Outdoor writers' group responds to gun control op-ed from some senior members

A Huffington Post opinion piece led by the President Obama’s former wildlife boss sparked clarification from the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America.

Headquartered in Missoula, Montana, the OWAA is composed of some 800 individual members and about 200 supporting groups “from the broad, modern spectrum of outdoor beats, from shooting to camping, backpacking to kayaking, wildlife watching to mountain climbing.”

However, Dr. Brandon Shuler, the group’s executive director, wanted to make clear that the recent HuffPost op-ed penned by former U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Dan Ashe and co-signed by at least nine prominent OWAA members — including three former presidents of the group — was not endorsed by the organization itself.

“OWAA respects the rights of all individuals to express their opinions, but as an organization of professional communicators, we avoid advocacy on issues not related to journalism,” said Shuler in a release. “Some OWAA members may agree with points made in the letter. Some may not. But the letter’s content does not represent OWAA policy.”

The letter by Ashe advanced an agenda to curb gun violence through regulations that included outlawing the sale of all semi-auto rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 cartridges, a ban on gun sales to those under age 21, and a “no-fly/no-buy” law that would bar those on terror watch lists or with a mental illness recognized by the Social Security Administration from buying guns. Other suggested measures included a ban on bump stocks, mandatory and universal background checks, the institution of gun violence restraining orders 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,” said Ashe in the piece, saying, “There are simple, responsible solutions. No one should use hunters and hunting as an excuse to avoid pursuing them.”

The op-ed received condemnation in gun media circles with Lee Williams, a Sarasota Herald-Tribune editor who heads his regular The Gun Writer column, blasting the missive as perhaps “the worst piece of Fuddish propaganda I’ve seen in decades,” going on to describe the gun culture term at length. Similarly, Dan Zimmerman at The Truth About Guns described the Ashe open letter as “The Fudd Manifesto” while The Gun Mag’s Dave Workman branded it as “Fudd Fury,” a sentiment echoed by James Shepherd, editor of The Outdoor Wire.

In many cases, those critical of both the op-ed and OWAA’s tepid rebuke pointed to the 2005 schism in the organization over its lack of perceived support of the Second Amendment which triggered a number of members exit the organization and form the Professional Outdoor Media Association.

“It’s a pretty safe assumption that the war of words that had inflamed passions, fractured friendships, and split partnerships a decade ago has heated up again,” said Shepherd.

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