Hunters Target Colorado For Boycott Over Gun Control
President Obama is using Colorado as a backdrop Wednesday as he pushes Congress to pass gun control measures in the wake of last year’s shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Conn.
Much of the proposed legislation in Washington is losing momentum, with polls showing public support leveling off. And the recent passage of gun bills in Colorado has been divisive, to say the least.
There's also the fallout. Magpul, a manufacturer of gun magazines is leaving because of the bills. Organizers of an annual shooting competition on the Western Slope have canceled the event that would have brought hundreds of people to Montrose.
On top of that, hunters across the country say they’re planning to boycott Colorado this season.
"We get emails every day. And there have been several outfitters that have had direct cancellations," says hunting guide Chris Jurney. He owns CJ Outfitters in Craig, and serves as vice president of the Colorado Outfitters Association.
“More of it is the promise of not coming to Colorado," said Jurney. "We got one yesterday from a Colorado resident who says he will no longer buy hunting trips in Colorado, and he’s gonna go to Wyoming and Montana.”
"Anytime people decide they're not going to hunt in Colorado, that could have an impact," says Randy Hampton.
The numbers are small at this point, but it’s still a concern since hunting and fishing bring in roughly $1.8 billion a year for Colorado. Any drop in revenue from a hunting boycott could hinder the state’s ability to manage and protect wildlife, says Division of Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.
"Anytime people decide they’re not going to hunt in Colorado, that could have an impact," he says. "We rely on hunting for the revenue that protects all of Colorado’s wildlife species. We, as an agency, are not funded by the general fund. We receive our funding for wildlife management from people who hunt and fish."
Right now, Hampton says his biggest obstacle is trying to combat misinformation about the bills.
"The reality is -- there is nothing in the new law that changes the hunting regulations in Colorado. There’s nothing that changes a person’s ability to hunt in Colorado," said Hampton. "This is people that are frustrated with a political decision that they disagree with. And they’ve chosen, then, to say ‘I’m going to take out my frustration with a boycott of Colorado,’ whether that’s hunting or fishing or golf or skiing – whatever else that we’ve heard people might boycott. But because there’s a natural nexus between hunting and firearms, we’re tending to hear the loudest cry."
Chris Jurney says the problem isn’t just the new gun restrictions themselves – it’s a growing perception that Colorado is now becoming unfriendly to hunters. And with a boycott, they’re taking a stand, he says.
"I don’t believe anybody really thought that gun owners and sportsmen and hunters would be this united on a front," Jurney adds. "I don’t think that legislators, unfortunately when they were passing this misguided legislation, thought there would be any ramifications. And there’s still people wanting to water it down and whatnot… but it’s not an issue that’s not going to go away."
Jurney says they won’t really know until the end of the season how any backlash against Colorado’s gun legislation has impacted business for hunting outfitters like his.
Randy Hampton says a boycott may not be entirely negative for the Division of Parks and Wildlife. Because Colorado is a prime destination for big game such as elk, a boycott could provide an opportunity for those who have been waiting for a hard-to-get tag.
Update 6:15 am: Despite the call for a boycott, many people are still apparently excited to hunt in the state. The Denver Post reports applications for big game hunting licenses came in so fast Monday and Tuesday that the online processing system crashed temporarily.
The deadline to apply was Tuesday.