American Hunters and Shooters Association
The American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), founded in 2005, was a small United States-based non-profit group, which has set itself apart from other gun owner organizations by advocating for increased gun control. Critics questioned the legitimacy of the group, including whether the membership was composed of or representative of gun owners, or was merely a front organization for misleading political endorsements. The group endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008 after announcing that he would be attending a skeet shoot sponsored by them in Colorado. However AHSA head Ray Schoenke stated Obama did not attend the event. Schoenke said AHSA was intended to bridge the gap between urban liberals and rural gun owners and did many events in support of Obama, but had to close down due to a lack of membership.
The AHSA described itself as "... a national grassroots organization committed to safe and responsible gun ownership" and "... a mainstream group of hunters who are looking to belong to a gun owners association that doesn't have a radical agenda." According to information from a 2005 deposition, the group had fewer than 150 dues-paying individual members.
The AHSA billed itself as a moderate, common-sense advocacy organization. It favored most restrictions on firearms, but believed that little progress will be made until gun owners are allowed to bring their common-sense perspective to the table. In March 2008, Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke stated that he saw his organization's issues "as complementary to" those of the AHSA. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun organizations criticized the AHSA for its members' associations with other gun-control organizations and gun-control legislation. NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox characterized the AHSA as "the latest front group for the anti-gun movement."
Despite the similarity in name, AHSA had no ties to the field marksmanship promoting organization, the Hunter's Shooting Association(HSA).
In June 2006, Executive Director Bob Ricker formally introduced AHSA at a press conference at the annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mr. Ricker proclaimed at this conference that the NRA and other 2nd Amendment rights organizations did not address the specific concerns of hunters - protecting hunting lands and wildlife habitats - which led to the creation of AHSA. In 2007, President Ray Schoenke addressed the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. As of October 19, 2010 The AHSA website has been taken down. President Schoenke stated that the group was closed because of lack of membership.
The AHSA web site indicated four general programs:
- "Protecting our sporting heritage"
- "Hunting and fishing conservation"
- "Gun safety"
- "Law enforcement training, outreach and development"
The leaders of the AHSA were:
- Ray Schoenke, Founding President. A former football player for the Washington Redskins, Schoenke ran for Governor of Maryland in 1998 as a Democrat. He is a millionaire and has contributed to numerous Democratic politicians and causes. Schoenke has donated to Handgun Control, Inc., which actively lobbies to ban some types of firearms, and he was on the Maryland Governor's Commission on Gun Violence in 1996.
- Joseph J. Vince, Jr., a member of the Board of Directors is the former chief of the BATF's crime guns analysis branch. Currently, he is a principal of Crime Gun Solutions. Crime Gun Solutions has worked for the Brady Center, providing data analysis supportive of the Federal Assault Weapons Act, and has provided ballistics evidence and analysis in lawsuits against firearm dealers. He was a signer on a letter submitted to Congress opposing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
- Jody Powell, co-chairman of the AHSA Advisory Board
- A. Austin Dorr, co-chairman of the AHSA Advisory Board
Endorsement of political candidates
The AHSA endorsed the following Congressional candidates:
- Jim Esch [D] (Nebraska - District 2)
- Eric Massa [D] (New York - District 29)
- Walt Minnick [D] (Idaho - District 1)
- Harry Teague [D] (New Mexico - District 2) - Harry Teague's campaign declined the endorsement.
Position in D.C. v Heller (2008)
AHSA joined in the amicus curiae brief of Maj. Gen. John D. Altenburg, Jr., et al., in the Supreme Court case of D.C. v Heller, arguing that the individual right of the people to keep and bear arms enhances the collective goal of supporting national defense, and that the dichotomy between individual right argued by Heller and collective militia right argued by D.C. is false: the Second Amendment protects both.
- In August 2005, the gun-rights group, the National Rifle Association, said about the AHSA "they want to allow the FBI to keep records on law-abiding citizens who buy guns and put an end to gun shows as we know them. Not to mention the fact that they want to regulate .50 caliber rifles in the same way that machine guns are regulated."
- ASHA officials testified in favor of gun control legislation, such as Washington State Bill SB-5197, which aims to restrict private transactions at gun shows and create a database of gun owners.
- ASHA supported the call by the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts gun trace data to legitimate law enforcement investigations. Repeal of the amendment is supported by more than 20 national and state police organizations  but opposed by the BATFE and Fraternal Order of Police, on the grounds that repeal would jeopardize lives and law enforcement operations.
- Two of the AHSA endorsed candidates for Congress received low ratings by the NRA, with Massa receiving a "C" and Minnick a "D+". Only one AHSA endorsed candidate, Teague, has received an "A" rating from the NRA. However, this was an "AQ" rating which means it is based solely on the NRA questionnaire. The grade disparity between the organizations is large enough to be called into question.
- The AHSA claimed to be a non-partisan organization.
- In 2008, the Obama campaign paid for Shoenke to travel to 40 events in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Colorado to address pro-gun voters.
Gun control activities of AHSA leadership
- Bob Ricker, former Executive Director of the AHSA, was a former NRA employee who began supporting some groups advocating restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms and has testified as an expert witness against the firearms industry in multiple court cases.
- John E. Rosenthal, a founding member of AHSA who left in 2007, is one of the founders of Stop Handgun Violence, a group which has been influential in instituting strong restrictions on the ownership of firearms in the state of Massachusetts.
- Schoenke has donated over $10,000 to the Brady Campaign, a national organization which advocates strong restrictions on the ownership of firearms and the banning of many common types of firearms.
- "Meet the American Hunters and Shooters Association". Field and Stream. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
- "American Hunters and Shooters Association Screech". SayUncle (blog). Retrieved February 15, 2012.
- Glenn Kessler, "The White House’s curious silence about Obama’s claim of skeet shooting", Washington Post, Fact Checker, 31 Jan 2013.
- "AHSA Programs". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). Archived from the original on 25 October 2008. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
- Robert Ricker. Deposition before the United States District Court For the Eastern District of New York, City of New York vs. Beretta USA Corp. et al., September 27, 2005
- Ray Schoenke (2008-09-19). "American Hunters and Shooters Association Responds to its Critics". NewWest Travel and Outdoors - Guest Commentary. Archived from the original on 22 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-07. "Ray’s wife Nancy is also connected politically. Like many wives of gun owners she is an independent thinker and does not like guns. She took a seat on the board of the Brady Campaign but soon became frustrated with the group’s lack of progress. Ray told her that progress would not be made until gun owners were allowed to bring their common sense perspective to the table. As a result, Nancy closed the family checkbook, resigned from the Brady board, and encouraged Ray to start AHSA."
- Birnbaum, Jeffrey H. (2008-03-18). "New Pro-Gun Group Hopes to Draw From the NRA". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- Chris W. Cox (2006-08-14). "Anti-Gunners Don Camo As Elections Loom". National Rifle Association - Institute for Legislative Action (self-published). Retrieved 2008-11-08. "Seeking to pick up the baton dropped by the ham-fisted Americans for Gun Safety, the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) has arrived on the scene to become the latest front group for the anti-gun movement in America."
- Bill Schneider (2006-06-21). "Saving Hunters From the NRA". NewWest Travel and Outdoors. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Bill Schneider. "NRA Does Not Represent Both Hunters and Gun Owners". Tony Dean Outdoors - Issues. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Ray Schoenke. "Speech by Ray Schoenke, President of the American Hunters and Shooters Association, at the Mayors' Against Illegal Guns 2007 National Summit (transcript and video links)". Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- "AHSA Programs". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Amy Argetsinger (1998-01-20). "Against Long Odds, Ex-Redskin Is Ready to Challenge Glendening". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- "Open Secrets - Donor Lookup: Find Individual and Soft Money Contributors". Center for Responsive Politics - OpenSecrets.org. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Brian J. Siebel, et al. (March 2004). "The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Act". Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (self-published). Archived from the original on 13 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- Elizabeth S. Haile, et al. (September 2006). "Lethal Lou's - Profile of a Rogue Gun Dealer: Lou's Loan". Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (self-published). Retrieved 2008-11-11.[dead link]
- "GovTrack: House Record: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (109-h20051020-23)". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- Ray Schoenke (2008-04-16). "Hunters and Shooters Support Obama: He "Gets It"". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) Endorse Obama for President". PRNewswire-USNewswire. 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "American Hunters and Shooters Association Endorses Jim Esch for Congress". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "American Hunters and Shooters Association Endorses Eric Massa for Congress". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). 2008-10-21. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "American Hunters and Shooters Association Endorses Walt Minnick for Congress". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "American Hunters and Shooters Association Endorses Harry Teague for Congress". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "Knowing who & who NOT to vote for – courtesy of the AHSA front group…". N.U.G.U.N. – New User of Guns. November 3, 2008. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
- District of Columbia v. Heller amicus curiae of Maj. Gen. John D. Altenburg Jr., et al.
- "Sometimes the Enemy Wears Camouflage". National Rifle Association, Institute for Legislative Action (self-published). Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- "Senate Bill Report of SB-5197". Washington State Senate Committee On Labor, Commerce, Research & Development. 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2008-11-08. "This bill represents the first step to restricting private arms sales in this state. This bill stands for a registration database of Washington gun owners...If this bill became effective, private firearm transactions brokered at gun shows could not be completed until several days after the event ends."
- "14 Mayors from Ohio and Kentucky Join Bi-partisan Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns". Mayors Against Illegal Guns. April 12, 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
- "What Police Say". Protectpolice.org. January 1, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
- Chuck Canterbury, National President of the FOP (2007-04-19). "Letter to Appropriations Subcommittee in support of Tiahrt Amendment". Fraternal Order of Police. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Michael A. Battle, Former Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (2007-02-06). "Letter to John Feinblatt". US Department of Justice - Executive Office for the United States Attorneys. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- "NRA Candidate Grades and Endorsements (requires search parameters)". National Rifle Association - Political Victory Fund (self-published).
- Horwitz, Sari; Grimaldi, James V. (2010-12-15). "NRA-led gun lobby wields powerful influence over ATF, U.S. politics". The Washington Post.
- "AHSA Press Release - John Rosenthal no longer with the American Hunters & Shooters Association (AHSA)". American Hunters & Shooters Association (self-published). 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- "Stop Handgun Violence: Press Releases". Stop Handgun Violence. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- "FEC Individual Contribution Search Results (search parameters: Schoenke, Ray)". Federal Election Commission. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- "Find Individual and Soft Money Contributors (search parameters: Schoenke, Ray (donor), Handgun Control Inc (recipient))". OpenSecrets.org. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- Sometimes the Enemy Wears Camouflage, NRA statement on AHSA, August 14, 2005
- Chris W. Cox, "Anti Hunters Don Camo As Elections Loom", NRA-ILA Executive Director, August 14, 2006
- "The American Hunters and Shooters Association" Gun Law News
- "Wayback Machine" entry for American Hunters and Shooters Association Internet Archive
- Introducing the American Hunters & Shooters Association, YouTube video link