‘United front of sportsmen tired of having freedoms taken away’
(COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE) – Colorado’s hunting industry is facing a backlash from outdoor enthusiasts across the country because of recent legislation meant to curtail gun violence.
The first salvo was fired this month by Michael Bane, a freelance producer for The Outdoor Channel, who announced he will no longer film his four shows in Colorado.
Gun and hunting websites and forums are full of talk of boycotting the state, and hunting outfitters say people have begun cancelling trips here. It’s just a handful for now, but northwest Colorado hunting guide Chris Jurney expects more.
“There’s a united front of sportsmen that are tired of having their freedoms and liberties and fundamental rights taken away from them,” said Jurney, vice president of the Colorado Outfitters Association. “That kind of unity among sportsmen is going to be big and unfortunately for those of us who live here, we’re going to suffer the consequences of this misguided legislation.”
Legislation, drawn up in response to the Aurora theater shootings and other massacres, bans magazines that hold more than 15 bullets or magazine tube extensions for shotguns that are longer than 28 inches. Legislation also requires universal background checks, a state fee for background checks, regulation of concealed-carry training and regulations to remove guns from those convicted of domestic abuse.
Bane produces “Gun Stories,” the cable network’s most popular show, among others. He said in a recent letter to lawmakers, “We are relatively small potatoes in television, but our relocation of production will cost Colorado a little less than a million dollars in 2013.”
He did not respond to a request to comment.
“Michael Bane is an independent executive producer and host of four popular programs on the network. However, his views and the direction in which he takes his productions do not necessarily reflect those of Outdoor Channel,” said an Outdoor Channel spokesperson.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said his agency has asked the state attorney general’s office for advice on impacts to hunters. While legal possession of high-capacity magazines is grandfathered in, officials want to make sure they are still legal to use.
He acknowledged some hunters, like Bane, might abandon trips to Colorado. Out-of-state hunters accounted for 15 percent of hunting licenses last year, 86,493, compared with 489,000 for residents.
“We believe there’s the potential for impact. That’s out of our control,” he said. “Hunting is a tool to manage wildlife populations and we do not believe the impacts will affect that part of our mission.”
Jurney, the hunting outfitter, said the actual impact of gun regulations on Colorado hunters will be small. Varmint hunters tend to use high-capacity magazines, so they might be limited. He is also concerned about a provision that limits the loaning of a gun to 72 hours. Many youth hunts, in which most guns are loaned, last longer, he said.
And while it might impact his business, he supports Bane’s decision to not film in Colorado.
“I would like to see support from the sporting goods industry and everybody that has a stake in it, so we could fight this kind of legislation, but I don’t blame (Bane) him whatsoever. I think it’s a good stand and if it has to come to that then so be it,” he said.
Jeff Lepp, owner of Specialty Sports, a gun and hunting shop in Colorado Springs, predicts hunters are going to choose to visit other Rocky Mountain states.
“Small mountain towns and rural towns in this state are going to lose a lot of money because you’re not going to see the number of out-of-state hunters coming here. Other states are going to see a growth,” he said.
State Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, was a key supporter of gun legislation. Through a spokesman, he declined to comment for this article.
“It sounds like you are primarily looking into hypothetical scenarios regarding potential impacts to tourism and hunting in Colorado, which are pretty difficult to comment on. We will take a pass on weighing in on this discussion,” spokesman Doug Schepman said.