Cong. Joe Sestak formally launched his Senate bid this morning to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter.Â We were ready for live twitter coverage at @PAGunRights of any attacks on gun rights in his speech, but he made none.Â However, that does not mean the Congressman has no record on the issue or will avoid making gun and hunting rights a key argument in his effort to win the Democratic primary.
On Sestak’s new Senate campaign website, he specifically highlights his efforts on behalf of animal rights.Â His first boast is of his 82% score with the anti-hunting organization, Humane Society of the United States.Â This is the organization whose leader has said, “[I]f we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.” He didn’t stop there, as he said a few months earlier, “Our goal is to get sport hunting in the same category as cock fighting and dog fighting. Our opponents say hunting is a tradition. We say traditions can change.”
In addition, Sestak counts among his achievements voting for a ban on American hunters who lawfully import their polar bear trophies from strictly regulated hunts in Canada. Contrary to scare tactics usually involving photos of cute polar bear cubs, American hunters do not threaten polar bear populations. Hunting tags for American hunters are taken out of tags issued to native populations who will use them regardless of whether Americans participate in the hunts. By paying tens of thousands of dollars per use of native tags, American hunters generate upwards of $2 million for native communities annually. In addition to providing much-needed revenue for the native people, they contribute about $1,000,000 each year to polar bear conservation efforts. By supporting a ban on the import of trophies, Sestak supported the end of the $1,000 fee for research and management programs for polar bears mandated by law by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Sestak remains suspiciously quiet about Second Amendment rights on his new website. However, the Congressman from Delaware County has recently spoken out against concealed carry rights. He boasts of opposing state reciprocity of carry licenses and believes that your right to defend yourself ends at federal land borders in national parks.
In addition, Sestak has voiced support for legislation that would target gun shows across the country. The specific version of the bill this Congress was introduced in the Senate first by Sen. Frank Lautenberg. A full analysis of that bill is available at Snowflakes in Hell and includes the following observation:
This law is aimed squarely at making gun shows so legally burdensome that no one in their right mind would organize one, and creating new criminal penalties for dealers who keep bad records. This must be absolutely opposed. It looks like our opponents, rather than going for the whole private sale caboodle, have decided to specifically target gun shows.Remember, in terms of organization, gun shows are for us what churches are to religious conservatives. If they shut down gun shows, or make them entirely too legally burdensome to operate, they shut down a key locus of our ability to politically organize. Thatâ€™s exactly what the intent of this bill is. Our opponents may be on the ropes, but they arenâ€™t stupid. It canâ€™t be allowed to pass.
Though Pennsylvanians may not have the same freedom of private transfers as gun owners in many other states, the threat to end gun shows should be of concern to all gun owners.
Ultimately, Joe Sestak is bad for Pennsylvania’s gun owners, something reflected by his previous F rating with NRA.Â We will keep an eye on his statements and votes up until the primary election in early 2010.Â In addition, we will track the votes and comments by his opponent, Sen. Arlen Specter.Â As the GOP nomination race shapes up, look to find any relevant news for gun owners and hunters here.