Below you’ll find a brief Q&A I recently did with hunter and outdoor enthusiast Wes Siler. Mr. Siler caught my attention after writing an article calling for hunters to leave the nation’s preeminent gun-rights organization: The NRA.
I don’t agree with his call to action. Lemme be clear on that. But I was curious to learn more about Wes and his unique perspective. Too often, nowadays, we’re inclined to write off a fellow gun owner who doesn’t exactly agree with us as a chuckleheaded Fudd, instead of, well you know, having a reasonable conversation about our differences. The older I get the more inclined I am to do the latter, which I hope plays some small part in bringing the 2A community closer together.
Anyways, after reading the interview feel free to add your own thoughts below in the comment section. I’m interested in hearing your opinions on this matter as well.
S.H. Blannelberry: Before we get to your “controversial” article, for lack of a better word, entitled, “It’s Time for Hunters to Leave the NRA,” I think what a lot of people will want to know is where do you stand on the 2A? More specifically, do you support bans on commonly owned and widely popular modern sporting rifles? Do you own AR-15s? Do you support any gun control laws?
Wes Siler: I own an AR in 5.56 right now, and will probably build another one in a larger caliber this winter. I’ll also get a CCW permit (and a P365) for the first time later this year, now that I don’t live in California anymore. I believe that the second amendment was written to enable the individual to defend himself against a tyrannical government, foreign invasion, and from smaller threats, and do not support bans on any type of weapon or feature for that reason.
Having said that, gun control laws are inevitable, and ultimately are something that even the staunchest 2A supporters ultimately agree on at some level. It’s probably not a good idea to keep a bucket of hand grenades in the trunk of your car, for instance. And even Ted Nugent doesn’t want anyone but security carrying inside one of his concerts. Discussing ways in which we can work to make all of us safer (call it working towards a more perfect union) is something that the people who are invested in the gun industry, and who actually know a thing or two about guns, should be involved in. I see the gun world’s utter refusal to participate in any gun control legislation at all as an abdication of duty on their part. These regulations are going to get passed, and would heavily benefit from the input of experts if they’re actually going to be effective at preventing crime, rather than just burdening us lawful and responsible gun owners. If we continue to sit out this conversation, it will continue to take place without us.
S.H. Blannelberry: Okay, let’s talk about the article. You’re calling for hunters to leave the National Rifle Association because the NRA has evolved over the years from a marksmanship/gun safety organization to a fear-mongering political animal primarily doing the bidding of corporate interests (I’m paraphrasing your position, to be clear). While there’s little doubt that today’s NRA isn’t our daddy’s NRA, couldn’t I argue that the gun lobby, though imperfect, is still the best, most-effective organization when it comes to protecting our right to keep and bear arms?
Wes Siler: You paraphrase that excellently. As a patriot, I can’t look at one of Dana Loesch’s thinly veiled calls for violence in response to a political disagreement and not be angered and saddened. The rich, and corporations have successfully driven a wedge between the American people, and we should all be working towards unity, rather than falling for the con. Ultimately, our interests are all aligned. We want economic opportunity, freedom, and happiness. Painting that red or blue doesn’t change what those things are. Any organization or individual who attempts to manipulate you and I with fear and lies is nothing but our enemy.
S.H. Blannelberry: In 2013, on the heels of Sandy Hook, it was the NRA, after all, that beat back federal gun control legislation that would have placed bans on black rifles and magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds along with universal background checks. Same could be said after Parkland. No new major federal laws were enacted (minus a ban on bump stocks, of course). Those were huge victories for the pro-2A community. Which raises the question, where would we be without the modern NRA? Your thoughts?
Wes Siler: I’d argue that the well being of our children is much more important than how many rounds we get to carry in a magazine. I’d like to see all of us work towards making sure there’s no more Sandy Hooks or Parklands before I’d like to see any more insistence from the NRA that guns aren’t part of the problem.
S.H. Blannelberry: Furthermore, while the NRA has made small donations to GOP politicians who have called for privatizing public land isn’t that a lesser evil than supporting the alternative, Left-wing candidates who would like to completely repeal 2A rights or infringe upon? To be clear, the NRA does not, at least to my knowledge, support selling off public land to Big Oil. Sure, some of the candidates it supports do, but that’s not the gun lobby’s official position. Also, on a practical level and from a pro-2A perspective, wouldn’t you rather deal with another Mike Lee (R-Utah) or Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) versus another Schumer (D-NY) or Feinstein (D-CA) or Pelosi (D-CA) in Congress? Seems to me that Lee and Chaffetz would be more amenable to changing their tune on the public lands issue than Schumer, Feinstein, and Pelosi would be with respect to gun control.
Wes Siler: It’s really hard to track political donations right now. What’s publicly listed doesn’t add up to what’s being spent. So, the way I see it is that support is support. If the NRA financially sponsors a person’s campaign, and publicly endorses that person, then they are responsible for what the person then goes on to do. Why is the NRA calling Lee a friend of the hunter, when in fact he’s our worst enemy? There is no hunting without public land, yet he’s stated that he wants to destroy all public lands. There is not a middle ground there. And, by making guns a partisan issue, the NRA is making guns the enemy of half the country. Again, we need unity, not division. Ask yourself why the NRA is lying to you about this issue. A platform with merit does not require lies to support it.
S.H. Blannelberry: What I’m getting at is that instead of calling for a mass exodus from the NRA, shouldn’t we just put some pressure on Wayne and Chris to push back against those candidates who seek to hand over public land to the states? Wouldn’t this be more effective that fracturing the existing apparatus? Or do you think the NRA as currently constituted is beyond repair?
Wes Siler: It’s just too far gone. I can’t look at the platform of fear and hate and misinformation that the NRA is spreading and hold anything but animosity towards that organization. If guns are going to continue to be a part of our society, then we need a cogent argument for them, not just a bunch of crackheads trying to scare you into giving them $40.
S.H. Blannelberry: Lastly, the Russia thing doesn’t seem to bother many gun-rights supporters, at least from my reading of the situation. I feel like a lot of readers think, “So the NRA took donations from a handful of wealthy Russians using that money to help a pro-gun, pro-hunting president get elected. Big deal.” What do you say to gun owners and hunters who are unbothered by the Russia allegations?
Wes Siler: Putting foreign money into American politics is treason, plain and simple. There was a time when pro-gun, pro-hunting Presidents stood up against our enemies. What would Ronald Reagan have had to say about the Russians turning our politicians against the American people?
End of interview. Thanks to Wes for taking the time to correspond. So, what say you?