ACSL Archives 2018

PLEASE NOTE: We have tried to maintain links where possible,but due to the archival nature of these articles,some links may have changed or be otherwise unavailable.

Dick’s and Others Enact Discriminatory Policies in Response to Gun Control Tantrum

In what appears to be a bid to alienate a large swath of the American public in order to appease anti-gun extremists, last week Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO and Chairman Ed Stack issued an open letter in which he announced several changes to the company’s firearms sales policies. According to the missive, Dick’s will no longer sell some configurations of commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles and certain capacity magazines. The company will also refuse to sell firearms to adults ages 18 to 20.

These new policies will also cover Field & Stream stores, which are a Dick’s subsidiary that focuses primarily on outdoor recreation. Gun rights supporters should know that Field & Stream stores have no relation to the publication of the same name. Dick’s also owns Golf Galaxy.

In the days following Stack’s letter, Wal-Mart, Kroger-owned Fred Meyer, and L.L. Bean announced that they would also refuse to recognize the Second Amendment rights of adults ages 18 to 20. Wal-Mart took the additional step of purging nonlethal products that resemble commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles, such as toys and airsoft guns, from their website.

Rather than serving to protect the nation’s schools from violence, the recent corporate outburst against rifles and firearm purchasers serves to reveal an anti-freedom agenda.

Contrary to the inflammatory language used by those in the anti-gun media, the numbers make clear that the U.S. is not experiencing an epidemic of school shootings. While any school shooting is tragic, research by Northeastern University Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy James Alan Fox found that school shootings have been declining since the 1990s. Further, in an article summarizing his research, Fox rejected the idea that a ban on rifle sales to those ages 18 to 20 could curb mass shootings because such incidents are so rare. Fox explained, “The thing to remember is that these are extremely rare events, and no matter what you can come up with to prevent it, the shooter will have a workaround.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigationメs Uniform Crime Reporting data shows that there were 374 murders committed with all types of rifles in 2016. That same year, 656 people were murdered where the perpetrator used only their hands and feet. 1,604 people were murdered with “knives or cutting instruments.” Blunt objects, such as bats or golf clubs, were used to commit 472 murders. There has been no word on whether Field & Stream intends to institute background checks on knife sales, nor whether Golf Galaxy will halt their dangerous practice of selling pitching wedges to young adults over the internet.

That there were 374 murders carried out with rifles in 2016 is tragic, but efforts to combat such a small number of fatalities in a nation of more than 320 million by further restricting rifles are destined to fail. The relatively small number of crimes perpetrated with rifles is one of the reasons why federally-funded researchers have repeatedly determined that the 1994 Dianne Feinstein semi-auto rifle and magazine ban did not have an appreciable effect on violent crime.

A 1997 Department of Justice-funded study from the Urban Institute, titled, “Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994,” admitted, “At best, the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders.”

A follow-up study published in 2004 on the eve of the sunset of the semi-auto ban, titled, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003,” came to a similar conclusion. The researchers noted, “the ban’s impact on gun violence is likely to be small at best, and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.” The study also made clear that “estimates consistently show that AWs [commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms] are used in a small fraction of gun crimes.”

A 2013 Department of Justice memorandum reiterated that commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles are rarely used in crime and that further restricting their sale would be futile. The memo acknowledged, “a complete elimination of assault weapons would not have a large impact on gun homicides.” The document went on to explain, “Since assault weapons are not a major contributor to US gun homicide and the existing stock of guns is large, an assault weapon ban is unlikely to have an impact on gun violence.” The survey also noted that restrictions on the sale of standard-capacity magazines would be fruitless unless coupled with a massive confiscation effort.

Aside from being poor policy, in some circumstances the new corporate restrictions may violate state and local anti-discrimination laws. As First and Second Amendment scholar and UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh pointed out in a recent blog post, certain state and local governments have enacted statutes and ordinances that bar discrimination in retail sales involving adults ages 18 to 20.

Dick’s’ corporate counsel doesn’t seem to have considered this eventuality, even though it could affect business in their home state of Pennsylvania. Section 953 of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act states,

The opportunity for an individual to obtain employment for which he is qualified, and to obtain all the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any public accommodation and of any housing accommodation and commercial property without discrimination because of race, color, familial status, religious creed, ancestry, handicap or disability, age, sex, national origin, the use of a guide or support animal because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap of the user or because the user is a handler or trainer of support or guide animals is hereby recognized as and declared to be a civil right which shall be enforceable as set forth in this act.

The act goes on to define “public accommodation” to include “retail stores and establishments.”

Fred Meyer’s policy could also face a challenge in their home state of Oregon. Section 659A.403(1) of the Oregon Revised Statutes makes clear,

all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is of age, as described in this section, or older.

The sale of alcohol and marijuana are specifically exempted from this section, but there is no such exemption for the sale of firearms.

Astute gun rights supporters will remember that this is not the first time Dick’s has turned their back on gun owners. Back in 2012, Dick’s made headlines when it responded to the shooting in Newtown, Conn. by removing AR-15s from its stores. In doing so, Dickメs reneged on a deal with AR-15 manufacturer Troy Industries to supply the sporting goods chain with rifles. Suggesting that their position on the topic was the product of political posturing rather than actual conviction, when Dickメs launched its Field & Stream brand stores the company made sure to stock them with AR-15s.

Further, gun owners who value their privacy have long-avoided purchasing firearms at Wal-Mart. In 2008, Wal-Mart collaborated with billionaire Michael Bloombergメs anti-gun group Mayors Against Illegal Guns to more thoroughly track retail gun sales. As part of the effort, Wal-Mart agreed to maintain a video record of all firearms transactions within their stores. Some viewed the changes as an attempt to curry favor with then-New York City Mayor Bloomberg in order to improve the company’s chances of opening a store in Gotham.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated that in 2017 the firearms and ammunition industry accounted for $51.3 billion in total economic activity. With 100 million gun owners nationwide, the shooting sports are big business and the industry’s customers can exert a significant amount of influence when they make decisions regarding their firearms and ammunition purchases and their buying habits more generally. Moreover, retailers should be aware that firearms consumers exhibit a loyalty and political awareness uncommon to many industries - a trait born out of necessity. Let there be no doubt that America’s gun owners will remember the corporations that sought to scapegoat them during a moment of tragedy.

Source: NRA / ILA

 

Is the 2nd Amendment really about the militia?

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, America has once again turned her collective attention to the Second Amendment. Our nation is split between two competing views of this small portion of our Bill of Rights. On the one hand, there are those like Jeffrey Toobin, a contributor at CNN and The New Yorker, who claims that “the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms — but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.”

And on the other hand, there are those who take the position advanced by Dana Loesch of the National Rifle Association in CNN’s town hall on gun policy. When asked how the Second Amendment applied to the gun policy debate, Loesch answered that, “In the context of the time, a ‘well-regulated militia’ meant an American man, an American woman, a citizen of the United States of America who could operate and service their firearm.”

These two competing statements offer a nearly complete overview of the current gun control debate. Those in favor of gun control claim that the 2nd Amendment only applies to militias, and those opposed to gun control respond by claiming that every American citizen is part of the militia. Both sides claim to have the support of the founders, and they’re both right on that account since the Founding Fathers were somewhat divided on the issue of state and local militias.

However, I think that both sides are missing the mark on their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. In fact, neither of them is even aiming at the right target. The real key to understanding the 2nd Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with the militia.

The single most important part of the 2nd Amendment is not its reference to a “well-regulated militia,” nor is it the question of what is meant by “keep and bear arms.” No, the most important part of the entire 2nd Amendment is the small and often overlooked phrase: “the people.”

The right to keep and bear arms in the 2nd Amendment is not a right that belongs to the federal government, for that right existed before the federal government was formed. It is not a right that belongs to the state governments, for it preceded them as well and was present in each territory long before it became a state. It is not a right that belongs to the militia, for it still exists even when militias are no longer needed. The right to keep and bear arms is specifically designated as a right of “the people.”

So who exactly are “the people” to whom this right belongs? That question is answered repeatedly throughout the Constitution.

According to the Preamble, “the people” are the collective body of individuals who authorized the Constitution itself. Our constitutional form of government was ordained and established by “We the People” — i.e. the entire citizenry of the United States.

According to Article I Section 2, “the People” are the ones who vote for the members of the House of Representatives — i.e. the entire citizenry of the United States.

According to the 1st Amendment, “the people” cannot be a reference to a governing body since “the people” are the ones who have the right to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances — i.e. the entire citizenry of the United States.

According to the 4th Amendment, “the people” are those who have a right to be secure against warrantless search and seizure by the government — i.e. the entire citizenry of the United States.

In the 9th Amendment, “the people” are recognized as those who retain rights not granted to the federal government — i.e. the entire citizenry of the United States.

And in the 10th Amendment, “the people” are contrasted with both the federal and the state governments as those to whom rights are reserved by default if not delegated to a government by the Constitution — i.e. the entire citizenry of the United States.

As you can see, the meaning of the phrase “the people” in the Constitution is fairly easy to ascertain. “The people” are the ones from whom our government was established, by whom our government was established and for whom our government was established. This body must necessarily include every single citizen of the United States.

There is much that could be said about why the need for a well-regulated militia justifies the right to keep and bear arms. And we could spend a great deal of time discussing the extent of the arms which were intended to be including in this right. But all of that is of no benefit to us at all if we do not have a firm grasp of the most important part of the 2nd Amendment. In order to discuss the scope of this amendment, we must first understand that the right being discussed is a right of “the people” — a right which belongs to every single citizen of the United States of America.

Source:  Bill Fortenberry

Bill Fortenberry is a native of Birmingham, AL where he currently resides with his wife and young son.  He has written several books on the Founding Fathers, and his most recent book Franklin on Faith provides the world’s only complete collection of Benjamin Franklin’s writings on religion.  Bill shares articles on a variety of topics on his personal website IncreasingLearning.com

 

 

When Will the Hearing Protection Act Pass?

The Hearing Protection Act of 2017—H.R. 367, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and John Carter (R-TX)—resurrects a 2015 proposal by then-Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon to ease suppressor ownership restrictions on law-abiding citizens.

For more than 80 years, suppressors have been exiled to a list of National Firearms Act (NFA) items created in 1934—when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House. Ownership of suppressors is generally legal, but qualifying to take one home requires onerous and time-consuming requirements such as, but not limited to, fingerprints, photographs, notifying your local chief law enforcement officer, a background check and a $200 tax stamp.

The Hearing Protection Act, in simplest terms, aims to eliminate the tax stamp and effectively reduce the six-to-nine-month wait—in the 42 states where ownership is legal—by requiring only a NICS background check and a 4473. The bill, as currently written, also refunds money to those who started the purchase process while legislation was pending. It sounds like an easy victory, considering the current administration, but it’s too early to put this one in the win column.

The ground game is ongoing, with the latest proposals—H.R. 367 and S.R. 59 (Sen. Mike Crapo, R-ID, co-sponsored by Jerry Moran, R-KS, and Rand Paul, R-KY)—introduced on Jan. 9, 2017. Both would remove suppressors from NFA listing, and they have garnered 97 and 7 co-sponsors, respectively.

The House version has been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. Ten Republicans and 7 Democrats make up the current membership, though, it’s particularly good news when coupled with the number of sponsors and the fact the entire voting body of the House has 435 members with 240 of them Republican.

The Senate side, on the other hand, is where firearm owners are getting mixed signals about the certainty of the Hearing Protection Act passage. If enough senators decide more debate is due, they can filibuster and the only way to bring the measure to a vote is called cloture. That requires 60 of the 100 members to vote in favor of legislation being considered—not a simple 51 vote majority if anti-Second Amendment legislators mount the defense.

With a total of 52 Republicans, two independents and 46 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, there might not be enough to pull off a successful vote. Add the relatively low number of co-sponsors, and the assumption that suppressors will be removed from the NFA any time soon is premature.

Even legislation that’s overwhelmingly popular takes time given the legislative process.  After legislation is introduced, there will be hearings, mark-ups, amendments and other legislative hurdles in both the Senate and House. In the 113th Congress, for example, the average time it took from introduction to signature into law by the president was slightly more than 263 days. Many took longer.  In fact, it took more than five years to pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that prohibits reckless lawsuits against the firearms industry seeking to hold firearms and ammunition manufacturers responsible for the acts of criminals.

Then there’s availability. Suppressor companies, even the big ones, don’t have the supply chain or manufacturing capacity of big firearm firms. So, if you wait to see what happens, you’d better be resigned to wearing hearing protection for at least the next few years. This one-on-oneᅠinterview with SilencerCo CEO Josh Waldron and Donald Trump, Jr. provides some eye-opening numbers and makes it obvious there is going to be a huge gap in supply if the measure passes. “It’s going to be like the run on .22LR ammunition,” he said.

So, if you’re considering buying a suppressor but are holding off until the HPA passes, my advice is to go ahead and buy it.  We all know Congress isn’t known for it’s speedy consideration of legislation, and there’s no guarantee that it will pass in the near future. The current legislation’s wording would also refund your tax-stamp money, so there may never be a better time to buy.

NRA-ILA is reminding members and enthusiasts to contact their representatives by phone, writing and e-mail to let them know they need to support the Hearing Protection Act. The Trump administration’s overwhelming support has lulled some into a false sense of victory, making action critical.

“Gun owners and sportsmen should be able to enjoy their outdoor heritage with the tools necessary to do so safely,” NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox said. “This bill makes it easier for them to do that.”

Source: NRA

 

Pennsylvania House Committee Held “Gun Laws and Violence” Hearing

 

Last week, the Pennsylvania state House Judiciary Committee held hearings on “Gun Laws and Violence” where numerous bills seeking to infringe upon your Second Amendment rights were discussed.  Please contact House Judiciary Committee members as well as your state Legislators and urge them to OPPOSE any new gun control.  Click the “Take Action” button below to contact committee members and your state Legislators.

 

Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Senator Wayne Fontana (D-42), would ban most modern semi-automatic rifles, almost all semi-automatic handguns, and ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.  Current owners of the firearms would be required to obtain a “certificate of possession” every four years to retain them, which could be denied arbitrarily based on “character and reputation.”

Senate Bill 18, sponsored by Senator Fontana, would allow for Second Amendment rights to be revoked without due process of law in ex parte hearings where the respondent is not present to challenge the accuser and defend against allegations made against them.  It would also provide immunity to the applicant, even if they make purposeful omissions or misstatements in the petition for restraining orders.

Senate Bill 501, sponsored by Senator Thomas Killon (R-9), and House Bill 2060 sponsored by Representative Marguerite Quinn (R-143), would require those who are convicted of domestic violence offenses or are respondents of domestic violence restraining orders turn over their firearms to law enforcement or dealers.  It would repeal the provision in current law allowing them to turn them over to third parties.

House Bill 832, sponsored by Representative Madeleine Dean (D-153), would criminalize the failure to report a firearm stolen within 72 hours.  Individuals should not be further victimized after experiencing a burglary or other loss.

House Bill 1233, sponsored by Representative Thomas Murt (R-152), would designate more individuals as “qualified professionals” in order to allow them to have others committed for mental health reasons under Section 302 without any due process.

House Bill 1400, sponsored by Representative James Santora (R-163), and House Bill 2249, sponsored by Representative Thomas Murt (R-152), would criminalize the private transfer of firearms.

House Bill 1872, sponsored by Representative Madeleine Dean (D-153), includes poorly written, vague language that could criminalize modifications commonly made to firearms by law-abiding citizens in order to make their firearms more user friendly and suitable for self-defense, competition, hunting, and even adapting to physical disability.  Many of these modifications simply make it easier to deliver accurate and controlled shots with less physical discomfort for the shooter without fundamentally changing the mechanics of how a firearm operates.

House Bill 2097, sponsored by Representative Jason Dawkins (D-179), would violate the right to due process by removing Second Amendment rights from those arrested for or charged with domestic violence offenses but not convicted.

House Bill 2109, sponsored by Representative Stephen McCarter (D-154), seeks to create “firearm restraining orders” which would allow Second Amendment rights to be stripped in ex parte hearings where the respondent is not present to challenge the accuser and defend against allegations made against them.

House Bill 2216, sponsored by Representative Warren Kampf (R-157), also includes poorly written, vague language that could criminalize modifications commonly made to firearms by law-abiding citizens in order to make their firearms more user friendly and suitable for self-defense, competition, hunting, and even adapting to physical disability.  In addition, it would also ban ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.

House Bill 2251, sponsored by Representative Thomas Murt (R-152), would require a background check for the purchase of ammunition, prohibit mail ordering ammunition, and prohibit the interstate purchase of ammunition without it going through a licensed firearm dealer with a background check.

House Bill 2252, sponsored by Representative Thomas Murt (R-152), is redundant legislation that would codify existing federal law into Pennsylvania law.

Again, please contact House Judiciary Committee members and your state Legislators and urge them to OPPOSE any new gun control.

Chair: Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105) 717-783-2014
Democratic Chair: Rep. Joseph Petrarca (D-55) (717) 787-5142
Secretary: Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-116) (717) 260-6136
Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-199)  (717) 772-2280
Rep. Becky Corbin (R-155) (717) 783-2520
Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-88) (717) 783-5282
Rep. Harold English (R-30) (717) 260-6407 
Rep. Garth Everett (R-84) (717) 787-5270 
Rep. Barry Jozwiak (R-5) (717) 772-9940 
Rep. Kate Klunk (R-169) (717) 787-4790 
Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-124) (717) 787-9029 
Rep. Tedd Nesbit (R-8) (717) 783-6438 
Rep. Rick Saccone (R-39) (717) 260-6122 
Rep. Paul Schemel (R-90) (717) 783-5218 
Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151) (717) 260-6163 
Rep. Jesse Topper (R-78) (717) 787-7076 
Rep. Martina White (R-170) (717) 787-6740 
Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-71) (717) 783-1491
Rep. Ryan Bizzaro (D-3) (717) 772-2297 
Rep. Tim Briggs (D-149) (717) 705-7011
Rep. Dom Costa (D-21) (717) 783-9114
Rep. Tina Davis (D-141) (717) 783-4903
Rep. Jason Dawkins (D-179) (717) 787-1354 
Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-153) (717) 783-7619
Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-191) (717) 772-9850 
Rep. Dan Miller (D-42) (717) 783-1850 
Rep. Gerald Mullery (D-119) (717) 783-4893

 

Dick’s Sporting Goods/Field & Stream to Destroy Firearms Inventory

Dick’s Sporting Goods took their campaign to alienate law-abiding gun owners to an extraordinary new level last week. The beleaguered retailer announced that in addition to removing certain types of semi-automatic rifles from their stores, the company will destroy its stock of these commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms along with any accessories for the guns.

Back on February 28, Dick’s CEO Ed Stack issued a letter in which he announced that his company had caved to the demands of anti-gun extremists and adopted a raft of self-imposed gun controls. Stack made clear that the company would discriminate against young adults by refusing to sell rifles and shotguns to those ages 18 to 20 and would no longer sell commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles and standard-capacity magazines. 

No stranger to virtue-signaling, in 2012 Dick’s halted the sale of certain semi-automatic firearms at its flagship stores following the high-profile shooting in Newtown, Conn. However, when Dick’s launched the outdoors-oriented retailer Field & Stream in 2013, the stores offered an array of modern semi-automatic rifles. The Field & Stream stores have no relation to the popular magazine of the same name.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania-based retail chain told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that the company is “in the process of destroying all firearms and accessories that are no longer for sale as a result of our February 28th policy change.” The report noted that the unsold merchandise is being moved to the company’s distribution centers where it is being destroyed. What’s left of the ruined firearms is then being sold for scrap.

Dick’s decision to stop selling certain configurations of semi-automatic firearms was irrational, but the decision to destroy these lawful firearms is unjustifiable. Long-guns of any description are rarely used in crime. 

A 2004 federally funded study of the 1994 Clinton semi-auto ban found that “the ban’s impact on “gun violence” is likely to be small at best, and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.” A 2013 Department of Justice memorandum came to the same conclusion. The memo stated, “a complete elimination of assault weapons would not have a large impact on gun homicides.” More recently, a study by the Rand Corporation found that there is no conclusive evidence that restricting the sale of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms would impact violent crime.

Dick’s’ ridiculous posturing is further underscored by what the company continues to sell. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigationメs Uniform Crime Reporting data rifles of all kinds were used to commit 374 murders in 2016. In contrast, “knives or cutting instruments” were used in 1,604 murders. Dickメs and Field & Stream continue to sell a wide variety of “tactical” knives. Moreover, Field & Stream continues to sell handguns. Handguns were used to commit 7,105 murders in 2016. 

Dick’s has also offered strong evidence that anti-gun activists continue to be as ignorant about how semi-automatic firearms function as they were in the run-up to the Clinton ban. Despite Dick’s’ outspoken campaign against modern semi-autos, Field & Stream still sells the Ruger Mini-14.

Dick’s’ decision to destroy lawful inventory is likely to raise a few eyebrows among its shareholders. Even with company leadership determined to rid itself of these firearms, donating the rifles to law enforcement would seem more prudent than destruction. The company’s wanton destruction of valuable durable goods is so irrational it tempts a shareholder derivative suit for corporate waste. 

Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. is a Delaware corporation. In the case, In re Citigroup Inc. Shareholder Derivative Litigation, the Delaware Court of Chancery articulated the legal test for a shareholder action for waste, noting,

the Complaint must allege particularized facts that lead to a reasonable inference that the director defendants authorized “an exchange that is so one-sided that no business person of ordinary, sound judgment could conclude that the corporation has received adequate consideration.”

Citing precedent, the court further explained,

“[t]o prevail on a waste claim ... the plaintiff must overcome the general presumption of good faith by showing that the board's decision was so egregious or irrational that it could not have been based on a valid assessment of the corporation's best interests.” 

The test is extremely difficult to meet, but in March Dick’s admitted that its earlier anti-gun policies would hurt its bottom line. Stack admitted that the anti-gun policies were “not going to be positive from a traffic standpoint and a sales standpoint.” The CEO also said, “There are going to be the people who don't shop us anymore for anything.” Dick’s’ decision to destroy firearms will only further alienate gun owners.

The only consideration Dick’s is likely to receive for the destruction of its rifles, other than the scrap metal value, is the approval of anti-gun advocates. Given the political awareness and loyalty among gun owners, this consideration will likely prove more a liability than an asset.

 

 

Conservation In A Changing Climate
 

As we approach the annual Earth Day celebration this weekend, one of our biggest challenges is how to respond and adapt to a changing climate. We need to act.

For the past year, staff members from across all of DCNR’s bureaus participated in a rigorous process to determine and prioritize the department’s greatest climate change vulnerabilities and identify strategies to address them.

In the next several months, DCNR will be finalizing a plan that includes objectives to prepare for and mitigate the risks associated with climate impacts.

Here’s where we’re going, with some ideas about how you can join us.

Trees Are The Answer

Very heavy precipitation and flooding have increased significantly in Pennsylvania, and that is expected to continue. Trails, roads and bridges, historical and cultural resources, and more are at risk during flooding.

Extreme rain events also can affect groundwater supply and reduce water quality below public thresholds for recreational use.

Turns out, planting trees, especially along streams, are a big part of the solution. DCNR is leading the effort to protect and restore buffers along streams (known as riparian areas) to control stormwater, and also to keep the water cool for fish, filter pollutants from the land, and provide habitat for wildlife.

Do One Thing

If you can do one thing for the environment during Earth Month, plant a tree! (Especially along a stream, but in your backyard or community is great, too.) Find information to help in Common Trees of Pennsylvania (PDF), through the riparian buffer initiative, or from TreeVitalize.

Check out some of the upcoming Chesapeake Bay Foundation tree planting events.

Corridors For Wildlife

Climate impacts are expected to vary across the landscape in Pennsylvania. Some areas will see significant impacts, while more resistant habitats will become increasingly important for wildlife and conservation planning.

DCNR will work with partners to set conservation priorities through land acquisitions, easements, and stewardship plans to create an interconnected system of habitats that allow species to move north and to higher elevations in response to climate change.

Plant Smart

What we plant, how we plant, and where we plant can affect wildlife. Check iConservePA for information on wise planting decisions that can provide benefits to wildlife.

DCNR’s Wild Plant Sanctuary Program is a good idea for larger landowners to participate in a voluntary statewide network of habitat managed to conserve rare native plants.

Changing Forests

Forest ecosystems absorb and sequester a significant portion of U.S. carbon emissions. Our forests are expected to change due to the decline of some species, increases in others, hybridization, and immigration of southern species.

As the climate changes, new invasive species are expected to move into the commonwealth, and those already here will increase in abundance.

DCNR will be adjusting its forest management practices to distribute risks, encourage diverse age classes, and work with other state agencies responsible for land management to develop and adopt statewide invasive species best management practices, and decrease forest carbon loss.

Wood Products

Learn more about the DCNR Bureau of Forestryメs commitment to manage state forests in an environmentally responsible manner. Use durable wood products harvested from properly managed forests in construction projects to help sequester carbon permanently, and support local jobs in the Pennsylvania forest products industry.

Science-Minded

Populations of rare, threatened, and endangered species, especially those near the edge of their range in Pennsylvania, are expected to decline faster and possibly disappear because of climate change and other stressors.

There will be an increased demand for data due to the impacts increased flooding, drought, dry wells, sinkholes, and other climate change impacts.

DCNR will be working with partners to review and expand monitoring to ensure that changes in natural communities, species distribution, and populations are detected. The department will look to develop research projects that look for relationships between the timing and intensity of weather events and sinkholes and landslides.

Citizen Science

Become a citizen scientist to help monitor and take care of Pennsylvania’s wildlife, trees, plants, and water. Start by contacting your local state park to see what opportunities are available or check the DCNR calendar.

To Your Health

Human health and safety concerns such as tick and mosquito-borne diseases, severe storms, heat-related illness, and air quality are becoming more of a concern.

The number, geographic distribution, and length of time during the year that ticks and mosquitos are active have been increasing, which also increases exposure to diseases such as Lyme disease.

Preparedness plans to minimize exposure to risks and educate state park and forest visitors will be reviewed and updated by DCNR.

Tick Awareness

Enjoy the outdoors, but remember to prevent tick bites (PDF). When outdoors, always wear light-colored clothing (ticks stand out better), spray tick repellents on your clothes, tuck pants into socks, and do a “tick check” upon returning home.

Showering also is recommended after a day afield, as well laundering, then drying clothes in an electric dryer on high heat setting.

Energy Smart

With 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of state forests, DCNR maintains a lot of buildings, bridges, roads, and more. Infrastructure will be significantly challenged by higher temperatures, increased flooding, and periodic drought.

The department will continue its significant work throughout the past several years on energy conservation and renewable energy in our hundreds of buildings and vehicle fleet, including high-performance buildings, solar panels, and electric vehicles.

Be Efficient

iConservePA reminds us of the many ways we can make strategic improvements and use efficient practices to save energy, water, and money. You can learn about the department’s sustainable practices, such as high-performance buildings, or watch a video about DCNR’s green efforts for inspiration.

Let’s Talk

As part of its climate change adaptation efforts, DCNR will emphasize the importance of public engagement and place-based citizen science, and incorporate climate change into the daily conversations staff have with visitors.

Staff will need more training and expertise on topics related to climate science, adaptation, and mitigation.

Stay Connected

Implementing solutions requires learning and talking about the problems. We’ll be talking about climate change impacts and solutions as we roll out our adaptation practices.

Stay connected with DCNR on our social media accounts, through the Good Natured blog, and by attending programs and volunteer opportunities noted on our calendar of events.

Two years from now when we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, DCNR hopes to have laid the framework for a more resilient and sustainable Pennsylvania.

Happy Earth Day!

For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNRメs website, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

Source: PA DCNR

 

U.S. House Passes NRA-Backed Bill to Protect Second Amendment Rights of America’s Veterans

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, sponsored by Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.

H.R. 1181 in many respects mirrors a recently enacted resolution to repeal an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that sought to deprive certain SSA beneficiaries of their Second Amendment rights.

A federal statute prohibits firearm acquisition or possession by anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective.” The statute, however, does not define the meaning of this term.

Like the SSA, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) interprets the phrase very broadly. It considers any VA beneficiary who is declared “incompetent” to manage his or her benefits and assigned a fiduciary for assistance to be a prohibited “mental defective.”

This is even broader and more arbitrary than the invalidated SSA rule. That rule at least excluded beneficiaries who were minors or of retirement age and applied only where the underlying condition that qualified the person for Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income was itself a mental condition.

The VA’s practice, however, has no such limitations. It applies to all beneficiaries receiving benefits for any reason who are assigned a fiduciary. The VA’s position is that an admission or finding that a fiduciary is needed is tantamount to an “adjudication” that a person “lacks the mental capacity” to “manage his own affairs.”  

But in most cases, these decisions are summary bureaucratic actions. They very rarely involve a hearing, much less lawyers or judges. So calling them an “adjudication” is inaccurate.

It’s also false to claim that needing help with finances is the sort of “mental defectiveness” Congress intended would prevent a person from being eligible to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights.

Mental health experts warn that there is no connection between financial acumen and a person’s ability safely and responsibly to handle a firearm. That point was made again and again in the context of the debate on the SSA bill.

Thus, the same arguments against the SSA rule apply just as strongly, if not more so, against the VA’s regime.

In other words, the VA’s regime is unconstitutional; inconsistent with the underlying statute; unsupported by science or empirical evidence establishing any link between financial acumen and the ability to safely and responsibly handle firearms; and harmfully stigmatizing. It also serves as a deterrent for vulnerable people who need help and benefits from seeking them.

In addition to all that, it presents the bitter irony of being targeted directly at the very people who bore the cost for the freedoms that all Americans enjoy.

The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act would correct these deficiencies by ensuring that no beneficiary could be reported to NICS as a prohibited “mental defective” unless a judicial authority (such as a judge or magistrate) first determined the person to be a danger to self or others.

That leaves options in the case of a person experiencing an acute episode of dangerous mental illness, while also ensuring that veterans are not arbitrarily denied their rights without due process of law.

Meanwhile, the media is whipping up the usual frenzy about Congress “giving guns” to the “mentally ill.”

Even the self-styed legal experts from The View got in on the act, going so far as to encourage their viewers to contact their congressional representatives to object. Their comments on the bill and its effects, unsurprisingly, were rife with misunderstanding and misinformation.

Due process, as well as Second Amendment rights, are fundamental liberties that all Americans enjoy. They are exactly the sorts of rights for which America’s veterans have sacrificed so much. The fact that the VA would infringe them in this manner is a national disgrace and one that is long past due for correction.

The NRA thanks Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), as well as Chairman Roe, for their leadership in this critical effort.

The U.S. Senate should swiftly follow their lead and send the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act to President Trump’s desk.

Source: NRA / ILA

 

Pro-gun Bills Introduced to Reform FOPA, Protect Interstate Transport of Firearms for Lawful Use

Pro-gun members of Congress have introduced legislation to protect travelers who are transporting firearms interstate for lawful purposes.

The first such bill was
H.R. 358, filed by Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and 38 cosponsors in February. Joining him this week was Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who introduced S.618 on Tuesday.

Unlike
pending national reciprocity bills, this legislation deals specifically with transporting unloaded firearms, rather than for carry on one’s person en route.

Both bills would reform important provisions of the Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) intended to protect the right of law-abiding gun owners to transport firearms throughout our nation. Yet in the years since its enactment, this law has too often been ignored by anti-gun local officials and effectively gutted by the courts. H.R. 358 and S. 618 would rewrite the law to implement the outcome Congress intended when it was passed more than 25 years ago.

FOPA’s safe transport provisions (
codified at 18 U.S.C. ᄃ 926A) guarantee the right of a law-abiding person to transport an unloaded firearm between two locations where he or she may legally possess it, regardless of state or local laws along the route of travel that would otherwise prohibit such conduct. Under the current law, the gun must be cased or otherwise not readily accessible.

Most states have never had a problem with this law.  However, both before and after enactment of FOPA, gun owners have had serious problems lawfully traveling in two states in particular: New York (especially New York City) and New Jersey. Rather than recognize Congressional intent to protect the rights of Americans traveling with legally owned firearms, these jurisdictions have used overly restrictive state licensing laws to harass and persecute nonresident gun owners.

For example:

In 2004, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) arrested John Torraco at LaGuardia Airport for illegal possession of a firearm.  Torraco, an attorney and law professor from Florida, had properly stored his legally owned, unloaded handgun in his checked luggage.  However, when he declared the firearm to the counter agent (as required by federal law) he was arrested and charged for possessing the handgun without a New York handgun license.

In 2005, William Winstanley, a New York State resident, was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport when he attempted to check a handgun in his luggage, again in compliance with the requirements of § 926A.  Winstanley was not arrested, but his travel was delayed for several days while he proved that he was in compliance with federal law.

In 2005, Greg Revell, a Utah resident, was flying through Newark Liberty International Airport to his final destination in Pennsylvania. However, his flight into New Jersey was late, which caused him to miss his connecting flight. Revell was forced to collect his baggage and spend the night in a Newark hotel. When he attempted to recheck his baggage the following morning, he declared his unloaded handgun to the counter agent. PAPD officers arrested Revell for illegal possession of a handgun and ammunition under New Jersey law.  Revell spent three days in jail before he was able to make bail.

Each of these gun owners filed a civil rights suit in federal court to vindicate their rights under FOPA.  In each case, however, the courts interpreted the law to deprive travelers who comply with its provisions of any effective remedy after they’ve been arrested or detained by police for violation of state or local law.

Since that time, many other cases have resulted in guilty pleas to reduced charges, civil penalties, seized firearms, and delayed travel in situations where FOPA should have provided protection.

While cases of inappropriate arrest or detention are most common at the New York City airports, they are not limited to those locations. In Albany, NY, detention of gun owners and confiscation of firearms have been reported by persons traveling in full compliance with § 926A.  The NRA has been forced to repeatedly warn gun owners that they should avoid using New York or New Jersey airports when traveling with firearms.

To correct this situation, the pending bills would:

Expand the protections afforded travelers to include “staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, fuel, vehicle maintenance, an emergency, medical treatment, and any other activity incidental” to the trip.

Put the burden of proof clearly on the state to show that a traveler did not meet the requirements of § 926A, rather than allow travelers to be arrested on local charges and forced to raise § 926A before a judge as an “affirmative defense.”

Make clear that transportation of firearms, their magazines, and ammunition is federally protected.

Make clear that violation of the right to transport firearms is judicially enforceable as a federal civil right, with attorney’s fees available to victorious plaintiffs in civil suits, as well as to defendants who prevail in criminal cases after raising a FOPA defense.


The NRA thanks Rep. Griffith and Sen. Hatch for their leadership in this vitally important effort and urges their respective chambers to take up the bills as soon as possible.

A constitutional “right” to arms that can be vetoed at every state, county, or municipal border is no right at all.

Source: NRA / ILA

 

Patients in Pennsylvania must choose: Medical marijuana or gun ownership

 

PHILADELPHIA — The town drunk can buy firearms. So can someone who has been involuntarily placed in a mental hospital for a short stay. But anyone who wants to treat Crohn’s disease with medical marijuana is forbidden from owning a gun.

Pennsylvania is preparing to roll out a statewide program early this year that will provide medicinal cannabis products to patients suffering from 17 serious health conditions. But some sick people will have to make a difficult decision: Is taking the medicine worth surrendering what gun-owning advocates see as an enshrined constitutional right?

“It’s hypocritical,” said lawyer Andrew Sacks, the co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Medical Marijuana and Hemp Law Committee.

“You can be an opioid addict, or buy a bottle of rum, drink it and go to a store and buy one,” Mr. Sacks said. “But a person who is registered as a medical marijuana patient in Pennsylvania, and has a very small dosage of THC, can’t own a gun to protect themselves or hunt.”

A state police spokesman strongly suggested that patients also consider the consequences of holding on to any guns bought before enrolling in the medical marijuana program .

“It’s unlawful to keep possession of firearms obtained prior to registering,” said Ryan Tarkowski, a state police spokesman. “The Pennsylvania State Police is not in the business of offering legal advice, but it might be a good idea to contact an attorney about how best to dispose of their firearms.”

Twenty-nine states have legalized marijuana in some form.

But under federal law, all forms of marijuana remain strictly forbidden. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers it a Schedule 1 drug, on par with heroin and LSD, with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulates the sale and ownership of guns and ammunition across the nation. ATF spokeswoman Cherie R. Duvall-Jones said any use of marijuana is a disqualifier.

“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law,” Ms. Duvall-Jones said.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2016 that the federal prohibition does not violate the Second Amendment.

The National Rifle Association has remained silent on the issue. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Gun dealers were sent an ATF bulletin in 2016 that left no room for loopholes. A dealer who even suspects that a customer may be using cannabis is obliged to stop a sale, Ms. Duvall-Jones said. Federal regulations bar firearms ownership to anyone who illegally uses a controlled substance or might be addicted to any drug.

Alcohol is not considered a controlled substance, Ms. Duvall-Jones said. “Therefore, a person who is addicted to distilled spirits, wine or malt beverages would not be prohibited” under the law, she said.

A federal judge in Pittsburgh ruled last month that the government could not restrict the gun ownership rights of a man who had been involuntarily placed in a psychiatric hospital.

In Pennsylvania, firearms dealers must conduct a background check on each customer. A registry, administered by the state police, identifies medical marijuana patients.

“If you’re a card holder, you’ll be flagged,” said Mr. Tarkowski, the state police spokesman.

But even before the background check is run, all customers must fill out a Form 4473, a firearms transaction record required by the U.S. Department of Justice.

One yes/no question asks:

Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance? Warning: the use of possession marijuana remains unlawful under federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.

“It’s game over if you check ‘yes,’ ” said Jim Benoit, owner of Cajun Arms in West Chester, Pa. “I can thank you for coming by, but I’ll have to tell you I can’t sell you this gun.”

Patients also may be required to surrender guns and ammo bought before joining the marijuana program, whether they are using the medicine or not. Police in Honolulu fired off letters last month to patients ordering them to turn in their weapons. The following outcry had the department put the order on hold two days later. No other jurisdiction has made a similar request.

The issue has been a hot-button topic in New England states that have legalized marijuana, said Becky Dansky, legislative counsel of the national Marijuana Policy Project, which opposes prohibitions.

“The compromise most of those states are reaching is ‘no new guns for patients,’ but they’re not tracking down guns and asking them to be surrendered,” Ms. Dansky said.

 

Source: Sam Wood

Philly.com

Dec 31, 2017

They’re going to need more prisons

By Bob Livingston

Two bills introduced in the House of Representatives are going to, if passed, necessitate the building of more and bigger prisons because they will automatically make criminals out of millions of Americans.

The bills are H.R. 3999 (aka bump stock ban) and H.R. 4052 (aka large capacity magazine ban). Both are kneejerk reactions to the Las Vegas music festival shooting that is purported to have left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.

I warned you last week that more and stronger attempts to steal your guns were coming and explained “Why governments want gun control.” Of course it’s not to “keep you safe,” as politicians always claim. It is to turn you into slaves. Politicians believe that only the state has a monopoly on legitimate violence.

H.R. 3999 was introduced by Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo and he has lined up nine Republican co-sponsors and 10 Democrat co-sponsors.

“For the first time in decades, there is growing bipartisan consensus for sensible gun policy, a polarizing issue that has deeply divided Republicans and Democrats,” Curbelo said. “This common-sense legislation will ban devices that blatantly circumvent already existing law without restricting Second Amendment rights. I’m proud to join Representative Moulton to lead our colleagues in this important first step to address gun violence in our country and show that Congress is capable of working constructively in a bipartisan way to make Americans safer.”

Anytime a politician tells you that legislation is “common-sense” you need to hold onto your butt. You know that what he’s doing is knocking one more liberty brick from the foundation.

The legislation is typically vaguely worded and seeks to ban “the manufacture, possession, or transfer of any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun.”

This broad language would criminalize basic parts of the trigger mechanism for every semiautomatic rifle, as the sole purpose of those parts is to “increase the rate of fire” of the rifle. And everyone with a trigger finger would likewise become criminals, as these guns will fire as fast as the finger will work and the more training one has the more rapidly he is able to shoot. And “bump fire” is an achievable technique through practice without the aid of a bump stock, and even such mundane things as rubber bands and belt loops can be employed to increase the rate of fire.

Among the devices that would be banned are those used by competitive shooters like lighter pull triggers, hammer drops and polished bolts.

After initially ceding ground on bump stocks and saying that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should revisit the legality of them, the NRA has backtracked somewhat and opposes this bill – likely because of pressure from its members who see it as capitulation and surrender to the gun grabbers. Gun Owners of America vehemently opposed a bump stock ban by any means, rightfully seeing it as an easy win and unnecessary capitulation to the anti-gun crowd.

H.R. 4052 bans the transfer or possession of “large capacity ammunition feeding devices.” These devices are defined as “a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition.”

While it grandfathers in large capacity magazines purchased before the bill becomes law, it makes it a criminal offense to transfer that device to anyone, making it impossible for anyone to dispose of them if they wanted to.

Both bills carry penalties of 10 years in prison and fines.

There aren’t enough prisons in the world to hold the people who suddenly become criminals at the stroke of a pen.

Authoritarianism or criminal government can never feel secure from fear as long as millions of people own guns. Likewise, when the people have no arms, they have no security and no hope of security.

Disarmament first comes by words and psychological warfare. Hence the attack on guns whenever people are weakened by mass murder events.

 

Winner of Pennsylvania elk tag raffle takes 850-pound 8×10 bull

Delbert Somerville was selected from 10,587 tickets sold in the Keystone Elk Country Alliance elk tag raffle drawing Aug. 20, at the Elk Country Visitor Center here.

On Sept. 28, the Bernville man harvested an 8×10 bull that weighed an estimated 850 pounds. The rut was in full swing that morning, and Somerville passed on six before settling on his trophy, which will score over 400 on the Boone and Crockett scale.

 “When I shot the bull that afternoon, he went down on his front end and flipped completely head over heels,” Somerville said. “With all that weight on the huge antlers, one brow point was broken. We found the point with no problem.”

The hunt he won from the Keystone Elk Country Alliance – which included guides, taxidermy services and the effort being videoed – was a fabulous adventure, according to Somerville.

“It was unbelievable non-stop bugling – I have never seen anything like this ever in my life,” he said.

“I was just taking it all in and working closely with my guide. I could have harvested any number of bulls, but he said to pass, so I did. Can’t tell you how hard that was!

“We were in the middle of the herd on public Pennsylvania state forest land. It was a fantastic experience.”

The alliance’s elk tag raffle provides a unique opportunity for one hunter to harvest a mature bull elk in Pennsylvania, but everyone who purchased a ticket is a true conservationist and a winner, noted Rawley Cogan, president and CEO of the organization.

“We sincerely thank everyone who purchased a ticket for their support of this unique raffle,” he said. “Pennsylvania’s elk herd and its habitat are the beneficiaries.”

The alliance’s 2017 KECA elk tag raffle generated $195,350 in gross tickets sales. Elk tag raffle proceeds from past years were used to complete the first two phases of an outdoor classroom at the Elk Country Visitor Center, which offers educational programs for thousands of students and guests.

Money from the raffles also fund habitat improvement projects totaling hundreds of acres and a permanent land protection project. The alliance, a nonprofit organization, completed its first permanent land-protection project last year.

It acquired a 9-acre tract adjacent to the Elk Country Visitor Center, which consists of white pine and hemlock with mixed oak and hickory overstory. The property has two small streams that merge on the property and flow into Bennett’s Branch of the Susquehanna River.

The water is clean and runs year-round. No mining or acid-mine drainage has occurred on the property.

Source: Keystone Elk Country Alliance

 

Get Them Out of Their Chairs, They’ll Learn More

“So, who’s teaching the hunter education class this weekend?” Standing near the counter in a neighborhood tire shop, I wasn’t expecting the question and I didn’t recognize the guy who asked it. But, since I am a hunter education instructor, I knew the fellow probably had a son or daughter who had recently gone through one of the classes I helped teach. I told him I wasn’t aware of any classes being offered. And then he proceeded to tell me something that really made me feel good.

  • “I took my boy, and a couple of his friends, rabbit hunting last week and he remembered a lot of the things you guys taught him,” he said. “He reminded everyone to watch their shooting lanes and stay in a straight line so no one moved ahead or fall behind the other hunters. I also saw him watching how they carried their shotguns to make sure they were pointed in a safe direction. I was really proud of him. I want to thank you guys, again, for spending your weekend   teaching safety to all of those kids.” Four of us teach one of the many basic Hunter/Trapper Education courses for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. It’s a state requirement for all first-time hunters and trappers before they can apply for a hunting license in the Commonwealth, regardless of age. Most of our students are youngsters. The kids in the class must be at least 11 years old to enroll. But we do get a few first-time adult hunters in each class and we also have hunters who are planning to hunt out-of-state in regions where proof of successful completion of a hunter education course is required.  We teach our classes at the Millvale Sportsmen’s Club, located about 13 miles north of Pittsburgh. We’re all members of the club and the fellow in charge of our program, Jay Pegher, has been teaching for many years and really is the leader for each class. The other instructors are Matt Schultz, Tony Wight and myself. Our weekend course looks like this. From 6 pm to 9:30 pm on Friday and 8a m to 5pm on Saturday we cover:  Responsible hunting behavior Knowing your firearm equipment Wildlife conservation and management Outdoor safety Basic and advanced hunting techniques Trapping and fur taking basics Basic shooting and hunting skills Expanding your opportunities
  • when we take our students outside, usually between 2:30 and 3:45 pm on Saturday. They’ve been sitting in our classroom for several hours Friday evening and again Saturday morning. I ’ve helped teach the same course at several other clubs and, unlike our classes, students remained in the class- room for about a day and a half at each of those other locations. Even with a number of scheduled breaks and time off for lunch on Saturday, 12 or more hours sitting in class seems like a long time to some of the students, especially the youngest ones. Keep in mind that these are kids who have grown up with inter-active video games, Wi-Fi, and iPhones. They get bored easily if they sit in one location listening to one presentation after another. That’s one reason we get them out of their chairs and take them outside. Of course, we also want to see if they’ve learned the fundamentals we have been talking with them about. We have an ideal outdoor location. The Millvale Sportsmen’s Club is located on about 140 acres. Most of it is wooded and it’s bordered by1 ,400 acres of state game lands. Classes average between 75 and 100 students. With more than 100 students the clubhouse gets a bit crowded. When we go outside, the class is separated into three groups. Jay takes one group to the edge of the woods at the end of the parking lot, selects a tree, and demonstrates the use of a climbing stand. Matt and Tony take a second group down into the woods and work with them on identifying game and recognizing a shoot-versus-don’t-shoot situation. They carry wooden guns provided by the game commission and one of the activities this group has to complete is safely climbing over a fence. The third group stays with me at a fairly level grassy area, also at the edge of the parking lot, and practices walking in a line as if they are hunting rabbits or pheasants. We also stress the importance of knowing where other hunters are in safely conducting a deer drive. The three groups rotate positions so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in all three activities. In Pennsylvania, of the number of hunting accidents that happen each year, many of them occur when people fall out of trees stands during deer hunting season. Think about it. You’re standing on a small platform just a little longer and wider than your boots. A climbing stand is designed to hold itself against the tree by making use of your weight on the platform or while you’re seated in a chair that is part of the contraption. It’s a mechanical device so it can fail. In your hurry to get in position before first light, you may not have it secured as well as it should be secured. You can fall asleep while sitting or standing on the stand. So, if you do fall, what’s the one thing that’s going to save you from serious injury…or worse…if you fall out of the stand? It’s your harness. And this is where Jay places the emphasis when he looks down from his tree stand and talks to the students about safety. He points out that this is the one item of all the hunting equipment they have where they need to have the very best available. Not the gun, not the miracle fabric clothing or boots, not even the tree stand itself (although this isn’t exactly an item you want to skimp on, either). It’s the harness that’s going to keep them safe if something goes wrong while they are in the tree. And then, he purposely steps off the stand eight feet above the ground and dangles by his harness—which is a top of the line harness—and shows them why this is the case. Now they understand the importance of the harness and why it makes sense to use one of good quality.
  • he students a great DVD about tree-stand safety provided by the game commission. Jay and Tony also demonstrate how to put on a harness and talks about the importance of using a good one. But nothing drives the safety message home as much as taking them outside, having them watch Jay climb the tree with his stand and harness and then seeing him step off that platform and have the harness keep him right up beside the stand. Meanwhile, the group walking down through the woods is learning other lessons. Some of these kids are only 11y ears old, so Matt doesn’t take them through thick brush or up and down steep terrain. But they do walk through woods similar to much of what they will encounter on a typical hunting trip in southwestern Pennsylvania. The first obstacle they come to is a section of split rail fence with a metal gate at one end. They are carrying wooden guns provided by the game commission and they need to get from one side of the fence to the other. Most do just fine, handing their gun to someone else while they climb over the fence or sliding the gun through on the ground and then climbing over. What never fails to surprise us is that none of them try to open the gate, which is unlocked, and simply walk through to the other side. That’s fine; we want them to demonstrate that they can climb over a fence safely. But we also emphasize that they need to close the gate before they walk away. This group is also exposed to a number of shoot-or-don’t-shoot situations as they continue walking through the woods. Animal targets used in our club’s 3D archery competition are placed along the trail and students area sked to point them out immediately upon seeing them. We ask them “Do you have a shot, or not and…if not…why?” There is a deer with only its rump visible, a wild turkey at the top of a ridge-line, a black bear, a fox, and more. We throw in an assortment of other Styrofoam animals, even including an alligator (which they are never going to encounter in Penn’s Woods) and they seem to enjoy this phase of the course.
  • While one group walks through the woods and another group watches Jay in his tree stand, I teach the third group about hunting in a line, as if they are driving game. This is done in a grassy area near the parking lot and I walk six of them at a time with wooden guns. Here, they are learning about safe zones of fire and keeping up with the line so no one gets ahead or drops behind. I walk behind and throw a frisbee ahead of them in the air to simulate a pheasant or along the ground as a running rabbit. They raise their guns and “shoot” while the remainder of the group stands on the sidelines and watches to see if anyone shoots across anyone else and if every-one remains in line. We’re also watching to see how they hold their guns and that they keep them pointed in a safe direction at all times. The whole time we are outside, we emphasize points we’ve covered in the indoor portion of the course, as well as key information they’ve seen in the game commission DVDs. We usually complete this part of the course in about 2-1/2 hours. Then, they go back inside for a short break, followed by a written exam, which takes an hour or so, to complete. Our students do well on the test. And, I’m convinced one reason for that is because the outside portion of the course really drives home many of the points we make in the indoor session and that they see in the DVDs. Look, you don’t have to have 140 acres of land to do what we do. If you have a tree on your property suitable for demonstrating a climbing tree stand and harness, use it. And you don’t need an actual split rail fence to show them how to climb over one. Just tie a rope between the backs of two chairs. That’s really all you need. Finally, if you don’t have any grassy areas to teach them safety while they are driving game, use your parking lot. The point is this: your students will learn more by doing and having you critique them than they will by simply watching a DVD or listening to you lecture. Other students, likewise, will learn more by watching their classmates and critiquing them, as well. Oh, don’t skip over the indoor stuff. Slides, DVDs, demonstrations, getting them to participate in discussions are all important, too. But, afterwards, take them outside and reinforce what they’ve learned with some hands-on activity. They’ll love it…and you’ll love the results. Youngsters today are used to being entertained. They are participants whether they’re playing a number of sports, texting one another, playing video games, or doing homework on their computers. What they are not used to is sitting for long periods of time and listening to someone tell them how to do something. They are easily bored and quickly tire of sitting in one spot for even a little while. As one wise old sage said a long time ago, “The mind can absorb only so long as the seat can endure.” Do you want your hunter education students to absorb more? Get them out of their chairs. Take them outside.

       Source: BY Curt Miller

DEP Spotlights Clean Local Water Actions in Educational Exhibit, Activities at Pennsylvania Farm Show
 

The Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) exhibit at the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show focuses on steps that farms, towns, industry, and residents can take to help clean up local streams and rivers. The exhibit is in the Main Hall of the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center from January 6 to 13.

“Although Pennsylvania is making some progress in cleaning up the thousands of pollution-impaired rivers and streams in the commonwealth, much work remains to be done,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “All individuals and organizations are part of the solution to help reduce sediment, nutrients, and chemicals in our local waters.”

The exhibit, created by the
DEP Environmental Education Center, includes a beanbag toss game for kids and panels presenting simple steps that can help clean up water at home, on the farm, at work, and in communities.

Four clean water success stories are highlighted:
    Mark and Beth Steck, who earned a 2017 Clean Water Farm Award for sediment and nutrient reduction measures at their Green Valley Farm in Franklin County;
    Mack Trucks Remanufacturing Center, Middletown, Dauphin County, for stormwater pollution reduction on plant grounds;
    Lemoyne Borough, Cumberland County, for their numerous rain gardens and other stormwater management measures; and
    John and Barbara Schleicher, who use rain barrels at their home in York County.

One panel addresses the special challenge of cleaning up local water in Pennsylvania’s 43 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The exhibit was created with funding support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Farm Show runs January 6 to 13, starting at 8:00 AM daily. Admission is free and parking is $15. 

The following is a list of DEP public activities:

Daily
    8:00 AM-close,
Clean Local Waters in Pennsylvania, DEP Exhibit (Booth 705, near butter sculpture), Main Hall: Interactive educational exhibit with beanbag toss game.

Sunday, January 7
    7:00 PM, Bunny Hop, Small/Sale Arena: Secretary McDonnell participates in the Celebrity Rabbit Hopping Contest.

Tuesday, January 9
    3:30–4:00 PM, Tips to Be Stormwater Smart,
Lancaster Farming/Ag 101 Stage, Expo Hall: Environmental Education Director Bert Myers demonstrates actions anyone can take to reduce or reuse stormwater runoff from their roof, driveway, and street and help clean up nearby streams.

Wednesday, January 10: Public Officials Day
    8:30–9:00 AM, Secretary McDonnell Media Availability,
DEP Exhibit (Booth 705), Main Hall.
    11:00 AM, Secretary McDonnell’s participation in Public Officials Luncheon, Expo Hall.

Friday, January 12: Resource Conservation Day

   
11:30–noon and 2:30–3:00 PM, Agricultural Plan Reimbursement Program, Lancaster Farming/Ag 101 Stage, Expo Hall: TeamAg shows how farmers in Pennsylvania’s 43 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed can get reimbursed for the cost of developing manure and/or nutrient management plans.
 

Source: The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)