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Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013

Issue of the Week: The Split Within the National Rifle Association

Plus: Hero of the Week

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The United States has more mass murders, gun violence and non-hunting guns than any other developed country in the world. We are all proud to be Americans, but most of us are sad and definitely not proud to be the home of the most mass murders. Legislative initiatives to reduce the murder rate are constantly attacked and blocked by the National Rifle Association (NRA) as attempts to take all of our guns away. As a result, we have not seen any successful legislative efforts to do something about gun violence since 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Congress allowed that ban to sunset during the George W. Bush administration. 

With the killing of 6- and 7-year-old children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and, about 10 days later, the shooting of firefighters trying to save people’s homes after an arsonist set them ablaze, a majority of Americans, according to recent polls, are beginning to realize something must be done. Unfortunately, the NRA once again is vowing to fight any changes in gun ownership policies.

In the past, the NRA’s defiance was usually enough to stop any legislation in its tracks, since not only Republicans but some Democratic legislators also support the NRA. And contrary to the NRA’s spin, no mainstream Democrat wants to ban legitimate hunting rifles or hunting itself. Hunting is and has always been part of the American culture.

However, this time things may be different. The NRA is experiencing a widening fissure within its ranks that has been there for years but was carefully hushed. The majority of the NRA members are average American sportsmen and -women from all occupations, nationalities and religions who simply like to hunt and want an organization that protects their hunting rights.

The NRA leaders, on the other hand, are basically right-wing political operatives who have hijacked the organization to push an extreme right-wing agenda that often has little to do with gun ownership. Yes, the NRA leaders support hunting rights, but they also support an array of right-wing policies that, at times, are diametrically opposed to the interests of hunters. NRA leaders support various reckless mining and extraction policies promoted by the big energy companies and the likes of the Koch brothers—those who despoil the very environment hunters want to protect so their children and grandchildren can enjoy the right to hunt on pristine lands. The current president of the NRA, David Keene, for example, is a University of Wisconsin graduate who does not come out of the sportsman/hunting world, but instead has been a highly paid conservative political operative for the past 45 years. He was chair of such extreme right-wing groups as the Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union.

When the NRA held their national convention in Milwaukee in 2006, the Shepherd Express featured a cover story on this split within the membership of the NRA, which has widened since the article ran. In response to this cover story, the Shepherd received many, many responses from the frustrated sportsman/hunter majority of NRA members saying that the NRA does not represent their politics. Yes, these members support the NRA’s efforts to protect a person’s right to hunt and own hunting rifles, but not the NRA’s policies that weaken the protection of the natural environment.

These latest mass killings have brought the gun issue to the fore, as well as the schism within the membership of the NRA. It also underlines the fact that the NRA does not have a fraction of the power that they have led many elected officials to believe.

It is time to call their bluff. It is up to us to let our elected officials know that there are many more people wanting to see policies like universal background checks for all gun purchases and an elimination of assault weapons and ammunition clips that are designed only for mass killing and not for hunting. Hunters don’t use assault weapons. Public sentiment is not with the leadership of the NRA, but rather with the average American voter, both hunter and non-hunter, who wants a safer and saner world.

Heroes of the Week: Citizens of Greater Milwaukee Helping in Search for Stolen Dog

Volunteerism comes in many different forms. This week, we are highlighting the individuals bringing hope and help to a Milwaukee couple as they deal with an unexpected crisis.

On Christmas Eve, four-month-old American Pit Bull Terrier MacGyver was snatched from his owner, Sarah Malchow, while she was taking him for a walk. One person grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground while another took her dog to a waiting car that quickly sped away. Since the kidnapping took place, Sarah and her husband Cory have been working around the clock to get word out about their stolen dog, but not without the help of perfect strangers.

In addition to Milwaukee citizens stepping forward, individuals from all over the Midwest and even across the globe are asking how they can help and offering words of encouragement and hope. Throngs of people have met numerous times with the Malchows to pick up flyers and distribute them around the greater Milwaukee area. Chani Schambow, a complete stranger to the family, created the Facebook page “Bring MacGyver Home” to help spread word about the pup—a page that now has more than 11,000 “Likes.” Schambow helps the couple monitor the site and its posts, making sure the correct flyers are being posted and accurate information is being circulated. In addition, the Malchows created a ChipIn account to help raise a reward fund for the safe return of their dog and the community has donated more than the family could have ever anticipated.

Cory Malchow says he is grateful to live in a large city with a small-town atmosphere. “When something happens in Milwaukee, everyone is going to help each other out in one way or another and I want to thank all who have given us encouragement, hope and have kept the fire burning,” he said. “We are so grateful.”

Thank you, Milwaukee citizens, for stepping forward in these trying times to help search and raise money not only for MacGyver, but for the countless other kidnapped and missing humans and animals. Your hearts are big and your help, in any way, truly does make a difference in our community. 

UPDATE: MacGyver was found and safely returned to his owners the evening of Jan. 16!
Here is what happened per the Malchows:

“We were about to call it a night on leads and checking out dogs when we got a call from a police station. A couple had just come in with a dog that looked very close to MacGyver. We went there and as we approached the station, we just knew it was him, and he got squirmy, so he recognized us as we walked through the door. This couple had bought him from two men at a gas station about two weeks ago. They wanted to rescue him and get him away from this situation since he looked a little roughed up. They took him in and took great care of him. Tonight, they saw our flier hanging up at a store, and knew their new addition was actually our dog. They immediately went home, grabbed the dog and went into the station. They told us if it had happened to them, they would want people to do the same and it was just the right thing to do. Their animals are their family too. We got it all confirmed with a scan of the microchip at the 24 hour vet clinic and now our little guy is resting comfortably on the couch next to us. Smart thinking on the part of the couple—since the situation was off in which they got him, they actually got a plate number and descriptions of the people selling him, plus the gas station video.”

For up-to-date information and fliers, visit facebook.com/BringMacgyverHome. If you have any information or leads, please call the Malchows at 414-617-9137 or the Milwaukee police. All leads will be looked in to and a hefty cash reward is being offered for MacGyver’s safe return home.