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Thank you Mayor Bloomberg for the warm introduction.
You all are probably wondering, "What is AHSA? And "What is a gun rights organization doing at an event like this?"
Actually those are fair questions because probably more than a few of you didn't expect to see a representative of a gun rights organization attending this event. So I want to tell you a little more about our group and explain our goals and I think you'll see it's very appropriate, and even necessary, that the American Hunters and Shooters Association have a seat at this table and others like them.
We are a gun rights organization. But unlike the NRA, we are much more. ASHA was formed one and half years ago to help vigorously defend our constitutional right to keep and bear arms, promote safe and ethical hunting and shooting practices and fight to protect our precious natural resources.
AHSA's founders believe it is time to begin rebuilding respect for our hunting and shooting heritage which over the last thirty years has been tarnished by gun rights extremists. There is a place for us at the table when clear-headed policies and gun safety issues are being discussed.
I come here today to tell you what I know that there is huge disconnect between those that own guns in this country and those that do not and to talk about ways to build bridges. There are 70 million people that are gun owners. They live primarily in small communities throughout our land. As crazy as it may sound to you, these communities are armed to the hilt. They have a hunting and shooting heritage. Every weekend millions of gun owners from these communities go out and shoot their guns for sport lawfully and safely. These communities do not fear guns.
Typically, and unfortunately guns are often purchased illegally in these communities and travel great distances to your urban cities where they are used in horrific crimes. Gun rights organizations, particularly the NRA, tell the rural gun owners that guns purchased in their backyards and use in urban gun violence crimes are not their problem - it is the urban cities problem.
The NRA exacerbates this situation by insisting that your answer to gun violence is to ban guns. The NRA and others state that mayors and lawmakers in the cities are the enemy and to sit down with them is to sell out.
Most city residents do not own guns, they do not have a hunting and shooting heritage, and as a matter of fact they are frightened by guns. To the soccer mom who fears for the safety of her child, she sees the hunter as a problem and not a solution.
We see just the opposite.
We believe the law abiding hunter is the answer, is the solution. Our research tells us that gun owners want their gun rights protected but also want to protect our public lands and wildlife and support responsible gun safety policies. AHSA believes every law abiding citizen has the right to own a gun of their choice, but with that right comes a civic responsibility. All gun owners want all of our communities to be safe. We believe that criminals and terrorists do not have a constitutional right to own a gun. Our children should be safe where ever they may be.
AHSA comes here today to build an alliance. This is a first for a gun rights organization. We want you to respect and protect our gun rights. With that assurance, we are willing to provide the leadership to ask hunters and shooters to come to this table to find solutions to gun violence in your cities. We know it will be difficult, but it is a welcome opportunity to have a seat at this table. We may disagree with you on some of the issues, but that does not preclude us from working with you. We are prepared to help you. We also need help in another area.
A very important issue to hunters and shooters is the protection of our natural resources. Hunters, anglers and outdoorsmen feel our public lands are a precious resource that needs to be preserved. However, the Bush Administration policies have been to open these public lands and then sell them to large business interests. It is incredible that the NRA and gun rights organizations have been silent. The very groups that you think would be out there fighting for hunters anglers are absent.
We need a partner who will fight for our cause, the American cause. I firmly believe that if we, hunters and shooters, can assist you, the leaders of our nation's cities, in addressing the complicated issue of urban gun crime, you can help us and the millions of other hunters and shooters in our fight to prevent the wholesale destruction of our sporting heritage.
So I come before you today as president of a gun rights organization, the American Hunters and Shooters Association, seeking an alliance that will benefit both of us. Our goal is that one day, the soccer mom and hunter will see each other as allies, not enemies.