President Obama’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administrator joined with a group of outdoor writers and photographers to pen an editorial calling for a number of new gun restrictions.
Former FWS Director Dan Ashe was among a dozen public figures to sign an opinion piece published last week by the Huffington Post entitled “An Open Letter From Hunters About Gun Reform.” In the letter, the group argues that 10 steps are needed to “address America’s crisis of gun violence,” while keeping abreast of the Second Amendment.
“We do not need AR-15s or any assault-style weapon to hunt game. That’s not to say some people won’t use them to hunt. But they are simply not necessary, and are actually not preferable for legitimate, fair-chase hunting,” the group said.
Besides outlawing the sale of all semi-auto rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 cartridges with exceptions for .22s, the signatories propose a ban on gun sales to those under age 21 — despite a federal survey conducted by Ashe’s own agency that found some 1.2 million hunters are under the age of 25.
The group also supports a “no-fly/no-buy” law that would bar those on terror watch lists or adjudicated with a mental illness by the Social Security Administration from purchasing guns, both policies that have been slammed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights organizations as unfair and discriminatory. Ashe also argued for a ban on bump stocks, mandatory and universal background checks, institution of gun violence restraining orders — which have been criticized by gun rights advocates as trampling on due process protections — and increased federal gun research.
“(I)n comparison to the 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have been stripped of all of their rights, and of life and liberty, it is a small price to pay,” concluded the piece, saying, “There are simple, responsible solutions. No one should use hunters and hunting as an excuse to avoid pursuing them.”
Ashe, who was in charge of FWS from 2011 to 2017, left his post with a last-minute directive to require the use of “nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable” on lands and waters controlled by the agency, a move questioned by sportsman lobby and gun industry trade groups. Overturned by President Trump’s new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke two months later, a partisan House Oversight Committee probe concluded that Ashe’s directive was compiled in a non-standard process bypassing other senior agency members without public comment and was an overstep of his authority.
Ashe is now head of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Since heading the group, AZA has sparked a buzz by having Wayne Pacelle, then-chief of The Humane Society of the United States, speak at their annual conference last year, a move considered controversial by some opposed to the HSUS, an organization often seen as being anti-hunting. Among the Humane Society’s past efforts have been drives to end the use of traditional ammunition on public lands.
Other signers to the letter included journalist Ted Williams — who has at times been at odds with both feral cat advocates and the NRA while supporting Obama-administration conservation efforts, wildlife photographer Leonard Lee Rue, sage-grouse champion Brian Rutledge, author and photographer Mike Furtman and Florida marine biologist Kris Thoemke.