There are now some 4 million members in the NRA, and their ability to organize, write elected officials and rally together is something their opponents stand in awe of. Yet because of the group’s continued embrace of Second Amendment issues, and seeming growing distance from what some hunters consider to be issues that matter most to them, the NRA is no longer seen as their greatest advocate in Washington.
“I would say on the record they are absolutely not working for the interests of hunters,” says Ross Lane, an Air Force veteran and director of the conservation group Western Values Project.
Lane is a lifelong hunter who recalls how his father would describe stalking elk as “taking your gun for a walk.” He prefers to hunt antelope and is also a passionate conservationist. “I think once we saw all the money flowing around and we hear positions from the NRA that work against the interests of everyday sportsmen — it's obvious they've undergone a big evolution from being a hunting group to being a gun group," he says.
Like many hunters and conservationists, Lane has been monitoring energy development in Montana and other Western states, and he’s been tracking the money lawmakers are getting from the NRA and the oil-and-gas industry. Corporate interests are holding greater sway over the habitat of game animals than conservationists pushing to preserve their environment, he says.