reputation for concern about the environment, California’s elected officials are close to selling their outdoors as well as their citizens down the drain,” said Bud Pidgeon, president of the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America (WLFA). The WLFA is a national advocacy group representing approximately 1.5 million sportsmen and sportswomen.

Tens of millions of dollars have been raised in California through sportsmen attending events in which funds raised directly benefit wildlife. Key to the success of these events are the firearm drawings.

Some of the largest and most effective organizations in the country hold fundraising events in California. These include the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and the Mule Deer Foundation, plus many more organizations.

Pidgeon added that firearm winners at these events currently must pass a background check before they are awarded their prize. Thus, this law will not help control any illegal trade in firearms. It will only divert millions of dollars away from critical wildlife habitat programs.

In response to this bill, WLFA is coordinating a coalition of conservation organizations, all of which will be hurt if this bill passes.

One leading coalition member is NWTF. It is credited with the successful reestablishment of wild turkeys in California and across the United States. The NWTF has 43 chapters in California alone. Most of these funds raised by NWTF come from banquets where firearm awards are the big draw.

“The bill will have a huge, negative impact on our ability to raise money for habitat improvements,” said Rob Keck, chief executive officer of NWTF.

“This ominous, anti-conservation bill is certainly on the fast-track,” said Pidgeon. “It will take work by the WLFA and other coalition members to derail it. We are confident, however, that the California legislature will see through this poor piece of legislation and vote it down.”

The object lesson in this fight is that once the regulatory ball starts rolling downhill, it will pick up every gun in its path. If you’re a hunter who once thought that “assault rifle” bans wouldn’t hurt your deer or bird hunting, you better wake up and smell the coffee.

-Todd Woodard