Is This 'Sportsmanship'? Yes, Says the NRA

Many have questioned why the NRA retains as a board member musician Ted Nugent, whose hate speech is widely reported. But derision of women and minorities is only part of the Nugent controversy. Consider what Fox News reports that Ted Nugent tweeted in 2013. "I took my machine gun in the helicopter -- in the Texas hill country -- me and my buddy 'Pigman' ... his name is 'Pigman' -- I'm the swine czar. I killed 455 hogs with my machine gun. I did it for Bill Maher and all those other animal rights freaks out there."

A year earlier Nugent was found guilty of illegal black bear hunting in Alaska including failing "to locate and harvest" a bear he wounded so it could be put out of its misery.

With all the NRA's talk about the government's plan to take everyone's guns, it is easy to forget the NRA's other traditional role -- promoting "sportsmen."

But how is "sportsman" defined? In 2013, the former NRA Executive Director John Sigler was photographed participating in a canned pigeon hunt at the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem, PA. The tame, pen-raised birds pigeons are not killed for food but "rather for the hunting equivalent of dog-fighting," wrote the Daily Kos. They are left "to die agonizingly over the course of hours and days," as disturbing videos show.

Live pigeon shoots like the one at the Philadelphia Gun Club thrive in Pennsylvania say published reports. District attorneys "regularly block attempts by humane officers to file cruelty charges for the inhumane treatment of wounded birds," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, because the club owners, hunt sponsors and fans are well connected politically. Sigler, for example, was head of the Delaware Republican Party, until he abruptly resigned, many think because of the canned hunting revelations.

And there are other questions about the "sportsmanship" promoted by the NRA. In 2007, it helped Safari Club International (SCI) defeat an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the House of Representatives that would have banned the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada. SCI offers a "Bears of the World" award in which hunters have to kill four of the world's eight bear species which include imperiled polar bears. (Last year, after the death of Cecil the lion, many major airlines banned the transport of such trophies.)

Former President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and the late Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf were all proud member of SCI and loved lion hunting so much, they wrote letters to African leaders to keep trophy hunting legal.

Why did the NRA defend killing polar bears? Because a bill to stop the killing was "anti-hunting" said the NRA's Chris Cox using the NRA's same logic that casts bills requiring universal background checks to keep criminals from buying guns as "anti-gun."

"Because of our longstanding support for America's rich hunting heritage and sportsmen's rights, the National Rifle Association weighed today's vote [on polar bears] very heavily as a factor when deciding endorsements and grades for the 2008 election cycle," threatened Cox. It was a warning to any lawmakers who had gone soft on polar bears since the NRA gives lawmakers grades.

While a bad grade from the NRA was once damaging, things may be changing. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' received a D minus from the NRA which has not appeared to weaken his campaign.