June 27, 2018
NSSF Q&A: U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter
Editor’s Note: We are pleased to post the latest of our occasional Q&A features with an elected official who supports hunting and the shooting sports. NSSF thanks U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) for agreeing to talk with us.
Who introduced you to hunting and the shooting sports, and at what age?
My father did. Since I was a small child, he and I would go hunting all the time. In California, they are bigger sticklers now, but back in the day, my dad would take me hunting when I was a kid, like a little kid younger than 10, and I would sit in a tree stand with him. We didn’t have a harness, we just got in the stand. I remember hanging out of the tree stand for dear life and a buck would come along.
I also remember my dad and me taking long drives to Colorado, driving all night. I remember when I turned 16 and finally got my driver’s license, my dad was so happy because he could sleep while I drove out to Utah, Colorado, Idaho, wherever we were going hunting. We put a mattress in the back of the Suburban and we would alternate, one of us sleeping and the other one driving, and the goal would be to get there as quickly as possible so we would have more time for hunting. I have carried the hunting tradition to my kids as well. My son and both my daughters got their hunting licenses when they were nine; they all know how to shoot. Whether it’s sitting in a car driving to a hunt or when you’re in the woods, you have no distractions, you’re focused on something and it’s just great family time to be together and bond.
What was your most recent shooting sports or hunting activity and with whom did you shoot?
The Shoot Out with the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, where I won the shooting competition, again. I’ve won the “Top Gun” Member of Congress three out of six times I’ve participated. I’m the best shooter in Congress, period.
Describe your favorite shooting sport/ hunting activity? Which hunt? Which gun? Where? What species?
Probably elk. I have a little Ruger 308 mountain rifle. It’s a super-small gun with a scope almost as long as the barrel is, and I enjoy going to Colorado hunting elk. I start at 6:00 in the morning, where there are hundreds of them bedded down in the woods, and I like a heavy snowfall where there’s no noise. That’s a great time.
Which piece of pending legislation related to the firearms industry is particularly important to you and why?
One that we have been working hard on is the reciprocity for spouses on military bases, which we finally had included in the most recent defense bill. So, if you are in the military from North Carolina and you are stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, you can get a gun because you have orders there for two years. It’s called “permanent changes of station.” For some reason, however, your spouse cannot. So, imagine, someone is going off to war and your husband or wife is sitting at home, by themselves, some with children, and regardless of what is happening, they cannot buy a gun. I think you should be able to. Spouses should have as much right as you do when you’re out defending our freedom.
What do you see as the challenges and opportunities for hunters and shooting sports enthusiast in this congressional session?
The biggest challenge now is for those people who do not live in the middle of the country or who don’t live in Texas, going out and finding a place to hunt. Finding a place to take your kids and having access to public lands on which you are allowed to hunt and shoot. Where I live in San Diego, there are hardly any options. Under eight years of Obama, there are almost no areas to go hunting in San Diego County; you are essentially forced to leave to recreate. That’s probably the biggest thing we can do is follow what President Bush implemented when he issued an executive order to federal agencies to create more opportunities for hunting on public lands. Secretary Zinke at Interior has followed suit and is trying to do this in San Diego and other places – give the land back to the people so we can use it for recreational hunting and shooting.
It’s interesting, out of the people who support wildlife conservation and keeping land beautiful, free and clean, a majority are hunters. I really think the problem lies with the fact that in many cases, particularly in California, we have lawyers and extreme environmentalists who have a specific agenda not to allow any access and prohibit any human interaction with public lands. On the other hand, you have hunters and conservationists who recognize that the lands are there for us to use, that recreation is a benefit for its conservation. One of the great things you can do is spend time outdoors with your family and your friends. It is inexpensive, it’s easy, it brings people together and it teaches people how to properly care for our national resources.
Is there anything you would like to say about your bill, H.R. 788, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act?
People need to understand that every time we as Americans buy ammunition or purchase guns, we are taxed above and beyond the normal taxes of other purchases. There is about a 10% tax that is supposed to go back into the system to provide hunters and shooting recreationalists with places and resources where they can shoot. They’re not doing this, for whatever reason. So what my bill does is take those taxes that we pay, when you buy ammo, when we buy guns, and mandates that that funding is actually going towards resources for those with those guns and those that hunt. We are mandating that the extra taxes we as hunters pay is actually used for the people who support the sport.
Are there any priorities you see for California in the future?
Allowing more hunting, period. Politicians, extreme environmentalists, lawyers, they’ve locked California down from many outdoor recreations, including off-roading, mountain biking, equestrian and, obviously, hunting and shooting. They don’t want to allow anything anywhere, period. I’ve even seen additional restrictions for those who want to train their dogs for hunting. They don’t like people or freedom in California, and it doesn’t make sense because the people pay taxes, we pay our part, and that money should be used for what the law intended and that’s to maintain more places for people to take their families to recreate and enjoy our natural resources.