NRA-ILA executive director supports Sportsmen’s Act

As part of a new feature in the Waterfowl Advocate, Ducks Unlimited will interview DU members, partner organizations and Members of Congress about key public policy priorities each month.

Chris Cox is the executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). He spoke with Ducks Unlimited about the effect of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S.3525) on hunters.

DU: You’ve been the executive director of the NRA-ILA since 2002. Can you give us a little of your background and what the difference is between the NRA and NRA-ILA? 

Chris: The NRA Institute for Legislative Action was founded in 1975 as the lobbying arm of the NRA. When people think of the NRA as a lobbying organization, they're really thinking of NRA-ILA. We work in the D.C. area and around the country on lobbying, litigation, political organizing and policy research to protect the rights of gun owners and hunters.

Personally, I'm a lifelong hunter and shooter from west Tennessee. Before I became Executive Director, I was a federal lobbyist for the NRA-ILA, and before that I worked on sportsmen's issues as a congressional staff member.

DU: The NRA-ILA asked members to contact their Senators to urge support of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S.3525) in September. What will it do for sportsmen?

Chris: The Sportsmen's Act, S. 3525, is actually a compilation of 19 different bills that cover everything from land access for hunting, to range construction, to fish habitat provisions. The common element is that everything in the bill is designed to increase opportunities for hunters, shooters and anglers, or to reduce regulations that get in the way of enjoying the outdoors. More information about the provisions of The Sportsmen’s Act is available at www.NRAILA.org.

DU: Can you prioritize NRA’s legislative priorities in the bill?

Chris: 1. The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act – This is the most important provision because it makes absolutely clear that ammunition, ammunition components, and fishing equipment are exempt from regulation by the Environment Protection Agency under the Toxic Substances Control Act. As waterfowl hunters have known for a long time, alternatives to traditional lead projectiles are a lot more expensive and often a lot less effective. We need this provision because anti-hunting extremist groups have filed multiple petitions with the EPA to ban fishing sinkers and the use of lead ammunition for all purposes, not just for hunting. Those petitions have been rejected, but the groups use the administrative rejections as an excuse to sue the agency in pursuit of the same restrictions.

2. Making Public Lands Public -- This section requires that 1.5% of the annual Land and Water Conservation Fund budget is made available to secure, through rights-of-way, or the acquisition of lands, or interests from willing sellers, recreational public access to existing federal public lands that have significantly restricted access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes.

3. Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act -- This section makes more funds available for a longer period of time for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges. The bill encourages federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain shooting ranges.

4. Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act -- This section would grant the Secretary of the Interior permanent authority to authorize any state to issue electronic duck stamps. It also outlines electronic duck stamp application requirements.

DU: Does NRA plan to score the Senate bill; why or why not?

Chris: The NRA-ILA will score the bill. It is one of the strongest sportsmen's packages to come before the Senate in the last decade, and it contains similar pro-hunting provisions that were in the House bill HR. 4089 which we scored earlier this year.

DU: How do the NRA’s legislative priorities mirror those of national sportsmen’s groups, like DU?

Every group has a different emphasis, but overall, sportsmen's priorities are our priorities. We have several full-time staff working on hunting, conservation and land issues and they regularly work with DU and other groups to promote our common interests.

DU: What can sportsmen do to help ensure the Sportsmen’s Act is signed into law?

Chris: Sportsmen can help by contacting their senators -- by phone at (202) 224-3121, or by email, using the "Write your Representatives" tool at www.NRAILA.org or at www.ducks.org