The 2nd Amendment — Can You Defend It?

Let’s face it…there’s a few freedoms that us Americans hold quite near and dear to our hearts.   Free Speech, Search and Seizure protection, Speedy Trials, and so forth.   Yet without a doubt one of the most important rights guaranteed by our country’s forefathers is the 2nd Amendment — The Right To Bear Arms — an Amendment quite clear in language (and importance), but often conveniently misconstrued by the courts and the anti-gun detractors.

So how well do you understand the 2nd Amendment — or shall I say, how well can you defend the interpretation of what those words mean to being a sportsman in America?   You say you’re not a lawyer…well, that may be true, but it could be easily argued that this all-important legal authorization is the very foundation of what allows us to enjoy many of the pastimes in which we participate.   Let’s face it…so often in life we take things for granted and we don’t begin to miss something until it is taken away.   This is particularly true when new gun laws impede our lives and the very way we want to go about enjoying the activity.   Have you forgotten the Clinton era when strict new gun laws temporarily changed what guns we could buy and how many bullets those guns could contain?

So, the next time you find yourself going down that slippery slope falling into a heated debate around the water cooler about The Right To Bear Arms…how do you respond when the other person challenges you that this Amendment was only intended so that we should have a well-armed military AND NOT common citizens running around with guns.   It’s perhaps the most common stance the anti-gun crowd likes to take.   Yet, most of us fumble around and do not defend our position very convincingly or directly.   Well, that is until now.

I discovered a newly released video that sportsman should be embracing and carefully taking to heart.   Put away those elk calling videos and those other instructional videos that are fun to watch.   This video is serious business…and I will tell you right now it is not necessarily fun to watch.   It’s serious information presented in the form of a documentary about a very important topic.


Let’s face it…the media bias pollutes everyone’s mind so much that the line between fact and fiction is often difficult to distinguish for many people.   We are constantly bombarded by lawmakers chiseling away at our gun rights almost to the point where simply being a law-abiding citizen begins to make one feel uneasy about what we are doing.   It’s time for those of us who embrace the sporting life to step back and to take a refresher course on what it means to be a free American.   Seriously, if we allow the very laws promised by our forefathers guaranteeing us a free life to begin to erode…then our entire society ultimately loses.

Enter David T. Hardy who for over 30 years has been a lawyer and noted scholar on the 2nd Amendment.   He’s gone to bat for gun owners against the likes of Michael Moore shooting down Moore’s poorly constructed argument that became popular in the movie Bowling For Columbine.   Hardy also has written numerous law review articles sometimes disputing what is commonly believed and oft misunderstood about the 2nd Amendment.   Now after four years of work he has just recently released this documentary called “In Search of the Second Amendment” which should be 111 minutes of required viewing for every hunter, every target shooter, in fact, every American who appreciates life in a democratic society where freedoms of all kinds are cherished.

I purchased this video directly from Hardy’s website not only because I wanted to see it and learn from it, but also because after viewing it I wanted to donate it to my local public school for their library.   Seriously, I wanted the opportunity to view this documentary because I admit I have a lot to learn about the principle law that guarantees me the right to own guns.   But I also feel it’s important to spread this information in some small effort to bring about a better understanding to others, as well.   Quite honestly, there’s no better place than in our school system for information like this to exist.   The schools won’t buy it to put it there…so that means we have an obligation to see it is available.

Hardy invested a lot into making this video.   He’s not making money on this project, in fact, he’s losing money.   Yet, that doesn’t matter.   He knows that we live in a video age and that is how most of us want to learn.   It’s pretty unlikely the common sportsman will pick up a book about Constitutional law matters and invest several hours reading the complex literature.   On the other hand, most of us are more likely to grab a bowl of popcorn and a soda to watch a well produced documentary even if the topic is quite intense and lacks the typical entertainment value of most videos.

Here’s the deal.   The next time you find yourself in a debate over the 2nd Amendment you will do all of us a disservice if you can’t faithfully defend what some argue is perhaps the most important freedom granted by our Constitution.   You don’t have to be a legal scholar to understand this topic…and yes, I understand that not everyone enjoys learning about such things.   Still, with the Democrats now in power in Washington and in many state houses, there’s no better time than the present to educate yourself on this timely topic.   The only thing worse than not being able to defend your position on the Constitution is allowing someone else the opportunity to spread lies about it without their position being challenged.   Personally, after viewing this video, I no longer intend for that to continue happening.

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.

What Happened To The Pre-Season Hunting Seminars?

Last night I found myself sitting in a local VFW hall listening to some president of the area hockey association regale my wife, me and all the other youth hockey parents on what we can expect this season as parents of a “squirt.”   For you non-hockey types that is a level in league for a child typically in the 9 to 10 year old range.   It was one of those mandatory meetings they wanted all the parents to sit through so we understand just how the upcoming season and practices will work.   Great!

Obviously, my mind did lots of wandering.   I glanced at the wall and viewed all the pictures of the brave men who had served in various wars…I saw all the other trophies and awards that had been won by teams sponsored by the local hall.   I was bored…and I wanted to get out of that meeting as soon as possible.

Then I started to think about the times I used to organize deer and turkey hunting seminars for the DNR…and just how much fun that was.  I would go around to many of these local American Legions and VFW’s and rent the facility to host pre-season hunting seminars.   Mostly I did the logistics of setting up the location and advertising…and I would have an assistant who came in and did most of the speaking.

It was fun.   I believe we used to charge a nominal $2 entry fee and this would help defray the cost of advertising.   We’d go around to a few businesses to get door prizes and even serve coffee and cookies to the attendees.   My cohort at the time, John Finnegan, would conduct the seminar with topics ranging from biology and management to specific hunting techniques.   More than anything it was a great time for area hunters to get together a week or two before the hunting season started and use the seminar to “prime the pump,” so to speak, for the upcoming season.

That was 20 years ago…and today that sort of activity is not done much anymore in my area.   Oh, sure, there are the spring Deer Classics, etc. that serve mostly as a gathering of big trophies…but that is not what I am talking about.   Nope, I’m talking about the community-based deer seminars that would be held after work usually at some small town VFW hall.   A convenient place where the sportsman could maybe stop into the bar for awhile and then bop over to the seminar to check out the speaker and learn some new tricks.

I helped organize these events for several years as a volunteer but then got busy with other aspects of life.   Still, I sat there bored in that meeting last night wondering why these seminars don’t exist anymore.   I remember seeing a few years back Whitetails Unlimited had a similar such program they marketed as their “buck fever” night, if memory serves me correctly.   It was a great tool to recruit and sign up new members.   It wasn’t a full-fledged banquet where you could expect to drop lots of cash.   Nope, these nights were usually low or no cost intended to gather folks to socialize and begin thinking about the fast-approaching hunting season.

So why don’t the area hunting groups or sporting goods businesses do a better PR job and sponsor this type of educational activity?   If done in the right manner a club or business could potentially see lots of new customers who are antsy to prepare for the upcoming hunt.   Truth is unless you are one of the big names like a Cabela’s or Gander Mountain (or the like) you apparently don’t spend your time trying to satiate your customer’s or prospective member’s appetite for some hunting education.   And that’s a shame!

As the boring hockey meeting was winding down I began to realize a big difference between a mandated sports meeting and attending a voluntary hunting seminar.   They are both held at the same type of facility.   They are both often held after work on some week night evening.   Yet, for me the hunting seminar embodied the true spirit of what hunting is all about…at least for me.   It meant sharing time with like-minded individuals who choose to spend their precious spare time sitting in the woods.   When those of us hunters would meet on that night we shared a special dream and passion that could be best felt and understood gathering around others with similar interests.

So you wanna know my theory on why these seminars are not popular or why most don’t even exist anymore?   Cable TV.   Hunters feel they can learn most of what they need to know by watching outdoor programming on TV or videos.   There’s just no need to sit in a community hall for an evening like there was 20 or 30 years ago.   Now we can have all the information we need to know delivered right to the creature comforts of our living rooms…so why go anywhere else to get it?

What I would like to see is companies such as Federal Cartridge, Birchwood Casey and others providing lots of product incentives (such as free ammo and targets) to get hunters out and back together as a community.   We’re truly missing a tremendous opportunity by failing to organize these community hunting seminars.   If it’s not going on in your community, maybe it’s time someone steps up to make it happen.

So what about you…have you attended a pre-hunting season seminar lately?   Did you enjoy it…and would you go back again?

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

A Store For Serious Outdoor Enthusiasts

Bean1Okay…I know this statement is not going to be popular with some of my friends who work at Cabela’s, but so be it.   Truth is if I was to designate “the ultimate outdoor store” title on any store it would have to be awarded to L.L. Bean.   Seriously, Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops probably have more SKU’s than ol’ Bean…but in my opinion there’s simply no matching Bean’s total commitment to equipping and educating the outdoorsman for their next outdoor adventure.

This past week as I crossed from the New Hampshire state line into Maine I pulled into the Maine visitor information center looking for a taste of what to expect on my trip.   You see, I’ve been on vacation during the past week traveling from Boston up along the Atlantic Coast into Maine.   Just my wife and me on what some might say was a second honeymoon, of sorts (since we didn’t officially have one when we got married about 16 months ago).   Not really doing anything directly hunting or fishing related on the trip…just a relaxing sightseeing vacation along one of the most beautiful areas of our country.

As I ponied up to the counter at the visitor information desk, I bombarded the attendant with questions related to what I needed to do or see in the land of wild blueberries and lobster.   After explaining where my travels planned to take us…he mapped out an itinerary that certainly kept us active.   Of course, one of the stops included the city of Freeport, Maine…home of the famous L.L. Bean company store.   I mean, how could you possibly visit Maine and not make time for an L.L. Bean store visit?

Now because I would be in Freeport on a Sunday I asked the information specialist…what time does the L.L. Bean store close on Sundays?   He began to snicker, then said “young man…you can go shopping at Bean whenever it’s convenient for you.   L.L. Bean is open 7 days a week and 24–hours each day.”   Wow!   Imagine that…a store that caters to your unique schedule as an outdoorsman and not just during some prime retail hours.   It’s a concept that certainly scored big points with me.Bean3

Actually, L.L. Bean has several different stores in Freeport and they don’t all keep those same generous hours.   They have their flagship store that carries most of the clothing, camping and outdoor gear.   They have a separate Hunting and Fishing store just across the street.   And they also have a boating and biking store all within about a minute walk of one another.   Each of these stores are open around the clock.   On the other hand, if you are looking for a deal on factory seconds or returns their outlet store is only a few blocks away and has very generous hours, albeit not around the clock.

As I walked around L.L. Bean I couldn’t help but compare the store to the more familiar Cabela’s, Gander Mountain and similar such stores back home in Minnesota.   Many of the products I scrutinized were the same old items I have looked at in my local stores…but then many other items were somehow different.   My wife who usually is sort of lukewarm toward shopping at Cabela’s really warmed up to L.L. Bean.   Why?   I’m not quite sure.   It think part of it is quality…but another factor could very well be the presentation.   So many of the big box outdoor stores try to pack so much stuff into one building it almost becomes overwhelming.   Bean, on the other hand, is also huge…but you get a sense that the items they carry are more practical and time-proven for the outdoors.

Bean2L.L. Bean also seems to cater to the beginner…and I like that.   Their Outdoor Discovery Schools allow participants of all kinds to experience various activities in the outdoors…perhaps learning more about something they have always wanted to participate in.   After all, show someone a new outdoor activity, then develop it further and you’ll likely have a customer needing to make equipment purchases time and time again in the future.

Okay, I know some of the hard-core hunters will probably say that today’s L.L. Bean is geared too much toward the back-packing, canoeing and camping crowd.   Can’t argue with that…they certainly sell lots of outdoor gear to folks who have no interest whatsoever in hooks or bullets.   That is not to say, however, that L.L. Bean has gone green and lost it’s primary outdoor roots of a hunting and fishing supply company.   At least not like Eddie Bauer evolving from a once successful sporting goods shop in Washington State into a yuppie, fashion-conscious brand that now has completely lost any evidence of its previous outdoor roots.Bean4

No, L.L. Bean seems to me to strike a great balance for everyone who enjoys the outdoors.   This icon of the Northeast has a name and reputation that resounds nicely among most outdoorsmen even if they have never stepped foot into the history-rich store.   In an age where most of the big box stores such as Cabela’s, Dicks Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain, etc. seem more focused on expanding their network of retail operation…L.L. Bean quietly let’s its reputation in the outdoors speak for itself.   With only a handful of retail stores mostly in the Northeast…Bean seems content to focus on the customer and not solely on profits.   I like that in an outdoors store…and you definitely feel that even after walking around in their stores for just a few minutes.

If you ever plan a trip out to Maine you owe it to yourself to make a stop in Freeport.   While you spend several hours perusing the various L.L. Bean departments you can send your spouse a block away downtown to visit the many outlet stores that offer a shopping experience like no other.

Indeed, Leon Leonwood Bean may have been a cobbler by trade inventing the Maine Hunting Shoe and launching a successful family business more than 90 years ago.   More importantly, you get the feeling that if old Leon was still alive today he would be proud of his store and the manner in which it continues to serve the outdoors public.   I’m not so sure that same level of satisfaction exists with some of the founders of the other big outdoor retail stores.

Today there’s certainly a lot of competition for the sportsman’s dollar…and that can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.   To many sportsmen L.L. Bean might just be a small fish in an ever increasing ocean of retail competition, but for my money this is one company that understands how to treat an outdoorsman proper.   Besides, any outdoor store that allows a person to buy quality outdoor products at midnight on a Sunday night, like my wife and I did last weekend…surely impresses the hell out of me.

2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.