During this presidential campaign, we Montanans are going to hear some D.C. lobbyists and former elected officials saying some alarming things about guns. It's time to call these people out - and tell them to stop distorting the facts to scare us into ignoring the real issues for Montana's sportsmen and women.
The fact is, neither presidential candidate has plans to change gun laws in Montana. Barack Obama has clearly stated that he will protect the rights of hunters and law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport and use guns. He supports an individual's right to bear arms. And John McCain's record is not nearly as perfect as some people would like you to believe: McCain has a "C" rating from the National Rifle Association. The point is, don't be hoodwinked by falling skies and slippery-slope arguments. In four years, our gun safes will still be full.
Instead, we need an honest discussion about what is important to Montana gun owners. My family has lived in Montana for five generations. Hunting and fishing has been a way a life, and some of my favorite family pictures are Model T's loaded with majestic bull elk heads tied between the two front tires. Times have changed, but the world-class hunting and fishing remains.
Looking at the presidential candidates, Obama is the clear choice to uphold our time-honored traditions. He admits he didn't grow up hunting and fishing, yet clearly knows that our convictions run deep and our passion is true. Obama will be in Montana this week for the fifth time, and because he has asked Montana hunters and anglers for advice and listened to concerns, he has a platform that not only includes protection of our Second Amendment rights, but he also strongly supports wildlife habitat conservation and hunter-angler access.
One of my favorite bumper stickers says, "It's the habitat stupid." Montana has world-class hunting and fishing opportunities because we have world-class fish and wildlife habitat on private and public lands. Obama is solid on conserving fish and wildlife habitat. He believes oil and gas development should be done responsibly, balancing energy needs AND fish and wildlife habitat. He will fully fund the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, fulfilling the goal of "no net loss" of wetlands that maintain vast populations of ducks, upland birds and big game. He supports partnerships with private landowners to promote stewardship of land and water, and will fully fund the Farm Bill's conservation programs. Finally, he understands the threat of climate change to fish and wildlife, and will include support for state agencies to protect fish and wildlife in climate change legislation.
Public lands provide vital opportunities for all Montanans to hunt and fish, and Obama believes we must keep public lands in public hands. Montanans enjoy access to hunting and fishing opportunities on both public and private land. Whether it's a handshake agreement with a private landowner or Montana's highly successful Block Management Program, Obama believes we should promote these partnerships. He supports the "Open Fields" legislation that will provide funding for voluntary public access to private land programs.
If you like to hunt and fish, Barack Obama is the clear choice. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "The movement for the conservation of wildlife, and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources, are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." In November, you have a chance to exercise your democratic right. I'm excited to tell my newborn daughter that I cast my vote for someone who helped protect her opportunities to hunt and fish!
Land Tawney of Missoula has long been active in numerous Montana hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation organizations. He is a leader of MT Sportsmen for Obama.