American Hunters and Shooters: Another faux gun group bites the dust

In 2000, billionaire Andrew McKelvey committed more than $12 million toward the creation of the "Americans for Gun Safety." McKelvey had always donated to Handgun Control Inc., but eventually decided that the gun control movement's best chance of success was going to come about by fooling Americans into thinking they were actually pro-gun.

"I told them that Handgun Control was the wrong name. I thought what they were doing was great but I thought it could be done differently," McKelvey once told Reuters News Service.[1] (Handgun Control Inc. did eventually take McKelvey's advice, and changed its name to The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)

McKelvey's AGS lasted just a few years, having failed in its mission to disguise its gun control agenda in poll-tested language.

But other gun control outfits decided to try McKelvey's strategy.

The anti-gun Joyce Foundation, which once counted Barack Obama among its board of directors, began funding the "Freedom States Alliance," a network of state level gun-control groups which promoted a blog under the equally misleading name "Gun Guys."[2] The once active blog has gone from several posts a week to having not had even one post since August 5, 2010, and FSA itself has also disappeared.[3]

Now, much like the now-defunct AGS and FSA, as well as the inactive GunGuys blog, it appears yet another faux gun group has disappeared into the ether.

In 2005, John Lott posted a story (sourcing another weblog) about a new anti-gun gun group masquerading as a pro-gun rights group. From the article:

By creating this made up group called The American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), who will inevitably be used in future Democrat led anti gun campaigns in the near future as so called 'expert' witnesses or a 'sane' voice of sportsmen - just so the anti gun democrats can grandstand for gun control non-issues via their willing accomplishes in the press. I'd imagine the closer we get to the '08' presidential election the more (AHSA) will be in the news.

In our own coverage at the time, we wrote that while the cat was out of the bag on the phony gun group, it was clear that the mainstream "news" media would work to perpetuate the image that AHSA is a pro-gun rights group. And that is exactly what happened.

AHSA was formally introduced to the public in 2006 at a press conference at the annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.[4]

The first thing executive director Bob Ricker told reporters was that his group planned to compete with the National Rifle Association, noting that "America has 80 million gun owners, but the NRA only has 4 million members."[5] (Only 4 million members. Remember that criticism as you read on.)

At least one "hopeful" writer who attended the press conference that year pitched the contest as a David v. Goliath battle, noting that the group was starting out with {"only") one half million dollars.[6]

The National Rifle Association, Buckeye Firearms Association and other pro-gun writers quickly investigated the groups' leaders and stated goals, and came to a quick conclusion - AHSA was yet another anti-gun wolf in sheep's clothing, with a leadership chock full of people with anti-gun pedigrees.

The group set about to gain media attention wherever they could find it. In 2007, AHSA President Ray Schoenke was invited to speak at a summit sponsored by yet another misleadingly named gun control group, New York Mayor Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns." Schoenke declared an alliance between AHSA and MAIG in seeking to expose confidential law enforcement data on firearms traces.[7] He later published an op-ed in The Seattle Times titled "Real hunters and shooters need to stand up to the NRA."[8] That fall, Schoenke was quoted in USA Today saying "The NRA's extreme positions have hurt the hunting movement."[9]

But it was in 2008 that AHSA became a true media darling, when it endorsed Barack Obama for President. Every time a pro-gun group tried to warn about the former Senator's radical anti-gun past, there was an AHSA spokesperson cooing back via a willing media that all was well.

The group became of use to Obama again in 2009, when it endorsed Sonya Sotomayor for U.S. Supreme Court.

"Based on the available case history, it appears that Sotomayor honors precedent. Now that D.C. v Heller is precedent, gun-owners should feel secure that their rights are safe,"[10] intoned Ray Schoenke, attempting to pacify gun owners into submission.

Of course, we all know the rest of the story - Sotomayor was confirmed, and promptly sided with the minority in McDonald v. City of Chicago, throwing the precedent Schoenke assured us she believed in right out the window.[11]

AHSA continued to post their FaceBook page several times per week (despite being a national group, they have just over 200 "friends." BFA, a state-wide gun rights group, has over 8000), send Twitter feeds (they have 62 followers, BFA has 1553) and add occasional posts to their website blog.

And then, in a year when their favorite political party needed help in the effort to hold on to their majority, and the organization essentially disappeared. Without explanation or fanfare, all ASHA activity appears to have ceased last February. (Not to be any less transparent for what they were, the last post on both websites was a regurgitation of a Valentines Day 2010 Chicago Tribune op-ed praising Obama for being - you guessed it - pro-gun.[12])

No additional posts have been made to ASHA website, Twitter or FaceBook page since then. What's more, the AHSA website,, has been offline since early October, and emails to the organization bounce.

Research on Internal Revenue Service filings by "American Hunters and Shooters Association Foundation, Inc.", a 501(c)(3) non-profit, may provide an explanation.

In 2006, AHSA recorded just $50 (!) as coming from membership dues, and the group spent $88,634 more than it received in that first year.[13] In 2007, the foundation reported just $5 (!!) in membership dues.[14] And in 2008, the year of Obama's presidential candidacy and the last year reports are available, the foundation reported $0 in membership dues (!!!). They ended the year with just over $42,000 in the bank - having depleted a quarter of a million dollar surplus from 2007.[15]

The fact that AHSA disappeared in an election year of this magnitude suggests that they are gone for good.

Buckeye Firearms Association would like to be the first to wish them a not-so-fond farewell.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

Footnotes: [1] "Wolf in sheep's clothing releases study on Ohio," January 13, 2004,

[2] "Follow the money--a look at the Gun Guys' sugar daddies," February 28, 2007,

[3] "Freedom States Alliance Folds," February 23, 2010,

[4] "Saving Hunters From the NRA," June 21, 2006, New West,

[5] "Saving Hunters From the NRA," June 21, 2006, New West,

[6] ibid

[7]"Mayors' Request: Police Need More Access to Gun Ownership Records," January 23, 2007, ABCNews,

[8] "Real hunters and shooters need to stand up to the NRA," The Seattle Times, March 20, 2007,

[9] "Number of U.S. hunters dwindles," USA Today, Septemer 2, 2007,

[10] "American Hunters and Shooters Association endorses Sonia
Sotomayor," July 8, 2009,

[11] McDonald v. Chicago: Deciphering Your Rights, March 9, 2010,

[12]"Obama anti-gun? No, anti-gun control," The Chicago Tribune, February 14, 2010,

[13] American Hunters and Shooters Association Foundation Inc. 2007 IRS Form 990

[14] American Hunters and Shooters Association Foundation Inc. 2008 IRS Form 990

[15] American Hunters and Shooters Association Foundation Inc. 2009 IRS Form 990

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