A Day Late and a Dollar Short

I just received an email from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. You remember them, they’re the outfit represented by Lawrence Keane – senior vice president and general counsel. It was Mr. Keane who was quoted in the New York Times after last week’s Wisconsin murders I wrote about below in Birchwood, Wisconsin is Not Hungerford, England. I sent a rather pointed email to Mr. Keane on the day the NYT piece came out. I suppose that’s why they responded to me. Well, Gary Mehalik responded. Mr. Keane did not.

It seems the NSSF has an email newsletter, and the most recent one is out. My email came from – well, let me just quote it to you:

Original Message —–
From: Gary Mehalik
To: [email protected]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2004 9:45 AM
Subject: Wisconsin Massacre

I understand your concern regarding NSSF and hope the clarification provided in our weekly newsletter, Bullet Points (attached below), will address those concerns. Please contact me any time you have questions about firearms design, marketing or recreational/hunting use.

Gary G. Mehalik
Director of Communications
National Shooting Sports Foundation
11 Mile Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
(203) 426-1320
(203) 426-1245 FAX

And here’s the text of the newsletter concerning the Wisconsin murders:

The criminal attack on a group of Wisconsin hunters that left six dead and two others wounded is being exploited by prohibitionists seemingly anxious to use the incident as an excuse to limit the freedoms of responsible American gun owners.The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for companies that make, import and sell firearms and ammunition and many other products used for hunting and in recreational shooting by approximately 40 million Americans.
NSSF supported the recent expiration of the so-called “assault weapon ban” in federal law by explaining to legislators, the media and the public that semi-automatic firearms resembling military-issue guns have long been widely used for target shooting and, where appropriate, for hunting. When the ammunition a gun shoots is suited for the game hunted, military-style semi-automatics are perfectly legal to hunt with under the laws of most states. Pennsylvania, as an exception, does not allow hunting with semi-automatic rifles of any sort, but most other states do. Many also provide for hunting with handguns as well as with shotguns.
The 7.62 X 39mm rifle reportedly involved in this incident shoots a thirty-caliber bullet that performs ballistically similar to the .30-30 deer hunting cartridge commonly used for about a hundred years in lever action guns. Among high-power ammunition, both the .30-30 and the 7.62 X 39 cartridges are capable of reliably taking deer-sized game at moderate distances up to 100-150 yards.

Reporter Steve Wideman in The Post-Crescent newspaper in Appleton, Wisconsin, reports SKS rifles like the one reportedly carried by the alleged murderer are commonly used by deer hunters in that part of the country.

That’s it.

Here’s what I sent Mr. Mehalik:

Mr. Mehalik:

I’m sorry, but I’m afraid the weekly newsletter did NOT “address my concerns.” It made absolutely no mention of the comments of Lawrence Keane, as quoted in the New York Times. There was no admission of error, nor any retraction by Mr. Keane. The CONCERN was that Mr. Keane – “senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation” – shot gun-rights supporters in the foot, and that the anti-gun forces would run with his comments – and they have.

The Brady Campaign was the first I am aware of to have used Mr. Keane’s words against us. Let me quote:

The SKS rifle apparently used by the hunter to kill six other hunters in Wisconsin Sunday wasn’t banned under the Federal assault weapons ban that expired September 13, but it should be banned for civilian use. Designed for use in war, even the gun industry admitted yesterday that it’s not intended for hunting.
It may, in fact, be the first time the official spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation has admitted that any military-style semiautomatic assault rifle is inappropriate for hunting. Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the group, went further, and even told the New York Times that the SKS isn’t a humane weapon for hunting deer. “The reason the SKS is not used by hunters, Mr. Keane said, is that it is designed for combat soldiers and is therefore underpowered for killing an animal like a deer with a single shot, the goal of good hunters,” The Times wrote. “‘The ethics of hunting are you don’t want the animal to suffer needlessly,’ Mr. Keane said.”
Prior to the expiration of the assault weapons ban, the industry’s spokespersons were unified in describing these types of weapons as perfectly normal for use by hunters. It was one of the industry’s main arguments for letting the ban expire.

Not mentioning Mr. Keane’s involvement in this is not acceptable. Your newsletter blurb is not enough to whitewash over his comments, especially given that his comments aren’t even mentioned. A personal retraction or explanation (I’d be FASCINATED to hear an explanation) is – at minimum – what would “address my concerns.”

I’m not fond of situations where gun-rights supporters “eat our own” – but Mr. Keane’s comments were ridiculous and fundamentally stupid.

Further, that was not a “hunting tragedy.” A “hunting tragedy” would have been an accidental death or wounding. This was a deliberate act of multiple murder.

Let’s see if THAT draws any additional response.

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