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The Million Mom Marchers have gone back to bothering school boards, and their antagonists, the Second Amendment Sisters, are probably at the range. The Democratic Party is tiptoeing around the gun issue–evidently, the 2000 election didn’t come down to just a few hanging chads but also to some ardent sportsmen alarmed by all the anti-gun talk. The conservation community, meanwhile, seems lethargic–they got much of what they wanted from a particularly portly Farm Bill. So where does all this leave the voting sportsman? Hopefully not up a tree on November 5, focused solely on the whitetail rut. Both houses of Congress are up for grabs.

It took just one turncoat to flop the power from Republican to Democrat in the Senate–currently 50-49-1. The balance of power is just as slight in the House of Representatives, where the parties are separated by six seats. A loss or gain of only a few seats could shift the power in either house. And in Washington, a slight margin is a big advantage, because the party with the majority runs the committees and, in large part, decides which bills make it to the floor for a vote.

Despite efforts by both parties to use congressional redistricting to create party-loyal seats, tight races between candidates ideologically opposed on firearm and conservation issues can be found all over the country (see sidebar, “Key Races in Your Region,” page 61, for specifics). However, don’t be duped into thinking these are purely partisan issues. Some Republicans don’t support sportsmen’s rights, while many Democrats do. It’s just that the Democratic Party, taken as a whole, leans more toward gun-control advocates and radical environmentalists than the Republican Party does (see sidebar, “Environmentalist or Conservationist,” page 62). This is where our Voter Guide comes in. We’ve spotlighted some of sportsmen’s friends and foes in Washington, focused on key races and issues and provided you with a chart that shows exactly where your current representatives stand.

Most organizations that compile voter guides or “scorecards” attempt to tell you whom to vote for, but we know that you can make up your own mind. Instead, our charts show how your representatives voted on gun rights and conservation issues, whether or not they’re members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and what organizations–NRA, Handgun Control Inc., etc.–they received money from. We only hope that you get to the polls on November 5…and that you don’t leave any chads hanging.

Our Voice in the Debate
Here is a scene that may seem out of place in the Beltway: Representative Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), looks into a Capitol Hill conference room packed with congressmen and officials from federal and state wildlife agencies and warns, “Anyone who doesn’t immediately take a seat will lose his hunting and fishing rights for two years.” The crowd stops swapping hunting tales and runs for seats faster than kindergartners playing musical chairs. And so begins another CSC breakfast meeting.

With 280 members in the U.S. House of Representatives and 50 in the U.S. Senate, the CSC is the biggest caucus in Washington. Run by two co-chairs (one Democrat and one Republican) in each house of Congress, and supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the CSC has used its collective strength to strip anti-hunting, anti-trapping and anti-fishing riders from dozens of bills.

On the day that Thompson called the rowdy crew to order, the CSC was present to discuss what they could do to halt the spread of chronic wasting disease (popularly known as “mad deer disease”). After the meeting, the legislators walked across the street to the Capitol Building and fought to allocate millions of dollars to combat CWD.

The Friends

_Legislators Who Lead the Way _
Chip Pickering, CSC Co-ChairBR> Last fall, with his four-year-old tugging on his sleeve and pointing, Representative Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) looked left in his home state’s woods and saw a 160-class whitetail. A short while later, four of his sons, ages 4 to 10, helped him drag the bruiser out. A tall, soft-spoken Mississipian, Pickering is that quiet guy who sat in the front row of class, the one with all of the books who always raised his hand. That’s the determination that Pickering has brought to Capitol Hill as co-chair of the CSC. He has quietly led the caucus to defeat bills like the one introduced by Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ) which would have prohibited the discharge of firearms within 1,000 feet of any federal land or facility. One of Pickering’s pet issues is HR 3477, a bill that would permit states to use administrative funds to pay for the processing and distributing of donated wild game to appropriate agencies (funding for this program was sliced from the 2002 Farm Bill).

**Mike Thompson, CSC Co-Chair **
As if the grip-and-grin photos with steelhead and geese on the walls in his Washington office weren’t enough of a show-and-tell, Representative Mike Thompson rushed to his desk and spread out photos of blacktail deer, wild turkeys and elk. By the pitch of his voice it was easy to tell that his passion is waterfowl, but then he said, “I’ve become a turkey-hunting addict. I tagged out last season and then I called in birds for all my friends.”

Thompson has worked for the past two years to rally congressmen on the Democratic side to support sportsmen’s issues. During his past term in Congress, he used his position’s might to pass the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act, a bill that now provides $600 million for salmon conservation in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

**The Anti-Extortionists **
At press time, a total of 228 congressmen and 38 senators were cosponsoring the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (HR 2037 in the House and S. 2268 in the Senate), a bill that would put a stop to politically motivated lawsuits aimed at firearms manufacturers.

Congressmen Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Chris John (D-La.) introduced the House version, and Senators Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho) introduced the bill in the Senate. The act is designed to stop municipalities from attempting to extort money from firearms manufacturers. (See chart, “Where They Stand,” at right, to find out if your representatives back this bill.) The bill would not protect gunmakers from liability claims; instead, it would stop lawsuits that have been compared to suing fast-food chains for high cholesterol or beer breweries for alcoholism.

**Hunting’s Access Hero **
In the Clintonian world, it turns out that words other than is are also up for interpretation. As Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) found out, the word save can be quite slippery as well. President Bill Clinton said he “saved” 410,000 acres when he used the Antiquities Act to usurp land from the Bureau of Land Management and add it to the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. In this case, it turns out that Clinton “saved” those acres from those ardent anti-environmentalists: the ranchers and hunters. The move gave management authority of the 410,000 acres to the National Park Service, which closed the land to hunting. To undo the damage, Simpson wrote HR 601 to redesignate the 410,000 acres as the Craters of the Moon National Preserve. The bill passed through both houses and at press time was waiting to be signed into law.

Fishing’s Freedom Fighter
In a world where microchips are measured in nanometers and scientists have deciphered the human genome, is it too much to ask for fishing regulations to be based on science? In California and in areas along the East Coast, apparently it is. No-fishing zones have turned up, sometimes encompassing huge swaths of shoreline, and in many cases no one has a good reason why. In the Freedom to Fish Act (HR 3547), Representative Colin Peterson (D-Minn.) has written that “the closed area (can be) no larger than that which is supported by the best available scientific information.”

The Foes
_The Gun-Show Antagonists _
Boil down the Gun Show Background Check Act of 2002 (S. 890 in the Senate and HR 4034 in the House) and you’ll find the NRA and Americans for Gun Safety (a pro-gun-control group that is now paying for television spots to build support for the act) both agree that background checks should be mandatory for all firearm purchases at gun shows. The contention here is that the NRA wants background checks to be completed within 24 hours, while Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the primary sponsors of the act in the Senate, want the checks to take several days. Because most gun shows take place over weekends, there wouldn’t be enough time for vendors to complete the checks–a fairly sneaky way to do away with gun shows. The act also has registration and licensing requirements that make the IRS look paperwork-friendly by comparison.

Gun Database Proponents
In an attempt to open the door for the government to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to create a database of American gun owners, anti-gun Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Use NICS in Terrorist Investigations Act (S. 1788) three months after the September 11 attacks. The act would give law-enforcement agencies access to NICS records in criminal and terrorist investigations. (After the September 11 attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft blocked the FBI from using NICS records.) At press time, the act was stalled in committee. Besides Schumer and Kennedy, cosponsors for the Act include Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ).

Legislation Worthy of Note
_ A Big Helping of Conservation _
The prize pig of the past congressional cycle was the 2002 Farm Bill (otherwise known as the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002). With an additional $73.5 billion in spending over the next 10 years, the bill gives extra heft to the phrase “pork-barrel politics.” However, legislators did carve out a generous helping for conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which has been credited with growing duck, pheasant and deer populations all over the country by paying farmers to leave land idle, has grown from 36.4 million acres to 39.2 million acres, and funding is set at $1.517 billion through 2007. The Farm Bill doubles the Wetland Reserve Program’s acreage cap to 2.2 million acresine, and in many cases no one has a good reason why. In the Freedom to Fish Act (HR 3547), Representative Colin Peterson (D-Minn.) has written that “the closed area (can be) no larger than that which is supported by the best available scientific information.”

The Foes
_The Gun-Show Antagonists _
Boil down the Gun Show Background Check Act of 2002 (S. 890 in the Senate and HR 4034 in the House) and you’ll find the NRA and Americans for Gun Safety (a pro-gun-control group that is now paying for television spots to build support for the act) both agree that background checks should be mandatory for all firearm purchases at gun shows. The contention here is that the NRA wants background checks to be completed within 24 hours, while Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the primary sponsors of the act in the Senate, want the checks to take several days. Because most gun shows take place over weekends, there wouldn’t be enough time for vendors to complete the checks–a fairly sneaky way to do away with gun shows. The act also has registration and licensing requirements that make the IRS look paperwork-friendly by comparison.

Gun Database Proponents
In an attempt to open the door for the government to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to create a database of American gun owners, anti-gun Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Use NICS in Terrorist Investigations Act (S. 1788) three months after the September 11 attacks. The act would give law-enforcement agencies access to NICS records in criminal and terrorist investigations. (After the September 11 attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft blocked the FBI from using NICS records.) At press time, the act was stalled in committee. Besides Schumer and Kennedy, cosponsors for the Act include Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ).

Legislation Worthy of Note
_ A Big Helping of Conservation _
The prize pig of the past congressional cycle was the 2002 Farm Bill (otherwise known as the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002). With an additional $73.5 billion in spending over the next 10 years, the bill gives extra heft to the phrase “pork-barrel politics.” However, legislators did carve out a generous helping for conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which has been credited with growing duck, pheasant and deer populations all over the country by paying farmers to leave land idle, has grown from 36.4 million acres to 39.2 million acres, and funding is set at $1.517 billion through 2007. The Farm Bill doubles the Wetland Reserve Program’s acreage cap to 2.2 million acres

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