Hunting, Fishing And Second Amendment Rights
Having grown up in the West, I have a deep appreciation for outdoor life. As a kid I learned how to use a rifle, and as an instructor and later executive director of Colorado Outward Bound, I learned a great deal about survival skills in the wilderness. Gun-ownership, hunting and fishing are all a part of the way of life in the West, and as a Member of Congress I appreciate the role that sportsmen play in promoting healthy wildlife management and protection of the environment. I also recognize that Americans' rights under the Second Amendment are not limited to firearms used for hunting, but must include the right to bear arms for other lawful purposes, including personal protection and collecting.
In the Colorado General Assembly I worked closely with the hunting community to pass legislation increasing the fines for illegal poaching of big game animals like "Samson", the majestic bull elk that was a mascot for Estes Park. In Congress, I am the sponsor of legislation that preserves the ability of states like Colorado to grant preferences to in-state hunting and fishing license holders. I am also the co-sponsor of several other bills that preserve wildlife habitat, promote clean water fisheries and reduce conflicts between agriculture and hunters. Recently, I also have begun working with gun-owner organizations to explore ways we can increase public safety and still allow target-shooting in areas where home-owners are close to public lands.
On gun legislation in general, I hold the view that the burden of proof is on those seeking changes to the laws already on the books, and that we must do a better job of enforcing these existing laws before embarking on new restrictions or regulations. In this regard, I am not unmindful of the tragedy at Columbine High School or other instances when terrible crimes have been committed with guns. Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals ought to unite all of us, and that is where I believe our emphasis must be placed. That is why I support "Project Exile" - which the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have joined hands in promoting across the country. We have to strike the right balance between protecting Second Amendment rights and effective law enforcement, including better public education on gun safety and responsible gun-ownership.